In todays post on stress, I will discuss;
- What is really going on in your body
- Stress v’s trauma
- What is the flight or fight response? What is the freeze or flop response?
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s brief and passes, sometimes it’s low level but constant, sometimes it’s there but you are not aware of it, sometimes it’s chronic and other times it’s intense. Whatever or however it appears in your life, it all plays out the same way in your body and that is by the release of stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.
The one thing that is very clear is that when experiencing stress for long periods of time or of great intensity, the way it manifests in your body, mind and spirit, it can have a major impact on your health.
Let’s consider the impact that the stress can lead to in terms of our health and wellbeing?
• Adrenal fatigue
• Thyroid issues and sex hormone imbalance (including PMT, debilitating menopause etc)
• Digestive issues
• Depleted immunity
• Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
• Poor sleep
• Constant fatigue
• Mood swings
• Blood pressure
• Overall emotional wellbeing
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Lowering concentration
• Auto immune disease
• Increase of muscle tension and chronic pain
• Diminishes brain and liver function
The list can go on.
Now I don’t mean to scare you or overwhelm you here, this is not my intention, just too simply point out how important the management of this is.
We all have daily stressors. These can be;
• Pressure from your job
• Juggling family life
• Relationship issues
• Financial pressures
• An overwhelming ‘to do’ list
• Too busy
• Renovating/moving/selling a home
• Stuck in bad traffic
And much more…..
These are life issues that we all face, no matter what your situation is and it can be more often than not, about the juggle of life. This can often present itself as constant low to moderate lying stress levels. It can also be more about the perception of pressure, rather than actual reality that contributes to these levels.
What do I mean by this?
For example, the overwhelming to do list, is really just a list, not a real life threatening situation. If the beds don’t get made, or the 300 emails don’t get an immediate response from you, does it really matter? OR If you’re stuck in traffic and going to be late for work or that appointment, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it in that moment and the stress you place on yourself is not serving you or anyone for the better, now is it? These are called our perceptions of pressure!
Then, there are traumatic events that occur in your life that can challenge you in ways you can’t even imagine nor prepare yourself for. These events can elevate your stress levels and coping mechanisms to a whole other level. This could be;
• A death or serious illness of a loved one
• An accident/injury to you or a loved one
• Major conflict/dispute
• Marriage/relationship breakdown
• Threat or harm
• Witnessing a traumatic event
Now if this is you, if you have been through a trauma of some sort, it is important you seek help from a qualified professional and receive the support you need. Stress from trauma is difficult and challenging to overcome and there are many great resources that can assist you. I will share some of these in a later post.
So what is really going on in my body?
I touched on last week about the Autonomic Nervous System and what are our body’s biochemical responses. I will try not to bore you with too much science, but just to help you understand how your amazing body works, when under stress. This can help you take steps to regain control and calm your system down.
Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood away from some organs and your digestive system ( hello stress and digestive issues!), then it rushes to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.
We often hear a lot about the flight or fight response, when talking about stress, but there is also the Freeze or Flop, response.
What is Freeze or flop? – If we are unable to flee or fight the stressor (especially if it is an emotional experience within us) our bodies begin to shut down and collapse. This can leave you reeling and stuck in a situation you feel hopeless or unable to break out of.
For anyone who is going through or has been through any kind of stress or trauma, then your journey and process through this is deeply personal. These blog posts are not for diagnosis or to replace any kind of therapy or treatment but simply a guide to deeper understanding of what stress actually is, and direct you to better management, either through strategies or resources that can help. For more information or support, speak with your doctor, who can recommend and refer to an appropriate practitioner.
Next week I would love to share with you, just what I personally am doing and how this has helped me through challenging times but for today, I would like to finish with sharing my very simple one minute grounding technique, that like last week’s technique, can be done anywhere, anytime, is almost instant and FREE!
Here’s what you do;
Look around you. Take a deep diaphramic breath. Then;
• Find 5 things you can see
• 4 things you can touch
• 3 things you can hear
• 2 things you can smell
• 1 thing you can taste.
This is called ‘grounding’. It can help you when you feel overwhelmed and you’re losing control of your surroundings. It will bring you back into the present and help you feel in control.
Until next time, stay happy, healthy and grounded x