We all experience it to some degree. We know it can impact our fertility as well as wellbeing and happiness. But what is it? Stress. But what really is it? Why do we have it?
In a nutshell stress is any pressure or accumulation of pressures that is too much for a person to cope with comfortably.
It is not only physical dangers that evoke the stress response. As it is controlled by a primitive part of our brain it cannot interpret the difference between a physical or psychological pressure. It is all a ‘danger’ as far as it is concerned.
This primative part of our brain also cannot tell the difference between things that are real or imaginary – which is why if you were to imagine loosing your job you start to feel the same feelings and have the same experience as if you had actually lost your job! (OK you can stop now…it is not real!).
It is the same if you start imagining another BFN, or imagining being childless for ever, never being fulfilled, perhaps feeling helpless/powerless which is the same as having no-where to run or no-where to hide in a physical danger. So you can begin to see why the stress response kicks in as a protection mechanism.
So pressure from work, infertility or other situation evokes the stress response in the same ways as walking down a dark alley at night.
What is perceived as a stress with vary from individual to individual, we all find different things stressful (me – following a recipe or the last 10 mins of cooking christmas lunch…perhaps I just need more practice!).
In our modern lives there is an increase in stress, sometimes hidden in background. The need to get things done quicker, communication has become constant and instant, work demans become more urgent. Sometimes I wish we went back to the days of just hand written letters where responses were not expected instantly!
We may not be consciously aware of what stressing about. As we have already looked at, fertility of course is a huge source of stress, probably the biggest in your life.
The stress response is there to protected us from danger, preparing our body for activity whether to fight or run for our lives, pumping the blood and stress hormones such as adrenaline to our muscles to give us speed and strength to help us survive in times of danger – shutting down non-critical functions (like fertility).
The stress response works like a car alarm designed to keep us safe by warning of danger in our immediate environment. You could wonder why we have it if we are no longer threatened by sabre tooth tigers whilst hunting and gathering. But if you think about it is dangerous to turn off completely, it would be like walking through the backstreets of a strange dark city at night without any fear signal.
However, just like a car alarm it could also be over sensitive. When this occurs people tend to stop paying attention to it, and it becomes very annoying! But being in a constant sate of alert not only be exhausting it can have some pretty serious health consequences such as impacting your immune system in addition to affecting the delicate nature of your fertility.
It is possible to reset the sensitivity, to turn it down to a more appropriate and healthy level.
Just by understanding what stress is and how it works as you have done here can be helpful in re-calibrating the stress response. It may help you to begin to re-interpret your thinking about situation. A collegue if mine turned up at a venue to deliver a training session. The receptionist couldn’ find the booking and was worried the room may have been double booked. ‘It’s a disaster’ he announced. My collegue said ‘No it’s not, it’s a minor inconvenience, Darfur was a disaster’. This is an example where our oversensitive stress response loses perspective.
A situation in itself does not make you stressed, nothing can make you feel anything, it is you thinking about it, your interpretation of it that creates your experience. We shall explore this another time.
Stress often catches us unaware. I remember a video going around Facebook of a women going berserk at a McDonalds drive-through window, she was screaming, leaning out of her car bashing the attendants window with something – all because they didn’t have any Chicken McNuggets. Of course it wasn’t about the Chicken McNuggets, it was the straw that broke the camels back.
Stress layers up often without us being aware of it. We are often stressed about something we are not consciously aware we are stressing about. We are thinking or worrying about something or telling ourselves something in our subconscious resulting in feeling stressed without really knowing why. The stress response stays on for one situation and then with each additional stress not only does it pump for stress hormones around our body it increases the expectation that stress is going to occur, become hyper sensitive to it, becomes fear of the fear.
The body indicates is cannot take any more perhaps through headaches, being irritable, not sleeping well or seeking relief perhaps through food, alcohol or drugs.
Learning stress reduction techniques can help you let go of stress in any given moment and turn off the stress response and allow the hormone and chemical balance in your system to return to a normal and healthy state, letting the adrenalin levels subside.
Hypnosis can go a step further and change you undelying thinking, changing your experience of life from moment to moment.
What can you do to begin to return your stress response to a more appropriate level? You may want to look at how one of our programs can help you.