Did you know that not all stress is bad? When the body’s physical, mental, and emotional faculties and functions shift into high—or mega high gear—in reaction to a perceived threat, that type of stress reaction can be lifesaving. This “fight-or-flight” response labeled as acute stress is the body doing what it’s supposed to do, propel a person away from danger or send a surge of energy that produces the boost to make a deadline.
It’s when stress becomes chronic that it poses a real threat. Unlike the acute variety that is short-lived, chronic stress occurs on a near-constant basis over an extended period. The body, the mind, the emotions, the psychological well-being, in general, all suffer. This ongoing stress contributes to a host of physical and mental conditions—and not in a positive way. It zaps productivity and overall makes life less enjoyable.
Most of us do not need to flee a wild bear on a routine basis as our forefathers may have had to do. The demands of life in the twenty-first century, however, routinely signal the flight-or-fight reactionary surge of adrenaline to course through our bodies. Work deadlines loom, family situations demand our attention, political scenarios circle through our brains, and then the car refuses to start and the basement floods again. Welcome to a typical day in the life of practically everyone.
While most adults are aware that the consequences of stress can be grave, many fail to link the mental, emotional, and physical conditions plaguing them with their stressful lifestyle. Chances are many have become so accustomed to racing through life at break-neck speed that they fail to see the reality of the situation OR have determined that no other options exist. High blood pressure, sleepless nights, even struggles to maintain a healthy weight are common symptoms of chronic stress, as are irritability, headaches, and low energy.
Significant life changes, even the positive ones like the birth of a child or a promotion, are known stressors. Shrugging off the sense of loss or depression that follows the death of a loved one or some other profound disappointment may seem like “bucking up” or “moving on,” when in reality this mindset will only worsen the situation in the long run.
The first step in halting the harmful effects of stress is to acknowledge it and seek a pro-active solution. Next week in part two, we’ll answer the question, Stress: Eliminate, Manage, Cope?
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