A little while ago I wrote about the negative effect stress can have on our health (if you missed the article or would like to read it again then just click here).
As I talked about in that article clearly stress is a major factor in our health, and very much a condition of our time, with our modern lifestyles contributing daily to our ever increasingly levels of anxiety and overwhelm.
But whilst excessive stress is quite obviously bad for our health, is all stress bad, could some stress actually be healthy and could it actually be our approach to stress that causes some of the problems?
Sounding like a bit of a turnaround from what I’ve said on so many occasions before? Then let me explain …
Stress, or the physiological response in our bodies to stress – increased blood flow to muscles, increased rate of breathing, release of adrenaline, etc. is actually part of the body’s natural defence mechanism.
The body is responding to a perceived threat by getting itself mobilised – ready to take action to defend itself. And our systems respond to all perceived threats in the same way whether that threat is an internal one – a bug, toxin or injury for instance, or an external threat – someone about to attack you, stepping out in front of a car, your boss, the supermarket queue and the pile of ironing (yes – even this can be seen as threat when the body is anxious!) – it doesn’t differentiate.
As part of the body’s self-regulatory process it is constantly scanning its environment, both internally and externally, for threats and taking action. So throughout the day there are many times that this ‘stress’ response is triggered for all sorts of reasons, and this needs to happen – it keeps us healthy and safe!
So stress in itself is actually a good thing. We need to feel stressed at times and we wouldn’t be human (or alive!) if we didn’t!
Where stress becomes a problem is, like everything else, when it gets out of balance – when there is too much stress and the body’s defence mechanism is continually triggered and overwhelmed as a result. And there are many things that create this overwhelm for our defences, many of which you will be familiar with; environmental toxins, dehydration, poor diets, EMFs. But our own attitude and response to stress could also be adding to the problem.
Our society, in the main, has developed the view that we should all feel happy and calm all of the time,
that feeling stressed is a bad thing, it means that you’re malfunctioning in some way or broken, that it’s wrong to feel this way. As a result when we get stressed, which we inevitably will (and as I’ve just tried to explain above we actually need to!) we worry about it, we feel that we’ve done something wrong, we try to work out why, what happened in our childhood to make us like this, what do we need to do to not feel stressed, and on and on, in effect getting stressed about feeling stressed, and making the problem so much worse with the same effect on our bodies as overusing chemical products or eating nothing but McDonalds!
So what would be a better and healthier approach?
To do nothing but just let yourself feel a little stressed – after all you’re human and that’s what you’re designed to do from time to time. Rather like a wound that is naturally designed to heal, your stress response is naturally designed to settle, it’s part of the process – if you just let it. We all know that a cut won’t heal if we continually pick at it – and your stress won’t settle if you continually ‘pick’ at that too!
So are you stressing about your stress?
The next time you feel yourself doing it remember what that stress actually represents – your body mobilising to defend you – and remember that it can and will settle on its own – if only you just let it. And remember how much better for your health it will be if you do!