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Although it is often thought of in a negative way, stress is actually very beneficial and necessary for the human body. The problem with it is how much and how often we are exposed to it, especially in our modern-day lifestyle.
Think way back to caveman days, a common stress may have been getting chased by a hungry tiger. In this scenario we need to act quickly to save our life! This is where the stress response comes in. The body decides in a split second if it will ‘fight or flight; fight the tiger…or RUN! If we didn’t have this fight, flight response the tiger would kill us.
All of these responses are normal and necessary to give us the energy to run from that tiger.
Now consider your life today and the different stressors we are exposed to DAILY. Financial, family and work stress then add to that poor diet choices, not enough physical activity, chemicals and pollution in the environment. Our stress response is working on overdrive, and not stopping.
Your body is controlled by the central nervous system which is broken up into multiple divisions. With stress in mind the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are important. When we think of the PNS we should think ‘rest and digest’; this is where we want to be most of our time.
Our parasympathetic system controls our:
– Digestion, reproductive and immune systems
– General health and wellbeing
When we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system takes over and becomes dominant. This is necessary in the short term for our fight, flight response, however when we are sympathetically dominant long-term, we have adverse effects on our health.
Stress is extremely hard to avoid. We are constantly exposed to chemical, physical and emotional stressors, and unfortunately that isn’t going to change. So, we need to learn to manage stress and be in the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system majority of the time.