Stress has many effects on the body. Stress is a non-specific response by the body to any demand that overcomes, or threatens to overcome the body's ability to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s internal sense of balance. A stressor (demand) is any psychological, social, environmental, physiological, or spiritual stimulus that disrupts homeostasis, thereby requiring change or adaptation. There are many examples of stressors including: exercise, hunger, a job promotion, relationship issues, an accident, a long daily commute, etc. The brain receives information about the disruption to homeostasis that the stressor has caused and initiates a response to eventually help the body return to homeostasis. Stress encourages growth when an individual is able to meet the demands of the new adaptation. It is a natural process and critical to our survival as long as the body is given sufficient time to recover between stressors. The body needs to be able to restore itself to homeostasis following a stressful experience. The challenge with stress is when the individual is not able to adapt to the new demands and the body does not return to homeostasis.
If the body does not return to homeostasis, then it results in physical changes that are designed to maintain survival. The survival mode that the body goes through is a stress response. This stress response is often called "fight or flight" or "fight or flight or freeze" and effects many systems in the body such as the nervous system and endocrine (hormonal) system.
Below is a typical Stress-Time Chart. This chart shows stress being in a danger zone towards the evening since it is in a high range which can have negative effects on the health of the body. Stress should ideally decrease towards the evening to assist with sleep and is ideally in optimal zone during the midday when there are more resources and energy that can be devoted to problem solving for stress. Unfortunately, most individuals do not engage in stress relieving activities throughout the day and instead, stress is built up overtime. In the below example, stress is continually increasing over the period of the day indicating that there is little stress relief or management until it becomes a larger problem. It is important to recognize stress so it can be addressed with stress relieving techniques and create balance.
Legend of Stress Rating
5: Clear, focused, alert and ready for action but in control
3-7: The Optimal Zone to function most of the time in terms of anxiety/stress. Stress/Anxiety can be quickly reduced in this zone.
>7: Physical stress symptoms manifest, thoughts and behaviors are too agitated. When stress/anxiety reaches this level it is difficult to reduce stress to a lower level. 7 is known as the point of no return.
10: Highest Level of stress – Crisis point or Panic attack stage
The secret is prevention so that we can observe and have control over our stress/anxiety level. Every week you will be learning more about how stress affects your health. Stay tuned for next weeks blog about " Physical Stress Symptoms"