This is the view of smart intelligent corporate CXO’s and the intelligentsia in general. Stress is for those who do not know how to cope with life. ‘They have weak life skills’, is the judgement passed by corporate HR honchos, when they see one of their wards ‘loose it’ at work. ‘Stressed out’ means you have to have a mental breakdown and get admitted to the hospital…unless this happens, you are fine and ‘coping well’ with life.
You don’t have to ‘loose it’ frequently, or have a mental breakdown to be stressed. Then what the hell is stress anyway?
I have been exploring this. Everyone knows about it, and have their favourite interpretation of it, but the knowledge of stress is weak, shallow, and dangerously far from the truth.
The most inspiring, easily understandable and readily palatable explanation has been given by Deepak Chopra. It helps that he is a doctor who went on to helping people change their life style using traditional health systems. His explanation is grounded in science and objectivity.
Stress occurs in human beings, when our mind and body goes into the ‘fight or flight’ (FLIFI) response. The FLIFI response is a survival mechanism that nature gave to us to ensure we stayed alive. This was first described by early 20th century American Scientist, Walter Canon. He wanted to understand why some people became ill and others even died under stress. He discovered that when you encounter a threatening situation, a part of your involuntary nervous system becomes instantly and automatically activated.
So if a wild animal came towards us and threatened us, then we will have to either fight it or run away. To help us here, a serious of events takes place inside our body in a burst….
Part 1 FLIFI response
Your heart beats faster >>> your bloody pressure rises >>> you consume more oxygen >>> you expel more carbon dioxide, you breathe faster >>> your breathing becomes shallow >>> your heart pumps more blood >>> you sweat >>> one part of your adrenaline glands pumps out adrenaline and nor-adrenaline which constrict blood vessels >>> another part of your adrenaline glands pumps out cortisol - a stress hormone >>> your pancreas releases more of the hormone glucagon >>> your pancreas releases less insulin >>> as a result of the increased glucagon and decreased insulin, your blood sugar rises >>> You reduce the bloody supply to your digestive organs and increase the bloody supply to your muscles >>> and this helps you fight or take flight >>>
In our life today in an urban setting, it is very unlikely that a wild animal will attack, so the flight or fight response is rarely useful. But it is, if in the unlikely event that we are stuck in a building on fire, or if we are startled by a car racing down a road and we have to jump out of the way, or if someone tries to mug you in a dark street, or if you are a soldier in a combat situation.
The same FLIFI response activates in us when we are chasing a deadline, or stuck in traffic, having an argument with our boss or spouse, and in a hundred other situations. This is the ‘wild side’ of our lives, with no wild animal chasing us but just ourselves, and the FLIFI response fully on. Walter Cannon goes on to say that if the neurological response are severe and unrelenting, damaging bodily changes can occur.
If the FLIFI response is unrelenting and occurring continuously in our body, here are the effects of it;
Part2 FLIFI response
>>> You reduce the bloody supply to your digestive organs and increase the bloody supply to your muscles >>> your pituitary gland releases less growth hormone >>> You produce lower levels of sex hormones >>> Your immune system is suppressed >>> making you vulnerable to diseases >>> accelerating the ageing process >>> leading to tissue damage >>> leading to degeneration of the body and its organs.
Clearly the FLIFI response is being activated in us constantly, as we are all running to stay in the same place, because of the fast pace of our lives and work. In this scenario where we are continuously stressed (FLIFI), the resultant effect on the body is just too dangerous.
This will explain, why seemingly ‘healthy’ people, who have passed all medical tests with flying colours suddenly drop dead. This will explain why those with no genetic pre disposition are diagnosed with cardiac problems. This will explain how perfectly ‘normal people’ are suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
And all the above is completely avoidable, if we go about life with awareness. Awareness of the FLIFI response, will allow us to avoid situations that lead to the FLIFI response.
Stress is not just for the sissies…even the brave hearts get stressed.