WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.
THE BODY’S RESPONSE
The more our minds start to become anxious or fearful, the more fear arises as an emotion, and the more the body will react.
• Stored sugars and fats are released into the bloodstream to provide quick energy
• The heart pumps faster to provide more blood to muscles
• Breathing rate increases to provide oxygen to muscles
• Perspiration increases to help reduce body temperature
• Blood clotting mechanisms are activated to protect against injury
• Muscles tense in preparation for action
These symptoms can happen for hours at a time without being aware of it. Over time, these demands can take a toll on your overall health and well-being. We are all built with an automatic response to stress. It is so important to know your personal stress symptoms so you then can identify when they are occurring, and help you to determine your stressor. From there, you can determine how you will respond to the stressor.
Notice the physical changes taking place in your body and the thoughts you are having. This can
allow you to recognize how YOU respond to stress. Everyone has different symptoms. Identify your body’s physical, mental and emotional responses to stressful events.
• Are my muscles tense?
• Is my jaw clenched?
• How am I responding to the situation?
• Am I reacting out of habit?
• What am I thinking?
This allows us to practice the common aspect of mindfulness which is breaking the chain of reacting on auto-pilot.
By breathing deeply, we decrease the cortisol that is released in the body and we increase the parasympathetic nervous system, or the system that calms us.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOU
• Stress can operate as an alarm in the brain, which prepares the body to react as a defense mechanism for any demand.
• External stressors can include physical environment, daily hassles, social, and organizational.
• Internal stressors can include mind traps, perceptions, self-critical and judgmental thoughts.
• Regardless of the stressors, the body has the same response called ”fight or flight.”
• During this response, many different reactions occur in your body to defend against these demands.
• When we allow our bodies to get revved up, but don’t allow the stress to dissipate, health problems can occur.
MINDFULNESS AND STRESS
Focusing on internal triggers is important for stress management because these are all controllable. Our thoughts, emotions, self-talk, and worry become constant and perpetual. Most stress is a direct result of these automatic thoughts. It is estimated that the average person has 80,000 thoughts a day! The mind is an amazing tool, but if we are unable to switch it off, it can overwhelm us.
Mind-traps can also include worrying about the past or thinking about the future. Few people live in the moment; we very often dwell on the past or imagine what good or bad the future will hold. You cannot possibly change the past – it’s already happened. Likewise, you can’t possibly predict the future. It has yet to come! What you do have is the here and now.
CHOOSE AND CHANGE
• Can I control this?
• How will I take action?
• How important is this?
• What are the facts? What am I thinking?
• Is this a battle I am willing to fight?
• Will this matter in 5 days? 5 months? 5 years?
If you want to learn more about the intersection of Mindfulness and Stress within the workplace contact Atlas Director, Kris Corbett.
Resources: www.americanheart.org; www.cdc.org; www.webmd.com