1 - You know what it feels like to be under stress, but what is the definition of stress?
Stress is the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope because of unmanageable pressures. Stress is commonly used to describe the response to the demands or pressures encountered daily and throughout one’s lifetime. It is related to both positive and negative experiences. Stressors are agents that produce stress. Stressors may be physical, emotional, environmental, or theoretical, and all may equally affect the body’s stress response.
2 - How does the body respond to stress?
Stress response is also known as the “fight or flight” response. Your body encounters physiologic changes when stress or perceived stress is experienced. In the brain, the hypothalamus plays an essential role in the fight or flight response. The hypothalamus controls the body’s temperature and energy maintenance and is also involved in the process of memorizing and stress control is the site of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The brain’s hypothalamus communicates with the rest of the body through the bloodstream (endocrine connections), nervous connections, and cerebrospinal fluid. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is part of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system activates what is often termed the fight or flight response. The sympathetic nervous system directs the body’s rapid involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations. When the body feels stress, a flash flood of hormones boosts the body’s alertness, fight or flight response creating elevation in heart rate, blood pressure respiration, and overall oxygen consumption and sending extra blood to the muscles. Typically, your body returns to its baseline state when the stressor is removed.
3 - Is stress or stressing a good thing ever?
Stress alerts the body to react. In a dangerous situation or when certain things must be completed, it can help have a certain level of stress. According to Franke (2014), there are three different types of stress. Stress can be positive, tolerable, or toxic. Positive stress responses are infrequent, short-lived, and mild. This type is your normal stress response and is essential for the growth and development. You can gain motivation and resilience from every positive stress response (Franke, 2014).
With tolerable stress, the body’s responses are more severe, frequent, or sustained. The body responds to a greater degree, and the reactions can negatively affect brain architecture. Based on Franke’s (2014) research, examples of tolerable stress are divorce and a loved one’s death. However, with intolerable stress responses, responsive relationships, and healthy social and emotional support, the brain and organs recover fully.
4 - What type of stress is childhood trauma associated with the most?
Childhood trauma is mostly associated with toxic stress. Toxic stress responses include a prolonged or permanent abnormal physiologic response to stressors. Trauma can produce toxic stress that is severe, prolonged, or repetitive, especially when there is a lack of necessary nurturing or support.
Those who experience childhood trauma and live with toxic stress are at risk of long-term adverse health effects that may not manifest until adulthood. These adverse health effects include maladaptive coping skills, poor stress management, unhealthy lifestyles, mental illness, and physical disease.
5 - For those who experienced trauma, is toxic stress inevitable?
The good news is not all individuals who experience childhood adversity experience are living with toxic stress. Some have developed resilience through life’s adversities. Resilience is the ability to properly process, adapt, and adjust well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Research shows that those with a higher IQ, easy temperament, perception of competence, a positive self-concept, a realistic sense of control of the situation, empathy, and social problem-solving skills tend to be more resilient and avoid toxic stress (Franke, 2014).
6 - What can you do to eliminate the toxic stress?
1 - Exercising outside in the open air. To double the benefit, do deep breathing exercises as well. Outdoors exercises help to stimulate the brain and body.
2 - Read uplifting books to gain more knowledge.
3 - Pray and study the Word regularly. The Bible will stimulate deep, profound thoughts about yourself, others, and the Almighty God.
4 - Schedule resting time. For better sleep, avoid alcohol and caffeine, avoid eating right before bed, and sleep in a dark and cool room.
5 - Learn how to be more resilient to the stressors of life. See every experience through the lenses of growth and learning potentials.
6 - Learn how to change negative thought patterns.
Franke, H. (2014). Toxic Stress: Effects, Prevention and Treatment. Children, 1(3), 390–402. https://doi.org/10.3390/children1030390