Studies show that between 60% and 90% of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related complaints
Stress occurs when we perceive the pressures coming at us are greater than our ability or strength to deal with them. We feel that these factors are creating demands on us, or are asking change from us. This pressure to change – or always do more – causes an emotional and physical strain. If this strain or stress gets too much – beyond our resources and ability to cope – it may harm our health, our relationships, and lead to feelings of confusion, guilt and a loss of direction. These STRESSORS in our life can come from outside – from work, or relationships or family issues – but they can also come from within us as we find ourselves worrying and generating scenarios about our future and what we have to do.
When we find ourselves in a situation that is a challenge, the brain releases the stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – getting the body ready for fight, flight or freeze. These hormones trigger a series of physical reactions, such as increased blood pressure, which are useful in helping us deal with acute physical dangers. If we do fight quickly or flee, the stress hormones are used and the body returns to relative calm. However, in situations of ongoing or chronic stress, the stress hormones remain in the blood stream for prolonged periods of time, keeping the same physical symptoms active. Thus we find ourselves continually scanning for danger, unable to rest when when we are away from the trigger which caused the stress. This continual, switched-on stress response becomes a problem in itself, as it leads to physical symptoms such as tension in the muscles, blood pressure, stomach complaints, poor appetite and anxiety.
If we are in a high pressured environment – or period in our life – stressors can build up, triggering the mind and body to remain in a constant alarm state, waiting to fight or flee. This continual stress increases the risk of both acute and chronic psychosomatic illnesses and weakens the immune system.
One area where this happens frequently is at work. The pace of life today, with faster communication and 24/7 availability, can mean that we are always on call, rushing, busy with the many commitments which we have taken on. Our minds can be constantly on the go – planning, thinking of the many things we have to do and worrying about the future. Continual deadlines and pressure trigger the same stress responses in the body which is then unable to switch them off. Modern systems of communication mean that there is frequently no let-up in the pressure even at home. Or you may find yourself in a competitive, changing or uncertain work environment, with maybe levels of conflict between co-workers or poorly defined roles and responsibilities. Whatever the reason, we can find ourselves unable to achieve a balance between our inner and outer life and our health or relationships start to suffer.