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Stress, what is it?

Stress is a word we use frequently, but what does it really mean and how can we take charge of this pervasive feeling?

Stress can mean different things for different people but primarily it is your body’s reaction to a perceived threat. It is a primitive automatic reaction that protects the body from predators and other aggressors. The interesting fact is that we don’t see many tigers as we walk down the street each day, or crocodiles in the local swimming pool, but the mind can often trick us into thinking that we are being attacked. For example morning traffic jams, the latest power bill, the dreaded Global Financial Crisis, can all trick our body into the stress response.

Did you know the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta say 90 per cent of all health issues are related to stress? Stress can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry or anxious. What is stressful to one person is not necessarily stressful to another.

What happens in our body? The physiological stress, simply put, is when our nervous system is out of balance. The central nervous system can be described using the analogy of a car. If you continually floor the accelerator pedal you will end up breaking something. Likewise if you “ride the breaks”, you will end up breaking something. The car is designed to work properly with accelerator and brakes working harmoniously in balance. The same can be said of the central nervous system. The system has two parts, just like the accelerator and brakes on the car. The accelerator is similar to the sympathetic nervous system (revving things up), while the parasympathetic nervous system works similarly to the brakes (slowing things down).

We look after our cars, servicing them regularly so that they run smoothly; maybe take some time to look after yourself. If you would like to know more about stress and how to manage it, contact Mater Health and Wellness and ask for an appointment with the occupational therapist who specialises in stress management.

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