- Lifestyle & Sports
- 27 Sep 19
Richie McDonagh, from Remedy Clinic Dublin, provides a crash course in stress, where it comes from, and what we can do to make our lives a lot less anxiety-driven…
From the day we emerge kicking and screaming into the world, we are in a mode that will, hopefully, last for our entire lives: The Learning Mode. We’re always learning. We learn how to eat, we learn how to walk, we learn language, and, as we evolve and mature, we can learn mastery of the body. This is what enables us to achieve great heights of athleticism and mental acuity.
But one thing that’s often ignored is that, by the time we have been put through our paces in the halls of education, and get into the work force, we will all face something that can have a massively debilitating effect on us. Stress.
Sweating palms, racing heart, tight shoulders and neck, irritability: these are just some of the symptoms of stress. It stains your shirt, leaves you needing to attend the physio (or the toilet!) frequently, and it can pretty much ruin your entire day.
Stress intensifies with the increased responsibility of adulthood and the gravity we assign to our roles in society. At an optimum level, stress can help us to stay on the tramlines of normal demands and, through this, to succeed and reach our goals.
This is a good thing.
However, it’s important that we understand what happens when stress tips over into behavioural changes, substance and alcohol abuse, or feeling generally fatigued and unhappy. We need to be educated about stress so that we can counteract its negative effects. So, here’s a crash course!
What is The Stress Response?
The stress response is an unconscious interaction between our reptilian brain (The Amygdala) and our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS – A somatic / body response), better known as the Fight / Flight Response.
Why do we have this?
It’s the oldest part of the current evolution of the human brain and has remained untouched throughout our evolution. At one stage, it was a survival tool that responded to threats against our safety. In our primitive days, it made our bodies go into a state of preparedness to fight, to fly (run), or to play possum and hope that the approaching sabre toothed tiger might simply step over us and ship on… It was a tool primarily for life and death situations.
So it can be a good thing?
Yes! We need the stress response to kick in for us in life or death situations. On top of that, an appropriate level of stress (optimum stress) drives us to work / earn / contribute in society.
But in the modern world?
The stress response can often be bad news. Cars, phones, laptops, bills, social expectations, social media – these are today’s perma-present “threats”. We live in a world of stimulus that fires our Amygdala, not for real life and death threats, but for PERCEPTUAL threats. The Stress Response works in a maladaptive way in our modern world – it is constantly in a semi-triggered state. And it can do us damage unless we learn how to address it.
So what can we do?
SLOW DOWN. Take the speed out of life. Take 10-15 minutes a day to settle into a quiet space and pay attention to you. Many people practice Mindfulness. Whatever your method, the flip side of the Stress Response is the Relaxation Response – and that’s what you should aim for. This can be tapped into, using the right conditions and getting attuned to your body and its current state. Practices such as finding peace and quiet, meditating, doing mindfulness exercises and pretty much anything that makes you concentrate on your body and how you’re feeling, can be massively helpful in shifting into the relaxation response.
Is this antidote possible?
100%! Plus, it’ll help you unravel unconscious tension that has built up and release some negative thinking. And 10-15 minutes a day to pay attention to yourself? And remember, the relaxation response is within our control and can be deployed better as we learn to engage with it more actively and more frequently.
10 – 15 mins, Surely that’s not a lot to ask…
• Richie McDonagh is Managing Director of Remedy Clinic, Dublin. Remedy Clinic provide concentrated counselling interventions for stress response and relaxation techniques. Tel: (01) 685 5832. Remedyclinic.ie.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 27 Sep 19