Stress, It’s Not All Bad

stressStress, we all know it’s bad to be stressed out. Time and time again we are told it’s unhealthy both physically and emotionally. Have you ever thought about why stress is so bad? What really happens in our body and brain when we experience stress? Are you aware that not all stress is bad? In fact, there are times when stress can be good. The Natural Stress Response At the most basic level stress can be thought of as our fight or flight response. Our bodies react to danger and great stress by releasing chemicals which are intended to fire off physiological changes in our brain and body. Included in this mix of chemicals and hormones we find adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, glutamate as well as testosterone. These are all designed to make us more alert, increase the activity in our brain, sharpen our focus and increase our ability to remember details of the events taking place. When these chemicals are released due to stress our body responds by increasing our heart rate and breathing, dilating our pupils and contracting our muscles so we can be better prepared for potential physical action. That’s a technical way of saying we can either run from the threat or stand and fight. In fact, our blood is directed towards our muscles and brain and away from our other systems to help us be prepared for taking action. It’s really quite amazing. Constant Stress Causes Problems Considering what our body does in response to stress and knowing why it reacts that way helps us to understand that stress serves a purpose. If you are in danger the programmed response could save your life. Stress becomes harmful when it is constant. When you’re stressed out over finances, work problems, relationships and other things in life, your body stays in a fight or flight condition. By staying in that state of readiness your body is releasing those chemicals and hormones as well as diverting blood flow away from other systems in your body. Your appetite decreases, your immune system is weakened and you find it more difficult to rest because of the constant excited state. Over time this can lead to health problems. Because of the health problems stress can create we are told that stress is bad. Fortunately you can learn the skill of mindfulness or meditation to help you lower your stress level and protect your health. Stress Can Be Good It might sound odd that stress can also be good. There times when you need a little motivation or energy to get things done. A little low level stress can be helpful. And while the term ‘stress’ is often negative, the low level stress is what motivates us to prepare for exams, consider our future so we plan ahead as well as consider what could happen in situations and make adjustments in hope of avoiding unpleasant outcomes. So you see, a little stress can be good at times. Stress can be helpful when you can put it to good use. If your situation is not dangerous but simply challenging, you can respond like professional athletes and enter “the zone”. That’s the state where you have more focus, more strength and better reactions without all the negative effects. Hopefully you see that stress isn’t a singular response but is instead and collection of responses with various levels of chemicals and hormones playing a part in how your body prepares itself for action. It can be hurtful and it can be helpful. The goal is learning how to reduce the negative stress levels and how to use the positive, low level stress, to your benefit. Hypnosis and mindfulness training can be a tremendous help is managing your stress. Whether you need to reduce your stress level for your health or you want to improve your performance by learning to harness the power of low level stress, give me a call at 618-589-4848 and let’s talk about what you want to accomplish.