We all experience stress. The research tells us that around 80% of all visits to the doctors are stress-related. Stress can cause physical health issues like headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems as well as psychological ones like depression and anxiety. At work, stress is the third most common cause of workplace absence and contributes to over eleven million lost working days a year in the UK.
Stress is the automatic way that our body tries to cope when we’re under pressure. This is when the fight-or-flight response triggers the sympathetic nervous system to raise our heart and breathing rate and releases potentially harmful hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. We also experience tension in our body as our muscles get ready for action.
So why do we get stressed and what can we do about it?
To answer why we get stressed, we need to go back to our nomadic forager ancestors who spread out of Africa around 60,000 years ago. Although smartphones and cars tend to be updated with new and better models, apart from being less fit and having a less healthy diet, our bodies are just about the same as they were all those years ago. Although the fight-or-flight response was a useful reaction to an immediate threat for our ancient ancestors, in our modern overloaded work and personal lives, it can literally be the death of us, as the stress response is almost constantly stimulated with micro-stressors. Examples of micro-stressors include being let down by a colleague on a deadline you committed to, finding that you’ve been misunderstood, or receiving a confrontational email. We also accumulate stress because most of us are not that good at managing stress as it arises.