What Is Stress?
Stress is a condition where the body or the organism is faced with a very severe or life threatening situation. The human body has evolved over centuries and thousands of years as a response to external environmental factors and situations. These include diseases, natural calamities, conflicts and lack of food. The main factor determining all bodily mechanisms, functions and responses is survival. Therefore any perceived threat to survival leads to a stress response. The situation causing this is called, ‘stressor’. When such a situation arises, the body gears up quickly to face this stressor or adverse situation.
What Happens During Stress?
Imagine a mainly agrarian or hunter – gatherer human, a few thousand years ago. Now imagine that he has sensed a dangerous animal like a lion or tiger near him. How would he react? The entire body automatically ensures that all his internal systems go on the alert. This alertness enables this human to either defend himself, attack the animal or run away.
During this stage, certain changes are brought about in the body. A lot of the body’s systems which are not urgent are shut down; like the digestive systems and sexual systems. There is in an instant release of glucose to provide great amounts of energy. Stimulating hormones are released to bypass pain and induce hyperactivity and alertness.
In extreme cases, the human may also lighten the body by given up excess water and solids in the form of urination, sweat or excretion. Basically, everything unwanted is shut down and all emergency systems are activated. This helps the human to run, fight or defend himself better. Pain and hunger is ignored to stop interference with the important activity of saving himself.
What Happens In The Modern Time
This is the same thing that happens to humans even today. The only difference is that in most cases, there are no life threatening situations on a daily basis. The body reacts in the same way when we get angry, irritated, hurt or when things do not happen the way we want them to. If we do not get an increment or promotion, we react in the same way. When someone inadvertently pushes us on a bus or train, we get angry. When we have fights with a partner or arguments during work; all of them are registered as stressors and the body fights in the only way it knows: by activating all the stress mechanisms.
The body does not recognize which situation is life threatening or which situation is not. So what is happening is that the body and the mind go for ‘overkill’ because they cannot differentiate between the severity of various situations.
Results Of Overkill
The results of this same stress response by the body are drastic. The body remains in a constant state of anxiety. It has been seen that stress response mechanisms get activated very fast; even within a second. However, to ‘cool down’ or reduce these take between a few hours to a few days. During this entire period, all the systems in the body remain in a state of stress. This impairs digestion, sleep, sexual functions, physical abilities and so on. At yet another level, there are elevated levels of hormones and glucose. All of these over a period of time lead to diseases like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cardiac problems, ulcers, asthma and some forms of cancers.
The Culprit Is The Mind
The culprit in this entire game is the human mind. It is only based on what the mind perceives, that the body reacts. It is in very rare situations that the mind gets bypassed. An example is fire. When we touch something hot, we instantly pull off our hand. For most other situations, the mind does a quick assessment and decides whether something is life threatening or not. Because this process takes place quickly (fraction of a second), we are not aware that the mind has done an assessment.
Control The Mind
More often than not, it is the perception of situations which gives us stress. If someone is rich, they have genuine stress. Even people who are well placed in life are stressed. The trick is to convince the mind to change its perception of situations, even though it is apparently difficult to change perceptions.
However, there are many things which can be done to gradually change this situation. Leading a balanced lifestyle is the key. In addition, follow some hobby or passion on a regular basis. This itself gives a lot of benefits. Most importantly there are many yoga techniques which can help reprogram the brain. These are to be found in our stress management programs. In addition you can ask us questions and we will resolve your queries for free through our contact sheet.