April Stress Awareness Month
In basic words stress is the body’s natural response to challenges, pressures or danger from a life situation. The body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate the immune system to be able to respond quickly to challenging or dangerous situations.
The stress response can be an appropriate, even a good reaction that propels us through: running a marathon or a student cramming for a final exam can benefit from increasing oxygen delivery and nutrients to the brain or extremities for a short period of time. And after a short period we can quickly return to a resting state without any negative effects on our health. For an animal running through an African savannah the stress response is really short: 3min between being dead or roaming the Savannah once again and feeling safe.
The problem is when stress becomes too much. As human beings have an “anticipatory stress response” that spun easily out of control. We can get stressed simply with thought, turning on the same stress response as the animal running for its life. When this stress response is activated too often or it goes on for long periods of time we can get sick.
The body doesn’t have time to recover and it can cause us not just to feel but physically to be in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’ as the stress hormones are supplied continuously. Stress can be chronic and it can impact on both physical and mental health.