What is Stress?

This article is written by the acupuncturist at the Angel Acupuncture Clinic. This article covers the following topics:

• What is stress?
• What is the fight or flight response
• Why do we need a fight or flight response
• Everyday stressors
• Symptoms of stress
• Ways to deal with stress

What is Stress?

Stress is the response to the environment that we are in. Stress can be an appropriate response such as reacting to a frightening incident or it can be an over reaction to everyday events such as relationship or work problems. This second cause of stress is the more damaging and can often needs treatment. This type of stress can be insidious and it can impact on happiness and relationships and make life hard work. If it goes on for long enough it can impact upon long-term health.

The Fight or flight response

When you are faced with a challenge or a threat the body responds to protect you, either to get you away from the threat as fast as possible, ‘flight’, or to confront the threat and ‘fight’. I can remember hearing about a farmer who chopped his arm off in a harvester and walked across fields with his detached arm in his hand so he could phone for help. The film ‘Touching the Void’ also illustrates how effective the fight or flight response can be and how appropriate when it is when activated in the right context. Joe Simpson was descending the 6433metre Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985 when he fell 150ft.

Simpson survived the fall but broke his leg and for the next three days with very little food or water he dragged himself the five miles back to the base camp. These are both very good examples of what you can achieve when there is an increase in adrenalin and cortisol production.

Where does the fight or flight response come from?

The fight or flight response is when the sympathetic part of the body’s autonomic nervous system is activated unconsciously in response to the stressful situation. Stress triggers off the neurological pathway that culminates in the release of adrenalin, nor adrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands that are located just above the kidney’s. this leads to an increase in respiration rate and heart rate leading to an increase blood flow to muscles to ready them for action, increased thickening of blood to aid clotting and to help carry oxygen around the blood stream. Dilation of pupils to maximise vision and increased hearing sensitivity as well as a decrease in blood supply to the digestive tract. Endorphins are also released and they are naturally produced painkillers.

• Blood pressure rises
• Respiration rate increases
• Digestive system slows down
• Heart rate rises
• Immune system is suppressed
• Muscles prepare for action
• Increased state of alertness as the senses become more acute.

For the majority of our lives we don’t require the fight or flight response to the extent of climbers or to the extent of the farmer carrying his severed arm for miles across the countryside. Stress is always in our lives to some extent and what determines whether or not we feel stressed is our perception and understanding of the situation we are in.

Some people are better at dealing with stress than others and can implement helpful strategies to minimise the stress. Other people may not have these strategies or may not be as resistant against the effects of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system than others and may suffer more from the symptoms.

Everyday stresses?

Performance at work
Relationships at work
Relationships at home
Commuting to work.
Moving house

How does stress present itself routinely at the Angel Wellbeing Clinic?

Patients present with a number of different problems and often they have tried various ways to deal with their symptoms. At the Angel wellbeing Clinic we have an acupuncturist and a psychotherapist to help tackle the problem from different directions.

Back pain
Difficulty breathing
Chest pain
Muscle tightness
Decrease libido
Susceptibility to colds and infection.
Nail biting
Nervous twitches
Pins and needles in random distribution
Sleeping difficulties
Stomach pain
Skin conditions
Irritable bowel symptoms
Lack of motivation
Problem concentrating
Changes in appetite
Drug abuse
Alcohol abuse
Higher tobacco consumption
Feeling isolated or seeking out isolation
Crying and unpredictable emotions
Relationship problems

How to deal with stress

There is a need to deal with the causes of stress and to identify what is the thought process behind you feeling stressed. This is something our psychotherapist can help you with. Jane Dawson our psychotherapist will create a safe and comfortable environment in which you can discuss the areas of concern to you and then help with devising an effective coping strategy.

Orly Barziv our acupuncturist can help you by reducing risk of further health implications reducing the number of sick days taken, offering an effective preventative treatment for stress and by making stress easier to handle.

If you are a new parent and you are having trouble adjusting to the new baby Emua Ali our parent coach may be able to give you some good advice and counselling.

If you feel that you want to improve the quality of your life and decrease the impact stress plays in your life contact the Angel Wellbeing Clinic by clicking the link below or call 020 7288 29999



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