Monday, 22 August 2011

How Does Stress Affect Your Body?

Stress is a word that is commonly used today but how much do we really know about how it affects our body and our moods?

One simple description of stress is as a state when a person has insufficient resources to meet his or her demands.

  •  Too many demands + too few resources = stress, distress
  • Too few demands + too many resources = boredom, apathy
  • Demands match resources (or match resources at a stretch) = coping, interest
Each person deals with stress differently, depending on the resources available to them and the way they approach the situation. You can put two people in the same situation and they can produce different reactions. One may cope well with the situation where the other might struggle or even collapse emotionally.

A certain level of stress or challenging yourself is needed in life to keep you on your toes. Think how actors get butterflies before they go on stage, the adrenaline in their body begins to pump and they get the buzz for doing their job. This adrenaline helps to keep their performance fresh and exciting. Once the performance has finished the adrenaline levels go back to normal in their body as they relax after the show. This is a normal/healthy level of stress, keeping you driven and motivated to do the task at hand.

The effects on your body can be :
  • Pupils dilate
  • Mouth goes dry
  • Neck and should muscles tense
  • Heart pumps faster
  • Chest pains
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Leg and arm muscles tense for action
  • Breathing faster and shallow
  • Hyperventilation
It also has hidden effects too:  
  • Brain gets body ready for action
  • Adrenalin released for flight or flight
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Liver releases glucose to produce energy for muscles
  • Digestion slows or ceases completely
  • Sphincters closes or relaxes to empty bowls
  • Cortisol released, this depresses the immune system
These effects are all part of the fight or flight mode. They are helpful in daily life, helping us to be ready to deal with situations. Like when you’re in the car and you hear the screams of an ambulance siren warning you to get out of the way. You start to look for a way to move your car and you realize you are bumper to bumper. You enter the stress zone, inside your body the alert goes out. “Attention all parasympathetic forces, urgent! Adrenalin is beginning to pump through your body, the chemical cortisol has just been released mobilising all internal defences.
Your body is full of adrenaline ready to tackle any situation that comes your way, your senses are heightened, you're“running on adrenaline”. This is the stage that people get in when they perform “superhuman” acts of strength, like a mother lifting a car off of her child.

When the danger finally passes or the perceived threat is over, your brain starts a reverse course of action attempting to bring your body and mind back into balance. This is when you tend to feel your heart pumping and you feel "wow that was an adrenaline rush".

Our bodies are built to deal with this level of stress, it is a vital part of our survival.

The problem comes when we continue to keep our bodies in the heightened state, stress state. Our body/mind can’t differentiate between a real threat and a perceived threat. You can get the same chemical reactions just by thinking about a stressful situation, for example, a bill needing to be paid, going over a situation you experienced – reliving it in your mind or worrying about an upcoming situation; then when it happens it was so much better/easier than you thought, but all that energy you spent worrying about it has had a harmful effect on your body. Our body tries to rebalance but the hormones are still flying around, gradually they begin to have a permanent effect on our health, long term health problems start to develop.

The wonderful thing to read is that you can control this; you can learn what your stressors are and how you can de-stress yourself.  A hypnotherapy, CBT & NLP session can help you by working out a range of mechanisms with Erika which will equip you to deal with stress better for the rest of your life.

Here are a few ways you can start to do this:

  • Write down your personal strengths and support network· Things you are good at and people respect you for; your areas of good experience, etc
  • Family, friends, networks; powerful contacts; resources you can draw on – assets, your standing etc
  • Next, list your personal weaknesses and limitations in your life· Areas where you’re aware that you are not strong, or things that people fairly criticise you for;
  • Lack of resources – where others at your level have access to these resources, or where the absence of resources impacts on your situation
  • Bad situations – where you experience problems with your job or relationships, or where you have a poor living or working environment

Then brainstorm the opportunities available to you:

  • Work through strengths you’ve identified. Ask yourself how you can draw on them to manage stress
  • Work through the weaknesses you’ve identified. These are opportunities for positive change and for development of new skills

Finally, consider real-world practical opportunities open to you if you took advantage of those opportunities, to improve your stress management

  • Look at managing your time and your expectations for the day - are they realistic?
  • For threats, consider consequences of leaving your weaknesses uncovered· Consider damage to relationships, career and happiness that would come from failing to manage stress
  • Use this consideration of the downside as a spur to ensure that you take stress management seriously

These are just a few things you can start doing today. To find out more about how you can manage your stress levels further, finding time in your day and coping mechanisms that you never knew you had, contact Erika and find out how Hypnotherapy, CBT and NLP can help you to take the steps to a more relaxed happy you.

© EKTherapies

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