Stress is a formidable tool. It may be misused.
Stress is an essential part of our body. This is not an unfortunate legacy, a fault in the equipment of our machine. It is a functionality, like moving, thinking or eating. Each of these capacities is essential and we can also move badly, think badly and eat badly.
The body is managed by an algorithm called homeostasis, stress is part of this system.
Our body is constantly adjusting to maintain balance, and it does so thousands of times a day: temperature (37 degrees Celsius), our blood pressure (120/60), our blood sugar level (1g/ L) etc... If we are too hot or too cold, which is stressful, our system kicks in and helps us regulate our body temperature.
A dinosaur or e-mail: same pattern. Stress is a physiological or psychological reaction of alarm in the face of aggression and life changes. This is a stereotypical non-specific response.
Non-specific means that regardless of the stressor, our biological reaction will be the same: an email from a customer with an offensive headline or five rabid wolves chasing you. This point is important when it comes to stress at work: e-mails, small remarks, phone calls can be perceived as dangerous or threatening, as if we were confronted with a dinosaur or a tribe attacking our village, but we stay in our office, sitting in front of our computer. And it's all the more painful when we're sitting, because we humans are part of the animal kingdom and the vertebrate phylum, and as such our bodies are designed to react to stressors by movement. It is indeed a response initiated by nervous reactions and hormonal secretions to flee or fight.
Of course, the answer is the same for everyone. But each person is unique. Each person will react differently to the same stimulus.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has its definition of stress which seems very interesting to me: :
“An individual is stressed when there is an imbalance between the perception that there are constraints imposed on him by his environment and the perception that he has of his own resources to face them”.
So we have four elements: 1.1 Constraint therefore the source of stress. 1.2 Our perception of this constraint, This perception is obviously unique to each of us. 2.1 Our resources to respond to this stress. 2.2 How we perceive our resources is unique to each of us.
Each person has a unique way of reacting to stress and each reaction depends on several factors, including their past experiences, genetic heritage, health, personality and worldview. Just as there is no good or bad stress, stress is a reaction of our body to adapt and everyone has a more or less strong reaction. This point brings us to two points:
Understand that you may be more sensitive than your partner to feedback from customers or suppliers.
This awareness makes us more sensitive to circumstances that can cause stress in others, and lead us to a certain benevolence towards others.
To talk about stress on the body, let's keep it simple and take the theoretical reference on the subject: the three phases of stress according to Hans Selye.
Hans Selye, a pioneer in stress research, demonstrated that a variety of stressful conditions or harmful agents induce an identical sequence of bodily notifications. These changes - which we call the stress response or the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) - are mainly controlled by the hypothalamus. The stress response is as follows:
1. An initial flight or fight response. 2. A slow reaction of resistance 3. And possibly recovery or exhaustion.
Phase 1: Immediate and therefore nervous response for FLIGHT or FIGHT:
The flight or fight response is the reaction of the nervous system to threats. It is partly caused by a nerve impulse from the hypothalamus to the center of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in the spinal cord, via the sympathetic nerve, to the adrenal medulla for the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine. It is an immediate reaction of the body. : Increase in cardiac output, coronary dilation, dilated pupils, sweating, etc.
Phase 2: The resistance and therefore hormonal reaction.
Unlike phase 1 flight or fight which is acute, which is initiated by hypothalamic nerve impulses, phase 2 is the resistance reaction. It is induced to a large extent by hypothalamic liberating hormones, it is the hormonal reaction therefore slower to set up but also slower to stop. So the stress may go away but your body takes some time to adjust its hormonal balance. The resistance response allows the body to continue to fight stress once the flight or fight response wears off. This is why the heart continues to beat fast even though the stressful situation has disappeared. This period allows us to go through a stressful period and then our organism comes back to normal. But sometimes this reaction fails to overcome the stress and our organism becomes exhausted.
Stage 3: exhaustion…
When stress is prolonged, the resources of our body begin to be depleted and the body is no longer resilient. Prolonged periods of exposure to high concentrations of cortisol and other hormones involved in the resistance response induce muscle wasting, immunosuppression, gastrointestinal ulcers, and depletion of pancreatic (insulin-producing) beta cells . Pathologies can occur.
Mistargeting: Stress is a boost, and if misdirected, it hits the wrong target.
The problem with stress is that the stressors aren't as physical as they used to be, but our reactions are. When faced with nasty emails, our hormonal reactions and the switching on/off of organ groups are meant to save or fight us, not to sit still in front of our computer. We are people under psychological constraints (work, divorce, tensions, etc.), so physical action is impossible. We can't run or fight and the stress is still there so it's a loop. This mentally generated used or unused energy goes towards conscious target errors. Example: I'm tense, I know that today I had a terrible day, I've been like this for a week, I'm going to buy myself a punching bag so as not to hit my boss... It is a conscious and voluntary target on your part to discharge the energy that has been stored up that eventually allows to reduce the energy that could have diverted to the somatic illness. This is a deliberate target error. We can have an involuntary target error: the stress of work and I create tension with my loved ones. But the target is the boss. So you have to use aware target errors. There we are on the biological side… How should I release it… otherwise we have a non-conscious target error.
Excess cortisone will cause other lesions:
- A loss of immunity that we will see gradually set in because antibodies are the body's defense proteins and they serve as energy fuel. - The muscle mass will be burned in the form of energy: the muscle, which is of course a protein, will also serve as energy fuel. - Physical and mental fatigue: because proteins constitute neurotransmitters. They will eventually serve as energy fuel through gluconeogenesis. - The bones will become fragile: The protein of the bone, the collagen on which the minerals are fixed will be used to produce biological energy. - Autoimmune disease: There is a link between the imbalance of stress and diseases, especially autoimmune diseases, which are genetically derived. There are many genetic pathologies encoded in our heritage as auto-immune diseases, which can be precisely show where the state of self-tolerance is going to be broken due to chronic excess stress.
Stress indicator: Cortisol but not really…
To diagnose chronic stress, we will objectify it by measuring the cortisol level. This cortisol collected by the saliva allows us to determine if the amount of cortisol produced in the subject is excessive. If this is the case, we consider that the subject is in a state of chronic stress. Small flat, this method is called into question, by some, because chronic stress is not only the level of cortisol but also the imbalance of cortisol compared to DHEA: Indeed, a professional athlete has a high level of cortisol at certain times during his training, but is he under acute stress? The logic is similar to that of a financial budget, what matters is not only what you spend but also what you earn.
OK, but how do I lower my stress level?
1. Going back to the definition of stress :
- Easy answer: Are there stresses that I can remove from my life, which are useless... Some dating, some useless habits being late... - And my perception of the stressful object: can I modify it? Typical example: this person is angry but is he an important person in my world. Does his opinion and his attitude really affect my field of values and my path in my life?
2. Lower my state of general tension
- My diet. It is clear that food affects our moods as well as the qualities absorbed during the day. - My sleep. Lack of sleep has a clear impact on the perception of stressors. - My state of mind about daily life and my goals - Sport: The connection of the body is evident by these nervous and hormonal impulses. It is inconceivable to ignore your body. - Cardiac coherence and other breathing exercises. - Self-hypnosis and body-mind exercises.
Feel free to assess all the little things that are piling up in your life that will add stress. Try to evaluate them objectively. For more questions, contact us. And the dinosaurs no longer exist... Marco PAO Certified practitioner relaxation therapist Certified life coach