Unpicking The Stress Response
It seems pertinent, now more than ever that we understand our response to stress in order to best work with it.
We have all heard of the fight or flight response which prepares us for action. Stress hormones are released increasing the heart rate, also circulation to the muscles and brain. A very useful response when confronted with imminent physical danger as would have been in the days of the cavemen, less so when triggered by deadlines or multiple media alerts. The thing is our evolutionary response has not changed but lifestyles have.
It is interesting to break the stress response down as the chain reaction of events happens so quickly.
Starting from the senses bases of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste we receive information from the world which our brain process and interprets. In addition mental formations continually arise and pass, spinning off via association, memories and projections to the future.
With this in mind allow me to paint a picture; It is 7am, Adam is on his way to work and receives a call from his boss who wants a project completed one month earlier than planned, meanwhile a text comes through from his wife, there is a leaking radiator at home and the plumber called in sick. On arriving at work he finds out that two of his team are unwell and will be absent delaying the project further.
Let’s unpick the sequence of events. Adam’s ears process the words, his eyes process the text, his brain processes the information and how best to resolve things. Lightening quick there is an emotional response of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, in this case unpleasant and a physical response likely to be fight or flight as hard wired from our evolution. The physical response can in turn trigger an emotional response around the sensations of increased heart rate taut muscles and stress hormones coursing through the bloodstream.
In essence sensations, emotions and thoughts are inextricably linked to one another as we react or respond to external or internal events.
The nervous system is soothed when we breathe calmly leading the heart rate to lower, the muscles to relax,
and stress hormones to subside; however it is very common for people to hold the breath or shallow breathe when the stress triggers arrive which clearly makes matters worse.
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques are tremendous assets in re-training our patterns of reactivity to more measured responses, supported via the skills we learn using the breath and body awareness. In addition exercise will utilise the stress hormones as they are intended, for activity where they will be flushed through the system quickly.
I hope you may find this useful and stay well.