Day number six of this November challenge called NaBloPoMo, and we’re going strong. We’ve done a lot of defining of what stress is so I thought I’d bring it all together and put a pretty bow around it. Metaphorically speaking.
I say metaphorically because stress is certainly not pretty! It can have some disastrous impacts on the human body. In fact, the body, mind and emotions. I’ll cover that in just a moment, but first I want to do a quick recap.
We found that simply by looking at the dictionary, stress is a force, strain or pressure. These can be applied to the body, mind and emotions through all kinds of every-day events and circumstances. Family, relationships, illness, medications, food, problem-solving, shock, responsibility, work, water, abuse and studying are just a few.
Some of these can be readily recognised as stressors while others can often sneak up on us. It’s important to remember that even the small stressors need to be monitored as they tend to have a cumulative effect. So, while one thing like performing a series of mental calculations is pretty simple, when you miss a meal and forget to drink water whilst working, it adds another level of pressure to your system. By midafternoon you might be feeling irritable, sleepy or unfocused.
A more intense scenario could be someone who was abused as a child. They may have gotten through years of abuse by keeping secrets and staying quiet. And then they may have learned that the pain they felt went away for a short time when they drank alcohol. So they drank a lot of it. If they continue to drink and keep things to themselves for many years, what do you think the toll will be on their system?
Ok, it’s time for another list (loving these lists!). This time of the impacts stress has on your mind, body and emotions.
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, aches and pains, clenched jaw, muscle tension, digestive problems, diarrhea and so on
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Lower immune system and a higher risk of illness
- Insulin resistance
- Greater risk of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart disease
- Greater difficulty shedding weight
- Increased cravings for foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and fats
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased fat storage around the belly, face and neck
- Increased levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol
- Greater risk of anxiety and depression
- Lower levels of the “feel-good” hormones serotonin and dopamine
- Lower libido
- Increased aggression and irritability
- Changes to the structure of the brain – the parts responsible for survival become enlarged and brain cells in the area responsible for memory are killed off
- Greater risk of adrenal fatigue and general wear & tear on the body
- Lowered ability to perform cognitive tasks (thinking, reasoning, problem-solving)
- Lowered ability to cope with stress in the future
- Everything that goes wrong seems like it is “the most catastrophic thing ever”, even if it’s tiny
This list is not by any means an exhaustive one. Like all of our other lists there are plenty more that needs to be added. However it gives an overall view, one which, in my humble opinion, poses a pretty dire picture for anyone who lives with stress. I don’t know about you, but just reading this list is intimidating! And it’s very serious as the implications are huge.
I guess it’s a good thing that there is plenty that can be done to manage this thing called stress then, hey! We’ll cover those later in the month. You’ll be pleased to know that the most effective strategies are the simplest. While they aren’t necessarily the easiest to implement as they need plenty of practice, we will guide you through beginning the process.
One of the biggest things that can support you with practicing the strategies is to understand the processes behind why they work. So we’re now going to take you through a series of posts that explain how the brain and body processes stress. The first of these is to explain something called The Triune Brain. This is a simplified explanation of the workings of the brain (do you know how complex this thing is?!) according to evolutionary processes. It helps us to understand our survival instincts, which are at the root of stress and anxiety.