Stress is a simple and much needed evolutionary mechanism to keep us out of danger.
The flight or fly mode – a human switches on when he registers a stressor in his environment – e.g. a wild animal. A reasonable and intuitive choice of how to behave – protects us from losing our life in a situation of confrontation with a beast.
By experiencing a stressor, the human body prepares for increased effort, maximizing the body’s capabilities:
- the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands
- acceleration of the heart rate and breathing
- increase in heart contractions – faster and more effective work, higher blood pressure
- muscle tension
- dilatation of the bronchial tubes and pupils
- distribution of fats into fatty acids, glycerol and their release into the blood
- degradation of stored glycogen in the liver and its release into the blood*
In order to make the flight or fight even more effective – and the energy put into it to be maximum – some processes are inhibited: digestion, the functioning of the immune system, feeling and sensitivity to pain.
*Prof. Ph.D. Krzysztof Turlejski, Institute of Experimental Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences,
The H. Chodakowska Higher School of Management and Law.
It is really rare, at least among my patients, that it is a wild animal.
In Europe, in Poland – inhabitants of larger cities – statistically rarely experience a situation that threatens human life. It is usually related to crime, an accident or a chronic illness. It’s difficult to die of hunger here, wild animals are rare (not counting the cases of deer jumping under a speeding car on the road). What in today’s life of an average inhabitant of Warsaw causes stress and physical preparation of the body to a flight or a hard fight then?
Working life is the environment in which it is easiest for us to pick up on stressors / internal mechanisms – as the beginning of work toan internal change. In the work sphere there are all stressors related to the sense of financial security: cash turnover / loans and financial liquidity of the company / financial plan / loss of financial liquidity. All relational aspects: abuse and mobbing, difficulties in expressing oneself, being assertive, inability to recognize real and unreal expectations, taking too much responsibility – or avoiding it. Team and group work – causing consternation, confusion, ambiguity of situations, nonsense of the actions taken – with the simultaneous desire to belong and be an individualist.
In addition, for many people the stressor is the number of tasks and rushing, tight deadlines – resulting in the lack of work-life balance. The work also includes the path of education and the need for achievements – e.g. important exams, the desired master’s, engineer or doctoral degree.
Equally stressful is the situation of adaptation to change – where contemporary times often require flexibility, and taking into account the evolution it is not in human nature …
A change creates a crisis, a need to be in between, in a time of unclear direction and an unpredictable future. Uncertainty about what will be and the loss of what was in the past – causes the flight or fly mode to be activated – faster than meeting a rhino at a distance of 100 m.
Relationships – considered in the private or business aspect, thisiemo stressful sense of incomprehension, impossibility to express yourself, „grievances” from others and towards others, parting/divorce, doubts about the upbringing style, conversations/influence on children, openness to other people or its lack.
Health-related stressors include chronic diseases, injuries, pain and death.
If anxiety is excessive and prolonged – without a pronounced stressor, or if it persists for a long time despite its elimination, paralyzing the functioning of the patient – a thorough diagnosis of anxiety disorders should be made – and treatment with psychotherapy and pharmacology should be initiated.
Examples of anxiety thoughts include:
- I will not be a successful man
- I will not succeed in it
- I will fail
- Someone will think of me – that I am incompetent/stupid
- I will lose my job, and I have a loan
Many of my patients come to the office with the expectation that their stress will be eliminated – with an unrealistic and unhealthy goal – which they cannot achieve. Stress is good, motivating, it protects us from danger. However, can we understand / take care of it properly?
How do you know if you are under long-term stress?
You have difficulty silencing your thoughts – the so-called racing thoughts do not allow you to relax.
There are more and more problems with sleep – difficulty in falling asleep, waking up at night, worse quality of sleep, waking up feeling tired. Your body is suffering from physical ailments that are difficult to diagnose by medicine. These may include, among others, digestive problems, bowel problems, stomach ache, diarrhea, neck and body cramps, headaches, migraines, breathing problems, tightness in the chest. In the long term you feel tired, have difficulty with concentrating, you feel constant tension, anxiety and irritability.
Take care of the relaxation of the body – to get rid of the effects of physiological preparation of the body for fight or flight. You can try the methods listed below:
Relaxation – body scanning and body awareness
Mindfulness – training in mindfulness
Favourite physical exercises – e.g. gym, team games, dancing, yoga
Healthy diet and nutrition
Massage – rehabilitation or atmospheric
Sex – by being close to a loved person, we can also get rid of the tension in the body accumulated by stress
Take care of the relaxation of the spirit – you can try the following methods:
Ritual of quieting down before bedtime
Controlling the media and content reaching us
Meditation – training in which you will silence your thoughts
Contact with nature
Your little pleasure – a book, a flower, coffee, a pink shirt
Support given by loved ones/friends
Professional support – conversations with a psychologist