What is Stress?
Simply put, stress is the body’s normal response to a perceived threat. It is designed to protect us from danger. When we experience a threat our body physiologically and psychologically reacts to confront it. We adapt to the situation by either changing our behaviour, or the way our body works as a system or at a cellular level.
Once we have attended to the threat our body readjusts, we calm back down returning to a state we call in health language “homeostasis”.
However, what if the threat does not go away or the way we have learnt to adapt does not resolve the problem? Well the risk is we can develop chronic stress and the research resoundingly indicates chronic stress can trigger both physical and mental illness. It can also trigger an acute episode of a pre-existing illness. Some of the illnesses stress has been shown to be directly related to include: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, psoriasis, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety disorders.
Threats also known as stressors can take many forms. They tend to be grouped into physical, psychological or contemporary forms. An example of a physical threat is finding a snake curled up behind the microwave- setting off the flight or fight response. Another example is undergoing and recovering from a surgical procedure. Psychological stressors can be mental, emotional or spiritual. Examples include meeting workplace demands, bullying and housing affordability.
In the workplace occupational stress can impact on employee safety. The final stage of chronic stress features the symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue affects employee productivity, concentration and can impair judgement. Impaired judgement and concentration can result in employee injury. Injuries incurred as a result of chronic stress are not only physical but can be psychological. For example post traumatic stress and depression can result from bullying in the workplace a result of an organisation failing to provide an emotionally safe environment.
Treating chronic stress and teaching people how to calm themselves down can be a complex phenomenon. This is because the intrinsic factors of each individual vary (see diagram below). These internal factors affect how we adapt to stressors. This means one solution for all is not best practice – instead clients need to firstly learn what exactly is stress and how to recognise its impact on them, identify what is working for and against them and finally develop new ways to calm themselves down. We might not always be able to remove or control the threat but how we perceive it, react to it and take care of ourselves is flexible. With greater awareness and access to resources comes choice.
In our programs at A Higher Self we take attendees through the stages and current theory of stress, the risk factors for developing chronic stress and disease, explain and link clients to resources to support and change their current circumstances. Clearly a one- day program won’t resolve chronic stress or an anxiety disorder but it will equip the attendee to better identify what will help them and make an informed decision on what future treatment program best suits them.
For clients who are not unwell but recognise the symptoms of stress our one- day program meets the societal cry for prevention.