Stressed? Here's 5 ways to make it worse
We get stressed for a very good reason - it keeps us safe and keeps us alive, or at least it DID.
Now we need to adapt.
Why get Stressed?
Your stress response evolved to keep you alive by maximising your ability to deal with immediate threats to your survival.
You detect a threat (or something that resembles one) and in less than a second adrenaline is released and a chain reaction of events gets underway as part of the fight/flight response:
Blood flows to your legs and arms so you can fight harder or run faster
Blood flows away from your gut and brain - you can digest breakfast later and there's not time to think
Your heart rate and blood pressure increase to get oxygen to your muscles faster
Your blood thickens so it can clot faster if you're injured
Your immune system shuts off - you can fight the virus later, if you survive
The stress response is amazing!...for dealing with a tiger in the jungle!
But how does it affect us now?
And what are we doing to make it worse?
What's the Problem?
The trouble is most things that cause us stress today are not an immediate threat to our survival.
The world has changed much faster than we have and our response to stress is often counterproductive:
We lose the ability to think when we need it most - IQ can drop significantly as the brain areas we need shut down
We lose our ability to digest and use essential nutrients
We strain our arteries with thick blood surging through our bodies at high pressure and speed
We shut down our immune system increasing our risk of illness and disease
If it doesn't help us fight the tiger it gets shut down...but there's no tiger to fight!
Instead, the stress response that's meant to keep us safe can cause us far more harm than good.
How to make it Worse
If you want to reduce your ability to think straight, weaken your immune system, increase indigestion and strain your cardiovascular system here's what to do:
Eat Junk - the stress response encourages fat and sugar to stay in your bloodstream longer to keep you energised in your tiger battle. This high calorie food can get stuck to your arteries, clog you up and increase the long term impact of stress
Sleep Less - sleep reduces stress, helps the body repair and allows the mind to problem-solve ready for the next day. Cut it down below 7 hours and you're hampering this essential maintenance and your ability to deal with the problem that caused you the stress in the first place
Stop Exercising - it feels good to exercise - it stimulates your immune system, releases stress and increases feel good hormones like dopamine and endorphins. By avoiding exercise you deprive your body and mind of this natural activity and need
Worry More - your thoughts really do create your reality - negative thoughts trigger a threat response that tells your body to react to an immediate danger. If that threat is an idea in your head it doesn't matter - your body knows no difference. By worrying about tomorrow you increase your stress today
Avoid Fun - if you're happy you're relaxed, if you're relaxed you can think, and if you can think you can act. It's easy to deprioritise enjoyment to 'stay focused' but what if you're focused on the wrong things because you're so stressed?
There are lots of tools and techniques I use with coaching clients to increase awareness and help them manage stress.
I would encourage you to start with this simple question:
What's one thing you're currently doing that you know isn't helping you?