There are many definitions of stress, and there's some disagreement about which one is best. One especially helpful way to conceptualize stress is: when we believe, correctly or incorrectly, that we don't have the personal or social resources to cope with whatever is occurring (or whatever we think will occur in the future), we feel stress.
When we feel this way, a number of physiological events are triggered. These are the very same physiological events that our bodies are hard-wired to experience when responding to danger, in order to enhance the probability of our survival. In the "fight-or-flight" response that is triggered by danger, the body mobilizes the physical resources needed to either physically fight or flee a perceived threat. When this occurs, body functioning is temporarily altered, to ensure the greatest chance of survival.
Most people know what it feels like when adrenaline is released. Adrenaline and cortisol are hormones that are released when someone senses serious danger. Adrenaline provides a big boost of energy, increases heart rate and breathing rate (in order to think and move faster), helps blood to clot faster (to help reduce the amount of any bleeding that may occur in a dangerous situation), and draws blood away from the digestive tract (in order to send more blood to places where it will be most useful, like the brain and muscles). These are the changes that cause people to experience heart palpitations, sweaty palms and soles, and stomach 'butterflies' or 'knots', among other things. This physiological response to danger is necessary and extremely useful when there is true danger.
The physiological reaction to danger was not meant to occur on a daily or on-going basis, and that's where the trouble begins. When these physiological reactions occur repeatedly, and over an extended period of time, they start to exact a serious toll on health and well-being, and our bodies begin to wear out more quickly.
The release of adrenaline and cortisol is not always a bad thing. It is highly adaptive in dangerous situations, and it can actually be helpful in other types of situations as well, such as when playing sports or even when performing some other type of well-learned activity. In these adaptive instances, the physiological activation occurs, and then it slowly dissipates, allowing body functions return to normal.
But, when we feel stressed for an ongoing period of time, the stress response is activated so often that our bodies don't always have a chance to return to normal. And, when this happens, it can eventually cause fatigue, ulcers and elevated blood sugar, raise blood pressure, place too much demand on the heart, and suppress the immune system, just to name a few of the long-term consequences of this chronic over-activation.
Stress is part of life for all of us. The important thing is how we handle the stress that we experience. If you are experiencing stress, and especially if the stress has become chronic, Turning Point Life Coaching can help you find ways to manage it.
"Peace of Mind" road sign
Amidst all the bad news about the impact of stress on our well-being, there is also good news. There is a lot that can be done to help you better manage your stress and protect your health. Turning Point Life Coaching helps you to identify the areas that you need to address in order to accomplish this, and then we get to work helping you find ways to address them. There is no one prescription for managing stress. In fact, there are a large number of things that can be done to help people manage stress.
The goal is to help your body get a break from the physiological activation caused by stress, and enable you to return to a non-activated physiological state (i.e. to a "normal" or maybe even to a very relaxed state), in order to protect your health and promote your well-being.
At Turning Point Life Coaching we work to help you increase your social and personal resources, enabling you to better cope with the stresses in your life. The approaches we pick together are always ones that will fit in with your specific stresses and circumstances. At Turning Point Life Coaching, it's never a one-size-fits-all approach. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you develop strategies to better manage the stress in your life, please complete the form on the contact page.