Two Types of Stress
The National Mental Health Association reports that seventy-five to ninety-five
percent of all visits to physicians are stress related. You read it right – seventy-five to ninety-five percent of all illness is stress related!
What that means is that, if we can learn to manage or eliminate stress, we automatically reduce the vast majority of our illness!
Stress is a physiological reaction of your autonomic nervous system – that system that controls the processes like heart rate, respiration, and digestion. The two systems involved are the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. Suffice it to say that the sympathetic nervous system is like the accelerator in your car and the parasympathetic is like the brakes.
There are also two types of stress: acute and chronic. The acute response is the “red alert” system that gears you up for immediate danger. It was intended to help you defend yourself from a real and present danger: i.e. an approaching lion, tiger, or bear, oh my. It is triggered by a perceived threat to your control, like the approach of an angry boss, a looming deadline, or that moment when you can’t find your keys and you’re running late for work. This response dumps adrenaline into your system, elevating your heart rate and blood pressure, among other things.
Chronic stress is the body’s response to situations in which endurance is needed. It was intended to help you through long, cold winters with little food. It is triggered now, primarily, by worry and by living in constant dread and hopelessness. This response moves cortisol through your system, slowly elevating blood pressure, decreasing sexual hormones and causing weight gain, among other things.