Monday, June 11, 2012

Appreciate & Accept Stress

The existence of Stress in humans is an interesting and exciting aspect.

Wait a minute, stress is EXCITING? How can that be? How can we call something exciting which is responsible for six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide?

Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them. It arises when they worry that which they can’t cope with. The key point to note here is “when they worry that, which they can’t cope with”.
Psychologically it’s the thought of non-resourcefulness, which cause maximum stress in a business environment. When we focus on what we don’t have, we tend to lose sight on what we do have. This is the usual response of a person who is untrained to handle stress. So what does a trained person on stress management do? The answer is simple; a trained person knows where to focus, when facing a challenge. The approach will be more action oriented, not based on assumptions but based on calculations.
Now let’s see what happens biologically when you are under stress, shall we?
Imagine yourself in a Wildlife situation, such as being chased by a lion. As you see the event of being chased by a lion, this is what will be the response inside your brain/body –
The Brain's Response – Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system is activated releasing Steroid Hormones and the Stress Hormone Cortisol which organize systems of body to deal quickly with the lion. Catecholamine triggers an emotional response, at this stage, this emotion is most likely fear (It has to be fear, it not a cute furry lion toy, it’s a real one!).
Release of Neuropeptide S, a small protein that modulates stress gives you a sense of urgency to run away from the lion. Short-term memory, concentration, rational thought are affected. Hippocampus (a nearby area in the brain) stores the emotionally loaded experience in long-term memory. (Now you realize why its tough during interview/exams to recall answers)
The Body’s Response - As the lion comes closer, the heart rate and blood pressure increase instantaneously. Blood flow may actually increase 300 - 400%, priming the muscles, lungs, and brain for added demands.
As the lion gets even closer, fluids are diverted from nonessential locations, including the mouth. This causes dryness and difficulty in talking. In addition, stress can cause spasms of the throat muscles, hence swallowing becomes difficult. (You might have faced this when proposing to someone the first time or during an interview)
Stress shuts down digestive activity, a nonessential body function during short-term periods of hard physical work or crisis.
As you are reading this article and imagining the lion, you may notice that you have put yourself under stress, and some the reactions stated above may already be happening inside your mind/body.
So where is the LION? It was never there in reality, but still your body responded to it as if it were real. The Lion can be a good metaphor for all the challenges that we face in our life, once we are able to see through this, we can conquer stress. To do that, first we must appreciate and accept stress, this is exactly what a trained person does and this is exactly what helps them psychologically and biologically to conquer it, as it allows the person to focus on the resourcefulness rather than the emptiness.
Keep looking forward for this column, and keep chasing away more Lions!

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