Perceived Stress, General Stress & Employment Stress
If your health score assessment has highlighted ‘Perceived Stress’, ‘General Stress’ or ‘Employment Stress’ as an area of improvement then please read this resource as it contains some useful information and resources to help you.
How is stress affecting your health?
Stress is a root cause of many health challenges that we face. Stress has been linked with almost all chronic conditions such as cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autoimmunity, mental health such as anxiety, depression, IBS and the list goes on. It is said that around 60-80% of all GP visits are associated to stress.
So, what is stress?
Stress is often looked upon as a bad thing, however this is not always the case. We need certain amounts of stress to be healthy.
The 6 main types of stress are:
- Physical Stress
- Chemical Stress
- Electromagnetic Stress
- Mental or Psychic Stress
- Nutritional Stress
- Thermal Stress
Examples of “good” vs “bad” stress
Good Physical Stress
Exercise can be seen as a form of good physical stress. Loading muscles and bones through exercise can help keep them strong, increasing heart rate and circulation can support our cardiovascular systems and all the above can support our metabolic rate, something that governs the speed of all chemical processes in the body.
Bad Physical Stress
Over-exercising can be equally as bad as not exercising at all. Excessive exercise, especially when coupled with inadequate recovery through sleep, rest, and nutrition can cause the immune system to become suppressed and lead to increased occurrence of upper respiratory infections, viruses, impaired metabolism, changes in hormones and their balance, increased risk of injury as well as chronic fatigue.
The result of the above is reduced physical and mental performance that can lead to frustration.
Good Mental Stress
Having a plan and purpose, setting motivating goals, and doing the work to achieve them is a positive stress. Overcoming challenges and adversity to become a stronger individual is also another positive stress. We need to stress our minds for them to develop, much the same way we would train a muscle to become stronger.
Bad Mental Stress
Much like we can over train our physical body we can do the same with our mental function. Being focused excessively on things that are not supporting us, having a lot of negative self-talk, having others continually project their negative talk onto us, excessive work that leads to drops in performance, being rushed or taking on more work or responsibility that can be managed can cause unhealthy psychic stress.
Good Nutritional Stress
Your body must be stressed with the challenge of digesting and absorbing foods. This means eating an abundance of foods that help to maintain the production of acids and enzymes that support proper digestion.
Bad Nutritional Stress
Chronically eating too much or too little, eating foods that contain ingredients that might irritate the digestive system or cause immune responses and negatively impact the balance of microbes in your digestive system or choosing foods on an on-going basis that negatively impact how you feel and function (physically or emotionally).
The answers from these sections of the quiz are focusing on so called “bad” mental stressors. This can be traumas, general overwhelm, loss of purpose, work pressures.
In my forthcoming book Sleep, Eat, Move, Breathe, Repeat, it covers my five foundations of optimal health:
- Sleep – All things sleep
- Eat – How, Why, What & When you eat
- Move – Exercise & daily movement
- Breathe – Impacts of stress, solution / management of stress, mindfulness etc
- Repeat – Behaviour change, motivating change, scheduling, long term success
For the stress section, I cover the following aread in the book:
- What stress is?
- The many forms of stress
- Implications of chronic stress vs acute stress
- How chronic or acute stress impacts our physical and mental health
- Learning how to guide the voice in your head
- The power of the breath
- Technology, social media and stress
- Therapies and tactics to help you manage and overcome Chronic stressors
Introducing the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System
Sympathetic Nervous System
This is part of the nervous system that is activated in response to stress, also known as the fight or flight branch of the nervous system. When stimulated it results in the release of stress hormones, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, promotes blood flow away from the digestive system and other internal organs to the extremities. Sympathetic dominance can contribute to suppression of sex hormones, thyroid hormone, immune function, digestion and more.
Parasympathetic Nervous SystemSupports the digestion and repair processes, hence why the parasympathetic is supportive for recovery and growth. It has been linked with supporting hormone balance, immune function and more.
The goal is not to be chronically dominant in one or the other, it is about finding the right level of stress and recovery for our own body. Adapting to acute stress is how our body has evolved, however these days we are exposed to much more than acute stress, we now have daily chronic stressors to deal with – work, relationships, social media, expectations, comparisons, financial, purpose, screen time, the list is endless.
Learning how to manage chronic and acute stress is one of the biggest challenges of modern-day life. We cannot go back in time; therefore, we must learn how to deal with the stressors that we allow ourselves to be exposed to and perhaps manage some of the stressors that we deem unnecessary.
Our mind acts as an association machine, so the more stressors we are exposed to, often the more associations that develop can lead to further stress responses and anxiety. Ultimately people can get caught in a vortex of stress. In some, this can derail them, and in others this can become part of their identity. Both of these factors can be destructive on both physical and mental health.
Over the years I have surrounded myself with expert practitioners that I know can support my clients with their emotional stressors. This has enabled me to get fantastic results with my clients. Without this emphasis on addressing and supporting someone with their emotional stressors I do not think I would get half the physical improvements that I see with my clients. I am certainly of the belief that many physical symptoms people experience are a manifestation of emotional/psychological stress and trauma.
Stress is in the eye of the beholder
How we perceive a stressor is unique to us. 10 people can be exposed to the same stress and all 10 people will have a different level of response to that stressor.
Conditioning and traumas throughout our life can play a role establishing how we respond to stress. The challenge with many stressors is that how we respond is typically not a conscious response. It occurs in the sub conscious (without our awareness) and this triggers off areas in the brain related to fight or flight, whilst at the same time down-regulating areas in the brain associated with rational thinking.
The result of this can be very impulsive (fight or flight/survival) like responses. There are many techniques and therapies that can, when working with clients, have these exaggerated responses to stress because of past experiences and conditioning. For some this may mean working with a psychologist or psychotherapist, for others working with a meditation and mindfulness practitioner or hypnotherapist can be useful. I find in many cases it is about finding the right therapy and the right practitioner to help you with this.
Having said all this, bringing awareness to your triggers is often the first step. Starting to dial into the voice in your mind and listening to what it is saying, when it is saying it and how you are responding. Understanding that you have the capability to guide that voice and influence how you experience stress. Also dial into the people, situations and circumstances that might cause you to experience symptoms. This might be the symptoms of anxiety or panic, it might be insomnia, it might be a sudden bout of IBS or it might be a sudden change in your mood.
You may also want to turn attention to the coping strategies that you may have already put in place. This could be sub conscious responses like emotional eating, substance abuse using pharmaceutical or recreational drugs and alcohol. There are many ways in which we try to negate the effects of stress, often through distraction from what it is that we are truly experiencing. Are the coping strategies that you have chosen supporting your health or perhaps contributing to the symptoms and imbalances that you are experiencing?
I hope you have found this content useful. If you feel that you could benefit from additional support in this area, don’t hesitate to get in touch using the enquiry form below.
Send Client Enquiry
Resources you may find useful
Books / Audiobooks
Apps & Audio
- Calm – This is my favourite app for meditation, calming music and even bedtime stories.
- Soundcloud – Here you will find some short meditations created by my colleague David Behrens.