Stress is our bodies natural response to a situation that is perceived as hazardous or dangerous. It affects everyone and is a response by the nervous system. Like most mammals it is an evolutionary and survival response that has served to prevent and protect us from danger.
For example, if we are facing a confrontation with another person, the hormone known as Adrenocorticotrophic (ACTH) is secreted and enters the bloodstream. This has the effect of giving a boost of energy and triggers the flight or fight mechanism (It has been dubbed the ‘fight or flight’ response for obvious reasons but research into the way women deal with stress has noticed that their behavior is more akin to ‘tend or befriend’, which might explain why women deal with modern stresses better than men).
‘Fight or Flight’ is a response that has served our species well throughout the ages. In more dangerous or violent times, when a person was more likely to be attacked by a wild animal or another person, ACTH would be secreted instantly and give the person the energy to get away or protect themselves and hence survive to tell the tale.
Escaping from a wild animal is not really a common factor in our current societies however we still encounter stressful situations, only that they are a bit more sophisticated. Traffic jams and gridlock spring to mind as stressful situations and the only option we have to deal with them are to grin and bear it.
These incidents still cause ACTH to be released into the body but without a need or way to release it, ACTH levels build up in the body. Your stress levels can be said to be high or you are highly stressed if this continues for any length of time.
Despite the seemingly universal desire to reduce or eliminate stress, you can never be free of stress. It is vital for the functioning of the body. You can reduce your sources of stress and change how you react to the stress, but no matter how hard you try you can never truly eliminate it.
Even if you were to become a hermit, live in a shack on top of a mountain and meditate each day, you would still not eliminate stress. You would find things to cause you stress even in this situation because it is the bodys reaction to a situation that is emotionally, mentally or physically stressful.
You can reduce your stress levels by learning to identify what it is that causes you stress. Once you have identified your causes of stress you can then start to deal with them.
Making these sorts of changes are often hard because it could mean radical change, like quiting your job, spouse, social ties or country that you live in. Many people tend to let it slide until it is too late to do anything. Unrelieved chronic stress can lead to all sorts of health problems. Cardiovascular disease and heart problems are a couple of common illnesses brought on by stress. And once you get to the stage where you are having stress related heart problems, it is often too late to do anything about it. It is important to listen to your body when it comes to stress and take action to reduce stress in your life.