What is stress?

As it is stress awareness month, we thought it would be a good time to touch upon the basics of stress. This will be the first of a series relating to stress over the next 4 weeks.

A man meditating with a stack of books in front of him

First of all, we all know that stress is a complex topic! We all experience stress, it is important to emphasise that stress is a normal emotion to experience, and it can be a positive feeling at times. The difficulty with stress is that we all react to stress differently, meaning how we deal with stress and what will ease our stress will also vary.

There is no medical definition of stress, so it’s presentation can be very subjective and difficult to quantify, making the general management of one who is stressed a hard nut to crack!

Let’s start with common causes of stress:

  • Being under lots of pressure
  • Facing big changes
  • Worrying about something
  • Becoming disconnected from people
  • Not being physically active
  • Losing control over the outcome of a situation
  • Responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming
  • Not having enough work
  • Times of uncertainty

This list could be added to quite easily, but we have chosen to highlight a few of the more common.

So, what happens when we’re stressed?

Stress used to be buzzword, one that was seen as ‘airy-fairy’, but now we know much more about the physiological processes associated with stress. When you feel stressed, our body releases many hormones, the 2 important ones being cortisol and adrenaline.

Historically, this stress response would be a quick way of preparing the body for a threat, otherwise known as the fight or flight response. As an example, as you’re reading this now, if a lion walked through the door, you would get huge release of cortisol and adrenaline to get you out of the situation! It would shut down all of the bodily systems that weren’t required to get you out of that situation and prioritise the systems that will help!

Now, the fight and flight response is a great tool! It can be used as a positive, and almost like a bodily hack! It can make human beings do incredible things, but when one is in that fight or flight response for too long, physical symptoms can start to occur.

We’ve listed a few of the key issues here:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Physical pain, such as general joint pain and headaches
  • Development of autoimmune diseases, as well as heart and blood vessel type disorders.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased appetite which can lead to weight gain
  • Deterioration of emotional and cognitive skills
  • Deterioration of memory and concentration
  • Sleep disorders
  • Burnouts

How do we manage stress?

We’re going to go through our Moxi top tips over the month of April as it’s stress awareness month. We’ve added some quick tips here:

  • Try and exercise daily – aim for something small like 8000 steps a day, and slowly build on this
  • Try and speak to a friend of family member once a day, over the phone or face to face if possible
  • Turn off all screens at least an hour before you plan to go to bed. This will help your normal pre-sleep physiology get you to sleep!
Stress is an emotion that is a normal part of living, but it's how we can control, manipulate, and control our own stresses that can make it either a positive or a negative state.
David Fox, Founder & CEO of Moxi Health