What is stress?
Stress seems to be part and parcel of modern life. There are financial worries, social pressures, living up to the expectations of others (and ourselves), and relationship difficulties – the list is endless. They all make demands on our mental and physical resources – and sometimes that’s fine. It’s when these demands feel more than we can cope with that we become stressed. A degree of stress is present amongst all the anxiety disorders. Stress is extremely prevalent, over 70% of people in various studies across multiple continents, state that they have regularly experienced mental distress and overwhelm that may lead to poor coping (APA 2017, YouGov UK 2018, NZ Health Monitor 2018).
Fight or flight? Physical symptoms of stress
The physical and mental changes we experience when we’re under stress evolved as a way of dealing with life-threatening situations: like coming face to face with a wild animal. Within seconds, our ancestors had to decide whether to stay and fight it – or run away – and their bodies produced the hormones to prepare it for either. Our bodies still go into ‘fight or flight’ mode when we’re faced with a threat or challenge. Within seconds of sensing a threatening situation, your body releases adrenaline and noradrenaline to increase your blood pressure and heart rate to get oxygen and fuel-filled blood to the brain, muscles, heart, and lungs. Noradrenalin sharpens your senses so you’re more alert, causing tensing of the facial muscles, clenching of the teeth and your hair to stand more on end. Cortisol converts fat stores into energy to power the muscles. But too much cortisol can weaken your immune system – which is why people suffering from chronic stress get a lot of colds and infections.
What you can do in times of extreme stress
The first thing is to recognise the warning signs of stress and the second is to accept that you need to do something about it. However much your life feels like it’s spiralling out of control, there is plenty you can do to reduce your stress levels. You can:
- Think about what’s causing the stress – and how you respond to it.
- Take steps to prevent or cut down on the stress. •
- Understand how your mindset affects how you deal with potentially stressful situations or people.
- Develop healthy ways to deal with stress.
Togetherall is here for you, 24/7
If prolonged or extensive stress is negatively impacting your mental health, or you’d just like to learn more about stress coping strategies, find our supportive community along with a whole host of useful courses and resources on Togetherall.com