How your body responds to stress

How your body responds to stress

Stress is best defined as an emotional and physical state where the body is getting ready for the "fight or flight" response.

During the fight or flight response the body releases adrenaline, experiences palpitations and increased sweating that lasts until the perceived threat is over, or until the body falls into exhaustion and can no longer sustain this state. The stress can cause a lack of sleep, inability to focus, and changes in our eating habits.

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Self Improvement

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Stress is a useful warning sign that we may be pushing it too far. It is important to learn to recognize and respond to it.

  • Becoming aware of what triggers a stress response can help us avoid or deal with them.
  • Look after your body physically to build resilience to stress. Eating sensibly, sleeping well and taking regular breaks can help our bodies function better.
  • Make healthy changes to your routine. If certain people cause us to feel uncomfortable, perhaps reduce the amount of time we see them.
  • Engage in activities that make you happy. Perhaps you have a hobby you can incorporate into your life.
  • Say no when necessary. If we spread ourselves too thinly, the quality of our relationships and work may suffer.
  • Practice mindful deep breathing. Breathe in for a count of 4 through the nose, hold for 2, and out through the mouth for a count of 6.
  • Engage in informal mindfulness. When you're out walking for example, listen to birdsong or feel the warmth of the sun.
  • Keep evergreens or use your other senses to support feelings of relaxation.

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Emotions can act in our favour
  • Generally, emotions keep us safe. Feeling fear will help us survive a threatening environment, and feeling love helps us form companionship.
  • Emotions can also be manipulated. It includes the act of "posturing" - making one's body look larger than it is - to seem more threatening. Humans instinctively respond to the neonatal features of babies which encourages us to protect them.
  • We can alter our emotional display so as to elicit an appropriate response. For example, the teacher who is hugely frustrated, but greets with a smile.

But emotional labour can cause burnout, manipulation of emotion can cause confusion and hurt, and showing off will not always achieve the results we desire.

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IDEAS

While some stress is essential for human function, chronic stress creates a cascade of physical changes throughout your body: 

  • Heart problems: high risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. 
  • A weak immune system, leaving you vulnerable in the face of illnesses. 
  • Diabetes risk: Chronic stress can lead to extra blood sugar. 
  • Stress can cause stomach and digestion problems and increase the intake of unhealthy foods and alcohol. 
  • Sex and reproduction problems in both men and women.
Fear of Inadequacy/Failure

Fear of failure can make us reluctant to try new, challenging projects.

Remember there is no such thing as perfect. Be willing to try new things and do them imperfectly.

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