Were you one of the many that fell to the effects of a flu or cold over the Christmas holidays? Do you think that your stress levels increased your chances of catching whatever is going around?
What is stress anyway? I like to have a certain amount of stress in my life to be productive, is that so bad? Is all stress bad? What about when you are in a work out and sweating it out big time, doesn’t that cause stress?
We have many different types of stress that can affect our lives. Our bodies are designed to deal with these stresses but what happens when our stress levels increase? Can we adapt to the changes?
The answer is yes and no.
Our bodies are designed to deal with stress using a system called the “stress response system”. This system allows our body to react to all kinds of situations by providing a response. The system functions with signals that are sent using hormones and nerves. A signal is sent to the part of your brain that is like the operating and controlling computer of all other systems. Once this signal is processed in your brain’s computer a response is generated.
There are situations that will require stronger and/or quicker responses and those occasions that will require slower and/or weaker responses. For example if you put your hand on a hot burner on the stove, a signal is sent to your brain, and the stress response system, located there, sends the appropriate response signals to other parts of your body to allow a quick movement to remove your hand from the stove before it gets burned. This response is not as strong as a response that would be generated if you had seen a bear and feared for your life.
Stress can come in many different forms and create many different reactions in our bodies. Here are a few examples.
PHYSICAL: intense exertion, manual labor, lack of sleep, travel
CHEMICAL: drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and environmental pollutants such as cleaning chemicals or pesticides
MENTAL: perfectionism, worry, anxiety, long work hours
EMOTIONAL: anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, fear
NUTRITIONAL: food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiency
TRAUMATIC: injuries or burns, surgery, illness, infections, extreme temperatures
PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL: troubled relationships, financial or career pressures, challenges with life goals, spiritual alignment and general state of happiness