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  • Writer's pictureEve da Silva Msc, PgDip

Understanding Stress

Updated: May 5, 2020

What is stress?

Stress: in the body stress results as a complex interaction between neurological and endocrinological reactions. These commonly are described in the immediate aftermath of a stressful event, thought (yes thoughts can be stressful!) or memory as "fight or flight". The adrenaline gets pumping, you feel your digestive system shift and your heart rate quickens. If it is so bad then why can rollercoasters, surfing, skydives, mountain climbing and marathon running be so fun, rewarding and self esteem enhancing?

Good Stress vs Bad Stress

There are a lot of theories about stress but those which you may be most interested in are the theories and examples of stress adaptation. What do we mean by good stress? Good stress, as hinted up above, is a tension from our environment that challenges us but the process of which leaves us feeling accomplished, elated, confident and hopeful. In situations of good stress we are supported and support others; we have some power, influence or choice and we are acting in accordance with our values.

When fight or flight kicks in during good stress episodes it is very likely that we are also experiencing additional neurological and endocrinological interactions such as the sense of warmth and emotional safety we gain from feeling loved and safe. In situations of good stress, we can grow to meet our potential and we understand our raised heartbeats as excitement and even enjoyment. We choose to act and we may find energy and motivation we never thought possible. We do not feel helpless and we feel empowered to reach our goals.

Bad stress is an unresolvable tension. It may emerge in a relationship that is stuck in a cycle of behaviour that damages both parties; in a job where nothing ever seems enough or good enough; in situations where those who have more power or influence than we do attempt to control or undermine us; in a scary situation which threatens our wellbeing or that of those we love; in a financial spiral that seems impossible to get out of and in may more situations which undermine our potential to have our basic needs met.

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