Understanding and Coping with the Stress Response

In our fast-paced world helpful stress can easily change to chronic and harmful stress. The stress response isn’t something new. Our ancestors dealt with stressful situations too. They encountered and escaped sabretooth tigers and other life-threatening situations – all thanks to our inbuilt survival mechanism – the stress response.

Unlike our ancestors reacting to the “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations may not be helpful all the time. We encounter situations we can’t just escape from by fighting or running away. That is why understanding the stress response is crucial.

The Stress Response

Stress can be unpleasant, even when it is transient. When you face any stressful situation, your body experiences several changes collectively known as the stress response. The physical changes may include:

  • Quickened pulse
  • Adrenaline rush
  • Tensed muscles
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Redirection of blood to major organs

This collection of physiological changes is accompanied by the release of cortisol which triggers short and long-term changes to your body.

The Cortisol Danger

The primary purpose of cortisol is to keep your body on high alert so you can be effective and get things done and respond effectively when in danger.  However, when the threat passes cortisol, levels are expected to fall via the parasympathetic nervous system’s activation.

Some people always find themselves in stressful situations. It could be a looming work deadline, a personal crisis, or the constant worry of not having enough money. When stress continues over a long period, it is called chronic stress. This will keep the cortisol level high.

High cortisol levels are linked to several negative consequences such as affecting the prefrontal Cortex, a part of the brain responsible for problem-solving, short-term memory, and impulse control. Cortisol surges can also damage blood vessels and significantly increase the risks of a heart attack. It can also contribute to obesity.

How to Manage Stress

It is impossible to completely avoid stressful incidents or situations, however, there are many ways to manage stress. Here are some effective counter-stress techniques:

Relaxation Response

The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. To trigger relaxation you could try deep breathing, visualization of a calm nature scene, repetitive prayer, meditation, yoga, listening to calming  music and being in nature.

Understanding and coping with the Stress Response / Sydney City Psychology

Physical Activity

Physical exercise are very effective in managing stress. You don’t have to hit the gym to manage stress – a simple brisk walk around the block can do the trick. Movement therapies like yoga, dancing, and tai chi work very well too.

Social Support

You can benefit so much from close relationships or with a trusted support such as a psychologist. Social support and talking openly is one of the most recommended tools to beat stress.

Understanding and coping with the Stress Response / Sydney City Psychology

Seeing a Psychologist

Spending time with a psychologist discussing your concerns, problem solving and learning stress management will yield many mental and physical benefits.

Get the Help You Need

Understanding the stress response can help you take better care of yourself. If you find that you are already battling with stress or that stressful situations are getting the better of you, feel free to reach out. We are here to support you.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your options.