Let’s face it, we’ve all got too much to do, too much information, too many screens and not enough time. Although the world’s changed, we’ve yet to fully adapt to the demands of this new era. Part of the challenge is that our bodies are still wired to react to the threats in the same way as when we were hunter-gatherers 60,000 years ago. This is the fight-or-flight reaction, which gets the body ready to deal with threatening situations. While this made sense facing a dangerous snake, we now experience many smaller, often intangible, challenges over the day as this same mechanism makes us experience stress. And stress in today’s world is increasing. According to a recent survey, around sixty-six percent of professional workers say that their levels of stress are higher than they were five years ago.
Of course, there’s positive stress that motivates us to get things done and negative stress, which damages our health and reduces our performance. When we become stressed, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and the “stress hormone”, cortisol. Adrenaline increases our heart rate and blood pressure, while cortisol shuts down non-essential systems in the body, alters the immune system and affects our mood and emotions. Once the pressure or threat subsides, it can take between 20 to 60 minutes for the stress hormones to return the body to its normal level. If the stress is constant, the physical symptoms build up and remain in the body for much longer.
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