What does constant stress do to us?
Chronic stress makes you sick. It is remarkable that the phenomenon of stress seems to find growing acceptance in society over the past 20 years, simultaneously with the growing focus of medicine and psychology on psychosomatics and prevention. Unless stress leads to total mental and/or physical breakdown, it is widely accepted as a necessary evil. The devilish thing about it is that people often only react to chronic stress when the constant dripping has caused the stress barrel to overflow.
Stress has many facets.
We know the adrenaline junkie who sees stress as a drug and always wants more. This goes on until suddenly, out of the blue, nothing works anymore. We know the single mother who, in addition to being responsible for the emotional well-being of the children, also bears the financial one. Or the perfectionist, for whom anything but 100% performance means failure, both in the professional and private spheres. Young mothers and of course young fathers are particularly exposed to stress in the first few months after the birth of their babies. This can be described as "normal" and intended by nature, but women quickly reach their limits when there is a firstborn who is maybe just 2 years old and after months of insomnia there is no partner to take over a night shift and no grandparents for a day shift.
Very many people who suffer from chronic stress describe themselves as being particularly sensitive, but in reality the often described "hypersensitivity" does not exist at all. Sensations are there to be felt and one should count oneself lucky to have fine receptors. The question is how the recorded information is processed. Stress can express itself in diffuse restlessness and fear, but sometimes diffuse fear is the trigger for physical stress symptoms. Social insecurity, caused e.g. by an economic crisis, war, terrorism or even a pandemic, causes people to react in many different ways. But it's always stressful.
Stress is subjective.
There are no two people who find comparable life situations equally stressful. Even one and the same person will experience the same stress quite differently at a different stage of life or under different environmental conditions.
stress is respected. Hardly anyone who doesn't complain about too much stress: How are you?Thanks, stressed but ok anyway. The "ok" is supposed to signal that nobody has died, that there is enough money for the rent and, above all, that we are used to the stress, don't want to complain (but a little bit) and life in all its hardships accept.
We have learned, or at least believe so, to live with stress and have developed more or less efficient methods and strategies to protect us from impending diseases caused by stress. Unfortunately, these methods are often not very efficient because they do not get to the root of the problem, but only delay the impending collapse.
What actually is burnout?
The WHO recently declared stress to be the greatest health hazard of the 21st century. The public and media interest in the termBurnout and its recent inclusion in the vocabulary of medical diagnosis shows that the matter is being taken seriously. Yet: "stressed but okay anyway". The trouble sleeping, the irritability, the high blood pressure, problems with digestion, low libido, the impending heart attack:uh ok.
How can that be? Is it conceivable that the Stone Age man, when he comes out of the cave in the morning and suddenly stands in front of the snarling saber-toothed tiger, answers the question how he is doing,stressed but okay? Of course not.The Stone Age brain stem recognizes the danger, the cerebrum and non-survival systems such as the immune system and digestion switch to stand-by mode. Adrenaline and cortisol shoot up like lightning, the pupils constrict, breathing quickens, blood pressure rises, the muscles are ready to fight and flee. and30 seconds later it's all over. Dead or alive.
(The right) stress is necessary for survival.
The lightning-fast release of stress hormones was a survival mechanism for our ancestors. How many times has this mechanism been needed? We don't know exactly, but we do know one thing for sure: Encounters with life-threatening animals didn't happen every day and especially not all day long from morning to night.
According to a study by the German TK Krankenkasse from 2016, 75% of working people feelongoing exposed to severe stress.48% of women feel stressed in the tension between job and family. What separates the stress of the caveman who just clubbed said tiger to death from the stress of a part-time marketing clerk and full-time mother? Right, marketing and mother findsall day every day instead of. In addition, maybe parents in need of care and the fear of not doing enough, not earning enough, not being enough.
Fight or Flight mode as a permanent state.
