Dealing with Stress
Keys to Dealing with Stress
Stress and anxiety are very similar, and it can be difficult to distinguish one condition from the other. You could even say that anxiety and stress are often two sides of the same coin. If you were to find a defining characteristic between anxiety and stress it would be the fact that stress tends to last for a much longer period of time while anxiety is a relatively short-lived condition.
Is Stress in your Genes?
A predisposition to becoming stressed easily could have a genetic basis. When presented with a stressful situation your body will respond with a stress reaction. This is a standard, genetic response that prepares you to deal with some type of threat that is perceived as being dangerous. Anxiety is a condition driven by worries and fears that could be based on situations that are either real or imagined.
The difference between these two conditions is very small, but very important. Stress is usually the word people use when referring to those internal frustrations and emotional pressures that they are experiencing.
The symptoms that people display when stress levels are high will be identical to the symptoms you would see in individuals who are experiencing anxiety. Some of the most common physiological changes that accompany stress include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Feeling as though you need to run and hide
- Cold sweat
- Sweaty palms
- Dry mouth
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Heart Palpitations
- Elevations in blood pressure readings
- Feeling trapped
- Racing thoughts
- Lack of clear focus
How your Mind Works Against You
Although there may be external factors that trigger stressful situations the stress and anxiety that you experience are all the result of your thoughts and imagination. For instance if your boss were to ask for a private conversation with you concerning your job performance you might suddenly feel uneasy, nauseous and find that your heart is racing and your mouth has gone dry.
These are symptoms of stress and anxiety. Your mind has imagined different scenarios and actions that may or may not take place when you speak with your boss. As a result of these thought processes you have stimulated your brain and caused it to produce adrenalin and noradrenalin compounds that are now washing through your bloodstream.
Perception Is the Crux of the Matter
The symptoms are related to your thought processes and not to anything else that is occurring at that exact moment in time. Sure, there are real events that will trigger similar responses but it is important to understand that your body is going to respond to a real threat and also to how YOU PERCEIVE the event.
The more anxiety and stress you create in your mind the more dramatic your responses will be. Your body is going to react to those imaginary fears and expectations of doom just as if these were events that were actually taking place in the real world.
To Fight or to Take Flight? This Is the Question that Counts
Humans are designed with a genetic blueprint that includes a survival instinct that has been identified as the fight or flight defense mechanism.
In order to survive it is necessary for a person to react quickly to a dangerous situation. To do this you need extra amounts of physical strength and tons of energy. This is where your stress reactions come into play.
The fight or flight responses enable people to go beyond their normal limits by providing them with the adrenalin boost necessary to perform super-human feats of strength.
When challenged by stress your brain will assist you by:
- Bringing your instincts to the forefront (instinctive reactions are faster than rational reactions)
- Providing a way to breathe more oxygen into the lungs and circulation (rapid breathing)
- Pumping more blood to the important body organs
- Decreasing the circulation to non-essential body systems (sex organs, appetite center)
- Making your sense of hearing, seeing and smelling more acute
All for Naught
While these reactions can save your life, or the life of someone you care about, in the even there is a real emergency-what happens if there is no danger at all?
In these instances you would be subjecting your body to a cascade of potent brain chemicals that take a toll on your physical and mental health. Even if there is no danger at hand those brain chemicals will still have to be processed and dispersed properly. The compounds your brain releases in response to stress can weaken your heart, lungs and circulatory system over a period of time. Uncontrolled stress and anxiety can result in conditions such as:
- Heart Disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Respiratory insufficiency
- Weight gain
- GI upsets
- Changes in sex drive