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Is your stress level too high due to your current work and life?

by peter
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When faced with a potential threat, our brain usually activates the “fight, flight or freeze” response to ensure our safety. By releasing hormones, our bodies prepare us to do whatever is necessary – including fight, flight or freeze – to stay alive.
While this response is helpful in times of danger, the body can sometimes overuse it. This can lead to stress and wreak havoc on the body and mind.

Different people express stress in completely different ways. Here’s what you need to know about the effects of your body’s “fight, flight or freeze” response and how to relieve stress.

How stress is expressed
To explain how people express stress, healthcare providers consider different categories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these include changes in health, energy, behaviour and mood. They rely on your self-reported feelings and can even draw attention to symptoms you may never have known were the cause of stress.

The timing of symptoms can also help identify situations or triggers that are causing you stress. Or, perhaps your anxiety and depression are the result of long-term emotional distress. For example, if your blood pressure rises after a rough conversation with your boss but quickly returns to normal, you may be experiencing a healthy reaction to stress.

But if you constantly replay your boss’s words in your head and focus on the chat days later, or if you develop a new obsession with late-night gaming to help cope with anxiety, then you may be struggling with chronic stress.

How does stress affect the body?
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. But it’s only when your “fight, flight or freeze” response can’t be stopped that your health is affected. Difficulties often arise in several key areas – mental, physical, behavioural and interpersonal.

Mental
The development of anxiety and depression can be worrying. If your brain is always on the lookout for danger, you may feel constantly worried. Or, you may begin to feel hopeless because of never-ending fear. According to the National Library of Medicine, both of these feelings can lead to sleep, concentration, and memory problems due to excessive worrying thoughts.

Physical
When your body’s “fight, flight or freeze” response is activated, your brain releases cortisol, a hormone that causes a surge of adrenaline. You may feel your heart beating faster or feel energised.

Behavioural
Your body is smart. It knows that taking on too much stress is not good for you. As a result, your body may crave something that can help it get rid of negative emotions and relax. Unfortunately, these aren’t always the healthiest ways to relieve stress.
Common behavioural changes include increasing your intake of alcohol or drugs, eating high-carb foods, and distracting yourself by mindlessly scrolling through social media for hours on end. While these activities can provide immediate stress relief, they can also create new long-term health problems.

Interpersonal interactions
Have you ever noticed that your patience fades whenever you approach an important deadline? Well, sometimes it takes calm to be friendly.
Your brain is there to keep you away from stressors, not necessarily to act friendly. You may notice an increase in irritability or anger. Or, depending on your personality, you may become increasingly dependent on others for comfort or even unknowingly push them away.

Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
While stressors can have a variety of emotional and physical effects on your body, there are healthy ways to alleviate these negative feelings.

It’s important to note that your brain may struggle with you in terms of relaxation. While it thinks it can protect you from danger, your body may see slowing down as an additional threat. Watch for this hesitation, remind yourself that there is no imminent threat, and try the following stress-relieving methods.

Buy yourself time and space
Allowing your brain time to adjust and “calm down” from stressful activities helps your system regulate health. It’s easy to become anxious if you’re quickly switching between a virtual work meeting and preparing lunch before taking a stressful phone call.

Remember to add a little space. Pause before taking a call, give yourself five minutes between work and family time to try deep breathing, set an alarm to remind you to stretch throughout the day, and find ways to delegate some tasks. Every little bit can help relieve stress.

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