Who in this world does not have stress? Honestly … show me that person, and I’ll show you an enlightened being (or a person who is numb to the world).
When talking about stress, we need to distinguish between two important aspects of the experience. First there is the stimulus, the trigger, the “thing” that is causing us to feel the stress. Experts call this, “the Stressor”. There are two types of stressors. Work stress, family happenings, financial hardship, injury, punishment — these are examples of Distress. Often times distress has a negative connotation in life and can lead to disease. Love, promotion, winning the lotto, having babies, seeing a beautiful sunset — these are examples of Eustress. Eustress most often has positive connotations in life and leads to a feeling of euphoria.
Second, after the stressor, there is the response — the Stress. Hans Selye defines stress as, “The non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”. Did you notice the word “non-specific response”? That means that whether we experience Distress or Eustress, the body response the same way. Can we have too much Eustress? In regards to how the body response, yes.
No matter what the type of stress, the body mobilizes a defense in the form of highly concentrated chemicals. These excreted chemicals spark a sympathetic response commonly known as fight/flight/freeze. During this response, our heart rate increases, our blood pressure increases, our respiration increase and we sweat more. Our digestive activity and our bladder relax. We gear ourselves to either sprint as fast as we can, stay and fight off the attack or freeze like a deer in headlights. This is all natural and has helped us to survive this long as a human race. The problem comes when we are consistently stimulating this response.
The length of this stress response depends entirely on an individuals ability to adapt. Adaptation involves our energy reserves, our emotional/mental flexibility towards a situation and the intensity of the stressor. Even the most efficient and well-maintained machine can wear down if continuously overworked. If we allow the fight/flight/freeze response to perpetuate indefinitely, our immune system starts to dwindle and symptoms and bad habits become chronic patterns. If left uncheck even longer, Chronic patterns become terminal and our immune response is exhausted. Chronic stress touches every system of our body and raises the risk of all diseases.
The best way to keep stress in check is to INCREASE perception and interpretation. Awareness, awareness, awareness. Choose what you expose yourself to day to day. Dramatic new stories, action packed movies, unnecessary gossip and negative talk pushes us into stress. Meditation, breathing, qigong, good diet, good sleep, good movement, laughing, smiling and forgiveness are all important activities to include in your daily life. Acupuncture is a proven and effective tool to resolve stress. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about supplementing your diet with Vitamin B (especially B5) and the amino acid Tyrosine.
Ultimately, it is how we accept stress that determines whether we can adapt to the stressor. The more conscious we are of our environment AND our response, the less stress can effect us. As the ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus said, “People are not disturbed by a thing but by their perceptions of a thing.”