Is stress that bad?

Updated: Sep 14

Stress is a buzzword, so much so that the expression “stressed out” is now part of our day-to-day language. In this blog, I would like to offer a nuanced perspective on stress, by answering the question “Is stress that bad?”

What’s stress?

Before 1920’s, the word stress was only used in physics and engineering to refer to the pressure or tension exerted on a material object. It was only in 1936 that Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye introduced the word stress to the public to define a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Doctor Selye conducted a series of laboratory experiments where mice subjected to different noxious stimuli - i.e. extreme heat or cold - all showed the same pathological changes including ulcers and enlarged adrenals. Those results don’t sound good, but…


Is stress that bad?

Stress in itself is not necessarily negative. When your mind or body perceives a danger it starts the stress response, also called the fight/flight or freeze response. The aim is to make you cope with the stress situation and to survive. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two main hormones which are released in your body. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and enhances your brain's use of glucose. These physiological changes, in small doses, can actually help you to perform better under stress. You’re more alert and focussed on the task at hand.


What about all the bad stuff you read about stress? Are they true?


Yes, they are.


The nuance is in the HOW LONG your body stays in the stress response. Let’s unpack that.


The relaxation response

Your body is very sophisticated and intelligent! It has a mechanism called relaxation response which is a set of physiological changes which happen after a period of stress to bring your body back to balance. These changes include slowing your heart rate down, lowering your blood pressure and using the energy & nutrients to support digestion, reproduction, learning, cell renewal and repair. Isn’t that amazing?

Chronic stress

Unfortunately, due to continuous urgent project deliveries at work, unrealistic deadlines, busy schedules, un-natural society expectations to be “always busy”, non-stop stimuli from social media scrolling, the news, flashing lights and billboards we often GET STUCK in the fight/flight or freeze response. This is often called chronic stress. It’s like your nervous system has forgotten how to relax. It doesn’t remember anymore how to reverse the effects of stress.


How to re-learn to relax

Don’t panic, this story has a happy ending! Your body & nervous system are clever and they re-learn quickly. At first, you’ll probably have to put in a lot of effort to become aware of your mental patterns - i.e. beliefs about productivity - and to prioritise your relaxation. Over time, it’ll start to become more natural. You’ll be more attuned to the signals from your body telling you “this is too much, you need to rest”. You’ll follow your intuitive voice rather than overwriting it with your head brain.


If this feels too much to do on your own or you have no idea from where to start, I’m here to help! My 10 weeks 1:1 Yoga Mentoring Programme is launching soon and it’s designed to guide you through your unique journey of reconnecting with the wisdom of your body by remembering how to relax.


If you’re interested, write me an email at info@consueloyoga.com with the subject line “MENTORING” so we can start a conversation on how I can best support you. Also, the first 3 Programmes will be at a very SPECIAL DISCOUNTED price.


Thanks for reading until the end. I commend you for your commitment to your health.


Until next time…


With love & gratitude 🌼,


Consuelo


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Sources

“Restorative Yoga” - Anna Ashby

https://www.mayoclinic.org/





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