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Mental Health Awareness Week – Stress

16th May 2019

It's day four of Mental Health Awareness Week and our focus today is on the stress reaction.

We hear the word stress a lot, so lets take a look what that is:

Stress is something we all encounter and can be described as an “increase of demands over resources”. Stress means different things to different people. A situation that is intolerable to one person may be stimulating to another. What you feel is determined not just by events and changes in the outside world, but how you perceive and respond to them.  It is important that you learn to recognise your own responses to stress and, if necessary, develop skills to deal with it.

Stress

Our reaction to stress is the fight-or-flight response, a biological response in which your body is ready to fight the danger or flee from it. Our primitive part of the brain (amygdala), which is very fast, sends impulses to our autonomic nervous system, and this releases cortisol into the blood stream. This happens in seconds as part of our survival system but the difficulty is that many people are triggered into the fight or flight (stress) response continually in every-day activities/interactions at work. Our brains can cope with acute/immediate stress but we have difficulty with chronic/every day stress. Cortisol needs to be used up, generally by movement and exercise.  However, if it is not dispersed this creates a potentially toxic internal environment for our body which can lead to mental health issues if it is not addressed in the medium to long term. 

Reducing our stress, building in recovery time and learning how to truly relax and switch off (including through exercise) will really help us look after ourselves.