ayurvedaassociation.ca
Understanding the Impact of Modern-Day Stress & Effective Strategies to Enhance Resilience - Ayurveda Association Canada
In today’s fast-paced world, it is very common for many people to feel as though they are drowning in a bottomless sea of deadlines, expectations, challenges and a long “to-do” list. Low energy levels and fatigue are a common complaint and negative mood states such as irritability or frustration can manifest easily under stress. Grabbing an afternoon energy bar or third cup of coffee is not an unusual way of getting a quick energy fix; unfortunately this is only a temporary solution to lagging energy or low mood. Over time, the stimulating effects from caffeine and sugar-laden snacks ultimately fuel low energy and trigger the release of more stress hormones, which in turn deplete nutrients necessary to modulate the stress response. Stress affects everyone and is considered to be an inescapable part of life. The susceptibility to stress varies from person to person, as does the response to stress. Short bursts of stress to overcome lethargy or enhance performance constitute a positive, healthy and challenging stress response. Hans Selye, the pioneer of modern day stress coined this as “eustress” and described it as a positive force to enhance adaptation mechanisms to stress, as well as to alert the body into making a lifestyle change if necessary, in order to optimize health. This action-stimulating stress gives an athlete the competitive edge or a public speaker the ability to project enthusiastically. On the flip-side, stress is perceived as a negative experience when it fatigues the body, causes behavioural and physical problems, exceeds one’s ability to cope and in many cases, contributes to chronic disease states. This harmful stress is called “distress” which produces overreaction, confusion, poor concentration and performance anxiety. Neurons in the brain generally “talk” to each other in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. During sustained stress over weeks or months, these neuronal processes are halted which affect memory, ability to learn and affect the stress response. Why are we prone to stress? In his celebrated book “Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers”, Professor Robert Sapolsky draws on Hans Selye’s research to humorously illustrate how zebras who live in dangerous places in constant pursuit by predators like lions, are still less likely to develop ulcers than humans are. This is because for animals like zebras, the most upsetting things about life are acute physical crises for which their bodies have adapted well physiologically. Once the immediate threat or stress is over, they recover and return to grazing in the savannah. Physiologically, human beings have also been designed to respond superbly to similar short-term “emergencies” – the “fight or flight” response mobilizes adrenaline and cortisol to release blood sugar, increase blood pressure and heart rate for better oxygen perfusion to the muscles, and once the crisis is over, the body activates immune responses and calming neurotransmitters to assist with recovery from the stress. The harmful effects occur when the stress response system stays in the “on position” chronically leading to a host of symptoms and health problems. In particular, human beings generate the same response simply in anticipation to stress, whether the stressor is real or not and whether or …