Stress, although a terrible sensation, is unfortunately all too necessary.
Our Brains are wired to trigger a stress response for when we feel unsafe, vulnerable, insecure or threatened in any way. This is a useful survival warning system for detection of potential threats or situations when our lives are in danger. We release a surge of a stress hormone called cortisol and adrenaline into our nervous system, which then helps us to face these challenges and to remove ourselves from the situation, therefore keeping us safe.
Unfortunately our brains are unable to detect the difference between when our lives are actually in danger versus an uncomfortable situation or when a task becomes demanding. It does the exact same thing and puts us into “defence mode” by producing the same stress hormone (cortisol) and adrenaline to help us perform.
The Brain is also unable to tell the difference between perception and reality. It detects perception as reality – meaning if you perceive something to be true then your brain will produce the same chemicals and hormones as if it is actually true.
Over time and with continuous exposure to stress (be it real or perceived), the result of the chemicals and hormones being produced, cause a state of overwhelm, constant thoughts, a feeling that everything is important and an inability to switch off often resulting in poor sleep patterns.
Continued feelings of stress can be very harmful to our physical health as well as our psychological well-being. It enables and encourages unhealthy habits, such as using drugs and alcohol, exercising less often, and becoming socially withdrawn. Stress places the body under immense pressure, unnecessarily.
Signs and symptoms
- The heart rate rises and we become more alert. This can feel like you’ve just drank a lot of coffee, but it’s actually the production of cortisol and adrenaline kicking in.
- Extra blood is pumped through your body so you become stronger and as your core temperature rises you will perspire more. This is helpful if your life is in danger, but not so much when you are just trying to get through day-to-day activities.
- Short-term a regulated stress response can help us survive and perform in the world, but over extended periods of time, this can cause problems such as insomnia, headaches, and muscular tension and pain.
- Can make us more susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold.
- Emotionally, we can also feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, and sad, while also finding it difficult to find the motivation to actually cope with the stressful stimuli and other demands.
This continued state of strain and pressure of an overstimulated stress response causes long-term problems including higher risk of heart disease, strokes, ulcers, and other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and performance issues such as memory loss, procrastination and poor concentration.