The stress response of the body is meant to protect and support
us. To maintain stability or homeostasis, the body is constantly
adjusting to its surroundings. When a physical or mental event threatens
this equilibrium, we react to it. This process is often referred
to as the "fight or flight response." We prepare for physical
action in order to confront or flee a threat.
Our ancestors responded to stressful ordeals in this fashion. Millions
of years later, when you face a situation that you perceive as challenging,
your body automatically goes into overdrive, engaging the stress
response. Immediately, you release the same hormones that enabled
cave people to move and think faster, hit harder, see better, hear
more acutely, and jump higher than they could only seconds earlier.
Like theirs, your heartbeat speeds up; your blood pressure increases;
your breathing quickens. Most modern stresses, however, do not call
for either fight or flight. Our experience of stress is generally
related to how we respond to an event, not to the event itself.
When is stress a warning signal?
When it is part of a natural reaction to challenge or danger, the
body’s response is called positive stress. However, when you
feel out of control or under intense pressure, you may experience
the physical, emotional, or relational symptoms brought on by negative
stress. These are the signs of stress that you need to recognize
and control. It is important to remain attentive to negative stress
symtoms and to learn to identify the situations that evoke them.
When these symptoms persist, you are at risk for serious health
problems because stress can exhaust your immune system. Recent research
demonstrates that 90% of illness is stress-related.
It is not possible to live without any stress. We can, however,
learn ways to handle the stress of daily life efficiently, and to
manage our reactions to stress and minimize its negative impact.