- Stress is something we all experience
- It is a normal reaction
- It happens to us all in situations we find stressful – at times of threat and uncertainty, or when we have taken on too much
- Stress can be useful and can improve our performance e.g. a footballer before a match; going for a job interview or speaking in public
Fiction – common misunderstandings about stress
- Stress and anxiety are signs of mental illness
- If you’re stressed you should know what’s causing it
- Stress only affects weak people
When we view what is happening to us as a threat or if we find it difficult to cope with uncertainty, then stress can be a normal response. Think of someone who is afraid of flying:
- They think that the flight will be awful or even catastrophic
- They have threatening images running through their head and begin to feel
- stressed as a result
- They sometimes begin to feel sick, shaky and tense
- The combination of how they think, how they feel and their body’s response
- can feel uncomfortable or overwhelming and very often, they find it easier to avoid flying
- This reaction is unhelpful
Nevertheless other stress reactions can be helpful
- You have a deadline
- You feel your body react with tension but this drives you to get the job done rather than avoid it
- This response is helpful
The Fight or Flight Response
Most often when feeling stressed we are unaware of what is happening and can feel more stressed because we don’t understand the strange sensations we feel in our bodies. We can quickly feel overwhelmed.
By taking a step back and becoming more curious about what is happening both in our bodies and in our minds, we can begin to
recognise the signs of stress sooner and learn ways of reversing the feeling of being overwhelmed.
When we are experiencing stress sometimes we are able to notice where we feel it in our bodies. Most often people describe a sensation of butterflies in their stomach, shortness of breath, a tingling feeling in their fingers, a need to go to the loo and tension in their head and neck areas. These are normal responses and are only a few ways in which our bodies respond to stress.
As humans, we respond to stress as all other animals do.
Think of a leopard padding along quietly.
It hears a noise. How does it then react?
This is a completely normal stress response which you may recognise when feeling stressed. It is also known as the FLIGHT OR FIGHT RESPONSE. The freeze response commonly occurs when in shock or experiencing extreme stress. These reactions are also known as the adrenaline response.The fight or flight response can also arise from a psychological threat. The way we look at and understand what is happening around us influences how we react to it. We may be sitting at home worrying about our gas bill or the argument we had earlier in the day. Sitting at home we are under no threat but our body will still respond owing to the way we are thinking. We would describe this as unhelpful
as, sitting in your chair at home, there is no physical threat in that moment.
Stress is a normal reaction and you can learn ways of controlling it.