About Stress

A hangover from evolution

Let's face it - stress is unavoidable, but how we manage it and respond to it is within our control.

But what is this phenomenon that makes us feel so uncomfortable? And is it really only work-related?

Brain Sketch

“At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup.”

- Mental Health Foundation

It can feel pretty awful

No emotion, no reasoning, no time concept - just a response

The stress response itself is a hangover from evolution. We inherited it from your ancestors. The stress response serves a purpose - it is fired off by a part of the brain that has the sole objective of keeping you safe.

But it does not always get it right though!

No emotion, no reasoning, no time concept - just a response.

Dysfunctional stress can feel pretty awful.


Let some light into your life...

The deep dive...

According to the NHS, "Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. It's very common and can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. But too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships, especially when it feels out of our control. It can make us feel anxious and irritable, and affect our self-esteem.”

Stress is a natural physiological and neurological phenomenon - it stems from hormone release. You cannot stop the process from occurring - you can only manage it or respond to it differently once it triggers and you become aware of it.

Healthy, short-lived stress helps you to keep focus and deliver; it helps you to achieve things and meet demands. And yes, the stress response does keep you alive as well - although, unlike your ancestors, fortunately not from big animals with teeth that wants to eat you anymore (well, unless you are a zoo keeper I guess).

When this stress is not relieved, when the body and mind is not allowed to reach a sense of balance again, the stress becomes unhealthy. And unhealthy stress leads to ill health.

If this reaction to being placed under pressure does not ease, the chemical processes continue. The more you then feel the symptoms of dysfunctional stress, the more it feeds back into the mind that you are at risk, and the process loops back. And there you go... right back to the beginning for a second helping...

But where do these "pressures" come from?

As mentioned, there is a part of your brain that controls the stress response. It catalogues and checks everything that is picked up via the senses. It has no thought, it has no emotion and it certainly does not care if the process it triggers makes you feel uncomfortable. It's primary concern is that you are safe - even if you are uncomfortable.

Anything that you see, hear, taste, smell or feel is recorded. Everything you think is recorded. Everything you believe is recorded. And all of these things are referenced all the time - and feeds back into the "system".

We can see; therefore, that these "pressures" can be anything in life. It can even be in the past. Or it can live in an imagined future. It can be rooted in grief. It can touch work, family, social relationships or your deepest self when you sit with nothing except your thoughts about who we are and what you are worth. It can trigger when you face change, when you are emotionally strained or your body is in trouble due to chemical factors, pain etc.

We are dealing with the subconscious mind - it will work with whatever you feed it.

It will seek to confirm - that's its job!

Serious stuff indeed!

This can become a very serious situation: a continuous negative stress cycle that is not resolved, can lead to ill health and ultimately it can lead to death.

There are warning signs all along the way - you just need to listen!

Dysfunctional stress signs and symptoms are warning signs that something is out of kilter. Your body and mind will keep reminding you with unpleasant symptoms, to stop. Something needs to change. Balance needs to be achieved.

In "The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill", Karla McLaren, M.ed explains that (situational) depression* is the “Stop Sign of the Soul”. It is telling us that something is “unworkable or dysfunctional” in our life. We need to stop. We need to listen. Or the depression will stop us.

At this late stage, anxiety* instils a sense of fear in us (anxiety is fear, concentrated) - again a signal that we need to stop and pay attention to our bodies and minds.

* Medical causes for anxiety and depression need to be ruled out by a medical professional first.

Being able to identify unhealthy stress, and being able to do something about it is critical in this day and age. Everything needs to happen yesterday and it needs to happen at the speed of light. And while all of that happens, it is not the only things that happen. Our existence and experience of life happens on so many different levels - and they are deliciously intertwined! Stress is a sneaky one though and it creeps up on you without warning.

I understand that dysfunctional stress can be debilitating. I understand that it can feel overwhelming when life seems to topple over or implode, seemingly unable to manage the automatic stress response of fight, freeze or flight.

Continuing to do the same thing is not going to give different results.

You have done marvellously to get this far. But you don't have to do this alone! Let me help you review your current situation and let's come up with a plan! Let's relax the body and mind and look at those things that feel so uncomfortable and that fires off the stress response over and over.