Stress, What is it Really, and How Do We Handle it ?

“Stress”, it’s not a new concept.  In fact, stress has been something that we as human beings have been dealing with since the beginning of time.  It hasn’t been easy for us.  We haven’t always had the comforts of home.  We used to live in the elements surrounded by all types of threats, lingering about preying on our vulnerability.  We were embedded with a code that pretty much tells us how to respond in any stressful situation.  Take for example the chances of being eaten by a lion.  Back in our prehistoric day we would have two decisions to make.  Stand there and get eaten or run like we had a futuristic motor in our asses to speed up the process and enhance the probability of living to see another challenging day.

                In today’s times we still face many different stressors.  We have the same two choices.  Let the stressors lay us on our backs or stand and fight our way through whatever presents itself.  There was a professor from McGill University named Hans Selye who discussed stress.  He coined the phrase “general adaption syndrome” of living organisms.  His ground breaking idea was that the human body’s “basic reaction” to any threat no matter if it is physical or psychological, the basic reaction is the same.

                It doesn’t matter if you’re going to get eaten by the lion or have 30 minutes to pay your electrical bill before it gets shut off, according to Hans Selye, the same internal defense mechanisms kick in.   All of these mechanisms involve every vital organ and function.  According to Seyle any problems that arise in this process could contribute to health concerns.

                Seyle may have introduced his theories back in the 1930s, but the truth is, he wasn’t far off at all.  Over the last 20 years one of the biggest discoveries is that stress can influence how the immune system functions.   According to “The Science of Stress, Defining Stress”, “Stress is anything a person perceives to be a threat”.  The perception of a stressful situation can be different for different people.  Another encoded skill of the human is being able to perceive a potential threat and prepare ahead of time.

                Now let’s switch gears for a moment, because with stress comes anxiety.  There is a difference between stress and anxiety.  Stress is the pile of bills on the dining table, or the car repair you’re not ready for.  True, present dangers that you can see, touch, and feel.  Anxiety on the other hand is a concern that arises even when an external threat is not present.

                According to Christopher Celano, Associate Director of Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, “Our mind and our thoughts certainly are connected to our hearts”. Whether it is a dangerous situation or a nagging worry, these feelings will raise the heart rate and blood pressure.  According to Celano, being overanxious can contribute to heart disease. A 2015 research review in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that people who experience high levels of anxiety are more likely to develop hypertension than those who are not as anxious.

                So the question that will be forever present is, “what is the best way for us to deal with stress and anxiety?”  Well, the first step is to recognize that it is there, it exists and it’s affects us if we allow it to persist.  Can we avoid stress?  Not always, and nor would we want to always avoid every single type of stress.  Some stresses, as I mentioned kick us into a mindset of preparedness.  Do we want to eliminate anxiety?  For the most part eliminating as much anxiety as possible would be ideal, but some feelings of anxiousness are necessary to keep us sharp and growing in the right direction. The goal is to not allow Stress and Anxiety to affect us in a way that hurts us. Our mind, body and souls are all connected.  It’s how we think that will save or prolong our lives in the long run.

                Enjoy life, it is here for the taking.  There are so many simple things to do that can help alleviate stress and anxiety.  Do not take the simplicities of life for granted.  If you live near a grocery store, instead of driving there, enjoy a walk.  Think of it as if you are walking to the village to gather food for the evening.  It will feel so good.  Look around at the tree lined streets.  Adore the birds as they perform for you in the sky.  Watch the cars drive by as you celebrate your journey toward a healthier you because you are putting your body in motion.  Eat right.  Inflammation plays a roll in what stress can do to the body.  Certain foods cause inflammation or add to inflammation.  Use the little bit of anxiousness when it comes to choosing the right foods, to…choose the right foods.  You know the difference between a Ding Dong and an Avocado. 

                At the end of the day, the moment that we address the realness of Stress and Anxiety and the fact that we can have some say in how we deal with it, we will begin to live more fulfilling stress-free ( or stressless) anxiety free healthier life styles.  We can’t fix anything that we don’t address.  Get the body moving, allow yourself to heal from the inside out and don’t sweat the small….unless you’re exercising, then you can sweat as much as you want.

D.C. Beckner