Stress is a feeling that most of us know all too well. It’s that feeling of being overly alert and then overwhelmed and unable to deal with your current situation. To an extent, stress is useful and actually necessary to keep us out of danger. For example, if you walk alone on a street at night and someone is about to rob you, your ‘fight-or-flight’ system will set in, your body will produce enough adrenaline to enable you to run away until you are safe. This is an example of physical, short-term stress.
There are different kinds of stress:
Physical, as mentioned above - running away from danger
Psychological - having lost someone like a friend or family member, financial issues
Psychosocial - depression, anxiety, perceived threat to social status within a group or family
Psycho-spiritual - feeling of losing value, meaning or purpose
As you can see, there are many reasons in our everyday lives that can set-off a stress response. The problem is that the way we live our lives these days unfortunately promotes long-term, chronic stress patterns that have little to do with the short-term, beneficial stress that will get you out of danger.
Once we run away from danger and we have time to recover, our heart-rate slows down, the body will shut-off our sympathetic ‘fight-or-flight’ system and produce hormones which promote activating our parasympathetic ‘rest-and-digest’ system in order for us to recover. However, our world has evolved faster than our bodies ever could and we are still stuck with this innate way of dealing with ‘old-school’ stress which does not apply to the majority of our daily-life stressors anymore. When you have deadlines at work, you might be stressed for weeks without giving your body time to regenerate. Instead of being stressed for ten minutes, now all the hormones are being produced over a long period of time which significantly affects your body. For example, you will no longer burn fat. Instead, you will use carbohydrates because they are easier to break-down and supply your body with energy faster. Also, your hormone-secreting glands will eventually burn out, leading to thyroid issues, high blood pressure and a slower metabolism.
Since your body thinks your life is in danger, it will shut down what it considers to be unnecessary activity at the time - like digestion or repairing body cells. This also explains why it’s so hard to lose weight when you are stressed since the last thing your body wants to do is lose precious energy that might be needed to save your life.
To sum it all up, we get stressed in order to improve our odds of survival. However, are stuck with an outdated body response for the majority of stressors we are facing these days, until this changes we have to support our bodies as best as we can and understand why it reacts the way it does and how we can get it out of this cycle.
Health and Fitness have always played an important role in my life.