Next week, I’m doing a 75 minute presentation about stress. The title of the presentation is “Stress: Tips and Tricks For Increasing Your Threshold.” Not to brag, but I’m pretty proud of the title. Today, I’m whittling down my slide deck to the critical information. As part of my presentation I thought I would make a blog series about it. Today’s post will be the introduction to stress…like you don’t already have plenty in your life.
Every day we face some form of stress at some level. I don’t want you to be on the “stress is bad bandwagon”. Stress does the body good…to a certain point. The stress response is designed to protect us from danger. The physiological response to a stressor prepares our body to respond in a quick, efficient way. Stress does help in various performances and skill acquisition. The problem occurs when we pass a certain threshold or the stress response remains constantly triggered.
I’m sure you’ve heard the “chased by a saber tooth tiger” scenario and the stress response saving us from near certain death. Fast forward to today and we still have this same intensity of response when family, work, finances, etc. cause you grief. Just imagine a crying baby (some of us this is still very real), yelling boss/coworker/customer, how you are going to pay your bills, or the evil neighbor’s dog that chases you on your run…
What does stress look like in the brain?
Well stress is pretty much all in the brain. The amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex all work together firing those little neurons and stimulating hormone production that does all sorts of wonderful body responses (that was a little sarcastic, but I’m not able to accurately type in that emotion). The pictures help to clarify what I’m not able to convey.
This is where having stress always turned on causes such problem. Think of that stress response neural pathway as a muscle like a muscle the more you use it the bigger it gets. When the stress response is always “turned on” your body can actually change your brain which will negatively impact how you learn, form memories, and/or even make decisions. Yup, our brains can also be affected by the stress itself.
What does stress look like in the body?
Ok, so it isn’t only in the brain. Those stress hormones running through our blood vessels does affect the body. The fight or flight response sends a surge of adrenaline which is great for speed as blood is redirected towards your heart, lungs, legs, and back. Great in a life or death escape…not so great if you require fine motor skills. You know the shakes you get after a confrontation.
Your digestive system also gets thrown out of whack because all the energy gets redirected to fleeing or fighting. In those really stressful situations you will experience nausea and all other sorts of GI distress that accompanies that. Not fun when the body tries to flush everything out either end…
Why too much stress is bad.
Look back at the picture of the how the stress response cycles through the brain. During heightened stress your prefrontal cortex, where decision-making, rational thought, and reasoning occur, is temporarily shut down while your midbrain takes over, where instinct and training (this is important…later;).
Basically, stress can make you dumb, or at least make bad choices.
Another kick in the pants about stress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 90 per cent of all illness and disease is stress-related. Now think for a minute, stress impacts so many areas of the body that if you are living with constant stress it is possible your body is literally breaking down little by little.
I’m sure you want to know how to counteract the negative impact of stress, but that’s not for today’s post…you will just have to stay tuned for ways to hack your stress response and train your body to better respond to stress.
What causes you the most stress in your life and how do you currently deal with it?
Finding the positive stress,
P.S. Do me a solid and share this with someone who could use a better understanding of stress. YOU ARE AWESOME!
p.p.s. I want you part of the crew so stay up to date: I want to be part of the crew!