Chemically, stress is a condition that your body enters as the result of a message received from your brain telling it to prepare to run or fight. The body reacts by preparing for that eventuality.
The brain tells the adrenal glands to send a rush of two hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline) to the muscles in preparation for them to respond to a fear or a threat.
It is the job of the brain to protect the body. It accomplishes this by telling the noradrenaline to redirect blood flow from lower priority areas of your body (like skin or your abdomen) to the muscles to give you a “power boost.”
At the same time, the brain is also telling the adrenaline to speed up your breathing to take in more oxygen to feed the work being done on the muscles with the noradrenaline.
Unfortunately, when you cannot make a decision about how to react (fight or flight), these two hormones are caught in limbo rushing around madly waiting for you to decide what you want them to do.
Since you are not doing that, the only choice they have is to cause vomiting, make you tremble, panic or maybe even pass out.
It is actually a very efficient process and has worked wonderfully for thousands of years.
When we were running across the plains barefoot with a spear in our hand bearing down on supper, we needed this process to protect us. Indeed, the entire system is just the result of the brain doing what it is supposed to do … keep the body functioning and protect it.
We no longer chase the woolly mammoth nor does our survival revolve around running away from a rival tribe (well maybe just a little).
The battles today are demanding employers, uncontrollable traffic, annoying neighbors, partners, children and oh yes, taxes!
Here’s where the interesting part of this analysis comes in. Even though our situation has changed, the chemicals are still there along with the vehicle to drive them.
The system is very efficient and works quite effectively. This is why you have stress.
It is merely a response to a perceived threat and the brain will set it in motion on a subconscious level even at the slightest sensation of danger. In fact it will DEMAND this action.
Since we now live in an “enlightened” society, we are conditioned not to throw a spear at the boss, strangle our spouse or set the neighbor’s house afire.
What is needed is the ability to change our programmed responses. We need to discern the difference between real threats and our own internalized perceptions of danger. Sounds pretty simple, huh?
Sure it does.
Until you’re sitting in that freeway gridlock, half an hour late for the most important career busting appointment of your life, knowing full well that your blankety blank boss will turn the account over to that jerk in the office and you’ll never get the raise you were counting on when your son starts college in the fall……..
Here come the chemical twins, adrenaline and noradrenaline ready to do battle with no battle to go to. They’re rushing through your body and have got to attack something.
Your muscles are not responding by running or fighting so they will just pick any old organ to attack instead. A good one is the heart.
Sometimes a dose of the chemical twins is a good thing. After all, even though we are now “civilized” there are still very real threats in the world. Just take a look at the evening news or read about the latest “mugging” in the newspaper.
So, here is the paradox. You need the chemical twins to protect you from real danger but you don’t need them to cause illness, unhappiness and stress. The challenge is knowing when to have them and when you don’t need them.
Logically you know that you do not need them under most normal situations like: at work, at a party or when the kids are screaming in your ear.
So what can you do? Some people turn to drugs or alcohol and others take out their frustration on the people they care about the most. You can learn how to control the twins. One of the best ways is to getaway for a while. To a beautiful beach! Try plan for it!
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