Stress is a fact of life. Biologically we are wired to deal with threats or danger with the “fight or flight’ response or what is called the STRESS RESPONSE.
The Stress Response
The stress response works in the following manner.
- Appraisal: perception of a physical or psychological threat, real or imagined.
- Appraisal: perception of not being able to deal with the threat.
- Biological: adrenalin and cortisol and other hormones stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
- Biological: changes in heart rate, breath rate, muscle tension, metabolism and blood pressure.
- Biological: temporary overdrive system and once the danger is over the body returns to normal
The Relaxation Response
The mechanism that turned on the stress response can turn it off.
- Appraisal: once the decision, or perception is made that a situation is no longer dangerous, within a few minutes the body’s metabolism returns to normal.
- Learned: the relaxation response is learned skill that is brought about by a conscious focusing of the mind on a repetitive word, phrase, breath or action and passive regard to interfering thoughts.
- Automatic: the more the relaxation response is practiced consciously the more it becomes unconsciously induced when needed.
- Integrating: there are many ways to learn the relaxation response and can be combined with emotional, cognitive and behavioral anxiety techniques to bust both stress and anxiety.
Types of Stress
Acute: short lived, easy to spot, little psychological or physical damage and is treatable and managed by self-help techniques.
Intermittent: short lived, recurring, triggered by pressures and demands, responds to self-help but often requires intervention to break the cycle. Common symptoms are headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease.
Chronic: never seems to end and can result from being trapped in a marriage, career, or chronic physical pain. It can be traumatized childhood experiences, internalized and present. It is treatable and requires professional assistance. It can result in death through suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke and cancer.