"STRESS' - WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Heart rate is one of the ‘vital signs,’ and one of the most important indicators of health in the human body. It is the measurement of how many times per minute the heart contracts, called beats or BPM (beats per minute).
FEW NOTES ON THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
The heart and blood vessels are the two elements of the cardiovascular system they work together in providing nutrients and oxygen to the organs of the body. The synchronized actions between our heart and the blood circulation are mainly triggered to react from an external factor, that most of the times is called: Stress.
At this point we will break a bit the science and build our concept of the word STRESS, from the called vulgar Latin, strictia meaning tight, compressed, and drawn together.
Our society has been using this word to describe many different situations that are challenging or put us under pressure or even could be harmful. Those situations are most of the time uncontrollable and not necessarily negative, our system is designed to handle certain amount of stress as a mechanism of adaptation.
The response of our body to different stimulus is actually a chain of reactions that activate the “FIGHT” mode.
IMAGINE THE 3 MASSIVE LIONS COMING FOR YOU!
… running full speed, hungry and instinctively they see you as a meal. Let’s try to think what are the changes that are going to happen in our body to react, first we will have a very quick release of many hormones called “stress hormones”, such as Cortisol also our blood pressure will increase, our digestion system slows down, Immune System “shut down” and because our system adapt to deliver quick energy into the muscles and organs we start to convert glycogen to glucose, and at the same time our HEART RATE increase.
So now we have our system “Ready to Fight”.
We all have to agree, that there is nothing wrong to run away from a Lion, and we are very thankful that we don’t have to think about to produce those reactions, they natural and part of our survival package.
Did you realise that the situation on the example required a physical reaction from us; in this case RUN AWAY from those lions is probably the only solution. All those reactions from our body are a preparation to allow us to run or act as fast as possible, and physically be able to save our life.
NOW, WHAT HAPPENS IF THE SITUATION DOES NOT REQUIRE A PHYSICAL RESPONSE?
Imagine your problem is one from the 21st century; work, family, relationship, etc.
How does our body read this information?
Here is something interesting, for our bodies the reaction is no different from that of the 3 lions. The way our system reacts is related to the intensity of the situation, but the reactions are 99% the same. Trying to solve a big problem at work can have the same impact to our body as running away from a lion as our Central Nervous System does not differentiate between the situations.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF STRESS. ACUTE VS CHRONIC
The situations described above are called Acute Stress, meaning those episodes happen once in a while; we react, adapt and once they are gone our body returns back to its neutral state. However, there are situations which generate constant stress.
Chronic stress, or a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time is considered one of the biggest problems of modern society. The “hunting” for better position, the need of money plus many other life situations can easily cause chronic diseases generated by the constant “alert” state of our body.
Many people these days struggle to differentiate between being under stress or not.
HERE ARE SIGNS THAT WOULD INDICATE SOME ONE IS UNDER "STRESS"
Consider the physical reactions that were mentioned earlier:
- Cortisol release: Stress Hormone
- Slow down digestion system
- Immune System “shut down”
- Conversion of energy into glucose (quick energy release)
- Increase of blood pressure
- Increase of Heart Rate
Each one of those reactions has different consequences to our body; and over time can result in more serious health issues. Chronic stress can be reflected through:
- Irritability, which can be extreme
- Difficulty concentrating, or an inability to do so
- Rapid, disorganized thoughts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Digestive problems
- A perceived loss of control
It is important to understand also, that chronic stress is a process that is built over years and has very deep impact to our body, with certain situations being impossible to control. So the idea of trying to “Not get stresses” it is also one of the mistakes that our society has. As explained earlier, our system is prepared to overcome the stress, to fight and adapt, there is nothing wrong with having a hard time in order to solve a problem, to have a difficult conversation or to confront someone, this is normal and part of our live, we can’t and we should not run away from that.
Stressful situations are the foundation of our lives and will create memories to be looked back on in the future. Living those experiences, exploring with an open mind, open to the “learning” of each new experience. Our body doesn’t know if something is really a stress unless we consciously categorize it as a harmful situation. This is also important to understand. A situation becomes a stressful episode when we consciously perceive that moment as a pressure or complication, that is why each person has completely different perception of how stressful the same situation can be.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The solution is not to escape; because we will not be able to avoid things happening around us. So the moment that we understand and accept that something is really happening and there is no way that we can escape, avoid or stop, we transform this situation in to a positive "learning" experience.
Also, positioning ourselves by taking a step back, analyze from the “outside”, allow our system to create a new pattern of the same episode that once was viewed as "stressful". Simply view it as a situation that is 'new"; a situation that will demand new skills, that will take us out of our comfort zone and as a result make us stronger, make us better…
Hope you enjoyed it!