What is stress

Are you experiencing stress? Well you are not alone. In an extensive study of 10,000 people, Bupa have found but that a shocking 44% of us suffer from stress. We experience stress both good and bad every minute of our lives. Keeping stress at a comfortable level is one of the keys to physical and mental well-being. However, this is not always easy in the fast moving highly pressurised modern world in which we live. While some people believe that they perform better under stress that’s rarely the case. In fact, research has shown that stress makes a person more likely to make mistakes. Furthermore increasing amounts of evidence are illustrating that high levels of stress has a profoundly negative impact on our lives both physically and emotionally.  From early aging to heart problems to depression, the effects of the day-in, day-out grind of stressful modern life can damage your health in irreversible ways.

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for emergency action. This stress reaction is not always advantageous since many of our modern stressors are not life-threatening and as a result not well suited for this “fight or flight” response. What is vitally important to realise is that stress is accumulative. It can creep up on us and effect our lives in many different ways with out us being aware. That is why stress has been described as ‘the silent killer’. When the stress response kicks in, appropriate or not, there are steps we can take to alleviate the effects. Mindfulness and meditation are proven skills that help to alleviate stress.

Stress can be looked at in terms of external and internal stressors. External stressors are sources of stress that we are aware of around us, these can include traumas, life experiences or simply daily hassles. Internal stressors are the sources of stress that are inside us and are often the most common sources of stress. They are the thoughts and feelings that pop into your head and cause you to feel unease, these can include unrealistic expectations, uncertainties, low self esteem and apprehensions.

Whilst our modern brain has evolved so that we can rationalise information, the amygdala, the reptilian part of our brain remains very active in our every day thinking. With the need for survival in a more hostile environment the reptilian brain learnt to react more quickly to potential dangers than to more pleasurable experiences. Put quite simply both the carrot and the stick are important but if you don’t watch out for the stick today there will be no carrot tomorrow. This negative bias for survival continues to run within us today.

With advances in neuroscience particularly with brain imaging it is now shown that after a short period of mindfulness and meditation practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker. In addition the connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger. The more we practice mindfulness and meditation the less likely we are to experience stress!

Please give me a call today to discuss how we can work together to help reduce your stress and improve your physical and emotional health.