Our mind becomes sharp. Our body readies itself for which ever action may be needed. The Stress Response is designed to help us. Looking at it from a distance, our Stress Response is kind of genius and clearly a life saver. Without it, humans may have been extinct many millenniums ago. If the building you are in right now caught on fire, your Stress Response is what would get you out, and if you have to make a quick decision it sharpens your ability to focus fast. It can be our friend.
So this wonderful, intelligent, natural stress response becomes unnatural only when we are taught that stress is harmful and should be avoided. Basing our reasoning on that very common school of thought, we now mostly resist our Stress which adds Anxiety, and that is the real reason we feel awful around stress.
Let’s break it down; What actually happens to us during stress?
Our breathing deepens to provide our body with more oxygen and our heart pumps to bring that oxygen to our brain and muscles. We get a boost of endorphins, adrenaline, testosterone and dopamine – this provides us with a pleasant rush and boosts our sense of power and confidence. (This is known as the Excite and Delight side of stress.)
As the Human Species has evolved through the centuries, so has our response to stress. It is no longer just about the Fight or Flight response. We also have:
- Tend & Befriend Response This produces Oxytocin which helps to increase courage, motivate caregiving, gives fearlessness to protect your loved ones, prompts us to strengthen social bonds and is good for cardiovascular health – it literally strengthens your heart.
- Challenge Response – this gives us energy and helps us perform under pressure and increases our motivation and self-confidence. We feel focused instead of fearful.
Examples of people who constantly experience the Challenge Response in their professions are Athletes, Artists and Surgeons, and they put it to very good use. While engaged in their craft they let the stress fuel them, rather than hold them back. And without the stress response heightening their confidence and skill, they are likely to not perform as well at all.
It is as if our physical stress response is a natural spark – but our feelings of anxiety surrounding stress is the equivalent of pouring gasoline over it, creating a combustible situation. (As discussed in the first article in this series) And remember, it’s not the stress itself, but our fear of being stressed, that affects us negatively. Why not make friends with this wonderful resource and thank our bodies for the intelligent support it provides us with?
In order to create a new Mindset around stress, it is helpful to do some quick exercises – these will help you change your mind from fleeing from stress to appreciating it. Let’s call it our Transformational Practice.
Today’s Transformational Practice: Write down five things that your stress response has helped you achieve that you are grateful for. Did it help you meet a specific deadline? Ask for help? Give you courage? Gain physical speed or strength? Write it down with focus on the gratitude you feel for the assistance it gave you.