For many of us today, the willingness to fight or flight is not the exception but the daily rule. However, human beings - see saber-toothed tiger - are not designed for permanent stress. The release of stress hormones mobilizes almost superhuman strength for a short time and consumes a lot of energy. We know the stories of the mother lifting a small car to save her child. And we know the cravings that set in when we're under stress. What happens to us if we don't fight tigers every now and then, but fight them every day?
Our vegetative, also called autonomic nervous system, consists of two components, the so-called sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for activity and tension, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which ensures relaxation. The sympathetic fires relatively rarely, but these signals last a long time. This is logical and understandable if we imagine that the adrenaline is needed for a longer fight and should not "run out" in the middle of the conflict. The parasympathetic, in turn, fires often and with short-lived effects. The reason for this is that relaxation must be able to be terminated at any time if an emergency arises. It would be fatal if we unexpectedly had to fight just after our nervous system had just put us into a prolonged state of relaxation. Therefore, to be on the safe side, relaxation is maintained via many short-lasting parasympathetic stimuli, which can be ended at any time in an emergency and replaced by sympathetic signals.
So if we now spend the majority of our days in a sympathetic state, then that in and of itself is not bad. Ultimately, we want to create something, be creative, do our job well, do sports, lead an active life.The problem begins when the parasympathetic becomes almost non-activated because the sympathetic sends out combat readiness signals day in and day out. Some try to break this vicious circle with a trick. Exercise during the lunch break: With a little self-discipline, it makes a good opportunity for an hour at the fitness center. This is healthy, makes you fit, beautiful and also saves calories. As important and healthy as sport is in itself, this access will contribute little to a balanced parasympathetic balance, because, as you can already guess, an hour of spinning, strength training or cross training is 100% sympathetic activity.
Unfortunately, our nervous system has very little ability to distinguish between real danger or threat and the idea of danger or threat. Horror films, bungee jumping and the ghost train live on it. So if we walk through the woods and spend 40 minutes thinking about the deficit in our bank account, about the impending divorce or about last week's argument with a co-worker, our nervous system has been in a fight, a conflict, a war for the past 40 minutes.
There is also good news
It has been scientifically proven that not only negative emotions have a direct influence on our nervous system and our well-being, but that positive emotions also have a healing effect on body and soul.
This is the moment when some participants step out of conversations on this topic, slightly unnerved: too often one has heard the well-intentioned request "think positively!", too often one has failed at the moment of conflict, stress, the fear of invoking positive thoughts. It just doesn't work.
How should it? Through the release of stress hormones, all bodily functions that are not immediately vital, such as digestion, the immune system and mental performance, are reduced to a minimum. Apart from the fact that people cannot think clearly in stressful situations, everyone knows this from their own experience, there is a second essential reason why the concept of "positive thinking" cannot contribute to our mental balance or to coping with stress.
Positive thinking has no impact - what then?
The fact is that positivethroughts have no detectable effect on our autonomic nervous system. However, it has been scientifically proven that positiveemotionscontribute to the so-called heart-brain coherence. Heart-brain coherence is a state in which a person's immune, endocrine, and nervous systems are in optimal harmony. The heart-brain coherence is shown by measuring the heart rate variability with the help of an ECG. The HeartMath Institute in California has been researching heart rate variability and heart-brain coherence for almost 30 years and has developed a scientifically based method of influencing the parasympathetic nervous system.
The heart-brain coherence can therefore be improved in two ways: First, through special breathing techniques, one speaks of physiological coherence, and second, through certain emotions (not thoughts!), This is then called psychophysiological coherence.
As certified HeartMath Coaches we offerHeart rate variability coaching on.
How plants can help?
Adaptogens are particularly well suited here, as they do not "settle us" but help the organism to achieve balance and reduce the release of stress hormones.
In summary, chronic stress is not a natural, inevitable condition. Chronic stress makes you ill and it is up to each individual to recognize the signs when changes are urgently needed.