Stress in the 21st Century – What is it and Why is it Important to Address??
With Integrative Pharmacist – Jacqui Hagidimitriou
One of the most common problems that I am asked to help with in my consultations, is the impact that stress has on our day to day lives. Stress can be defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Or more simply put, stress is pressure placed on us in either a physical or psychological way.
It is vital that our body and mind can adapt to stress from our environment, otherwise we will crumble under the pressure. Too often in our modern-day world, stress comes in the form of mental, rather than physical pressures.
Does this sound like you?
- Always running to appointments, not sitting back and taking your time.
- Eating on the go, opting for fast meals that keep hunger at bay, but do little to nourish your body.
- Feeling like your heart is always racing……..Knowing your mind is always racing (stopping you enjoying quiet moments – who needs that little thing called sleep, anyway??).
- Getting impatient on your drive in traffic and getting angry at little things.
These can all be signs of leading a life where stress is getting the better of you! And what does this do to our body and mind? It keeps us in a state of fight or flight. The inbuilt way that we are designed to respond to a physical threat, to get us out of danger. Picture this – a gigantic beast suddenly appears in your office, growling and bearing their teeth (and no, I’m not talking about your boss) – what will you do?
You will do one of two things. Either weigh up your options for tackling the beast and surviving, or scan the room for exits to be able to flee! You will do this automatically, by your brain switching on your sympathetic nervous system.
This nervous system is not as kind as it sounds. It doesn’t make you a cup of tea and listen to your stories, it makes you release a stress chemical, adrenaline, into your bloodstream. This causes your heart to beat harder and faster. Your pupils dilate to take in all the details of the approaching threat and your muscles and liver release sugar into your bloodstream to make sure you can run, fight and use the strength you need to escape the situation.
Sounds great, right? If you were outsmarting the office beast, then yes. But what if the threat is work deadlines, relationship strains and financial burdens. Those kind of pressures don’t just get defeated with the swipe of a mighty adrenaline fueled arm. They take time, planning and structure to defeat, reducing the pressure we feel on our body and mind.
Long Term Stress
The problem occurs when this stress response is almost unrelenting and continuous. When our body thinks these threats are the same as the physical threat and causes the same changes in our body chemistry as if we needed to run for our lives, it can cause us health problems in the long term. This stress response is supposed to be short-lived – to get us out of immediate danger.
However, we are living lives that are filled with continual stress triggers. We need to find a way to slow our sympathetic nervous system down, so that our body and mind can have times where we are feeling safe, out of danger and relaxed. This is when we can repair and restore our body and mind and is crucial for our health and wellbeing.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks in the coming weeks that can help us adapt to our busy lifestyles and if you feel like you need some help navigating this stressful world, feel free to book in a complimentary 15 minute Integrative Medicine appointment.