I don’t know about you…but since I embarked on a new career, started my own business, ventured back to study, along with day to day life activities, I’ve been pretty stressed. At times I have been so stressed that I’ve broken down from being totally overwhelmed.
Life is busy, challenging, sometimes crazy and stressful. It can also be wondrous, loving, harmonious and happy. Finding the happy medium between the two can sometimes be difficult and when our life hits the crazy button then life can get overwhelming.
But what does ‘stressed’ mean? I often ask myself, is stress a symptom, is it a diagnosis, is it a reaction, a feeling, a thought or behavior, is it all of these things and what happens to me when I’m stressed.
Stress is a natural response to pressure when faced with challenging situations. The body’s normal and natural response to this stress (either perceived or actual) is the Fight or Flight response. Our body is wired so that we will respond to and fight or flee from challenging situations.
Our bodies are flooded by numerous hormones which cause actual physiological changes. These changes can include heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils dilate (so that you can see better…that reminds me of the big bad wolf in Red Riding Hood), digestion slows and our immune system shuts down to allow for energy to be redirected to bigger more essential muscle groups (so you can get ready to run away from the big bad wolf), muscles tense up and you may have trouble focusing on small tasks (as the brain is directed to focus on the big picture).
It’s not surprising that when all of this is going on in our bodies we feel unsettled, as mostly in our modern society, we don’t have to run away from actual wolves. Nevertheless if we remain in this fight or flight response (feeling stressed) for long periods we can become fatigued, its affects our sleep and eating patterns, we have difficulty with concentration and can become exhausted.
Good news is, we can help ourselves. We can identify what causes/triggers our stress and figure out how you currently deal with stress. Determine if you can change or eliminate the situation you’re in. Then look to incorporate healthier ways to help you deal with stress and that can include learning to relax (even starting with 5 minutes a day). There are different ways to relax for different people some options can include going for a walk, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, writing a journal, reading a book, meditation/yoga the list is endless. We also have to remember to take some time out to have fun. Whether that’s watching a movie, trying to pick out animals and shapes in the clouds, running through a sprinkler or just being alone and doing your favourite task – we all need time out.
So next time you feel stressed just remember the eloquent words of Dr Seuss ‘Sometime the questions are complicated and the answers are simple’.