To control the negative effects of stress in your life, it’s vital to understand how it affects your body and how you can manage stress in different areas of your life.
When your brain perceives danger, it sets a biological chain reaction in motion, releasing chemicals into the body that put your nervous system in high gear. In other words, your heart pumps faster and your breathing accelerates to take in extra oxygen. Your muscles tense up and your senses feel sharpened. Your blood even clots faster!
These reactions are important because they enable the human body to deal with a threatening situation. Your reflexes are ready to help you escape the perceived danger or fight if necessary. Hence the term “flight or fight” response, which means an automatic response to stimuli, real or perceived, that enables the human body to deal with a threatening situation.
This biological response was an asset to ancient man. If he was crossing through the jungle and sensed danger, such as a hungry lion standing in the middle of the path ahead, then his body would instantly respond to help him to avoid being lion chow.
No Lions or Tigers for Battle – Ancient man would be prepared to fight the animal (which would be messy unless it was small) or run away to safety. Ultimately, the stress response evolved to help man survive in dangerous situations.
Presumably, there are no lions prowling about the cubicles in your workplace. If you work at home, there are none lounging under your kitchen table. Nevertheless, stress impacts us “moderns” as well. Stress can motivate us to accomplish tasks within a tight deadline. It could help us to work quickly with increased focus.
Stress is a relative term. It can mean different things, depending on the situation, or even on the person. When you think of stress, you might recall pressure from a project at work, being forced to stay late, or having to meet unrealistic deadlines. Or you might remember a time when you were in college and ended up studying all night for a crucial final exam.
In such instances, stress can sometimes be good, in moderation, allowing you to perform in deadline situations and maintain focus – or, for some people, providing a thrill or excitement. This other type of stress on the body is known as "eustress."
Eustress is beneficial stress that enables you to function more effectively, maintain concentration, strive to meet challenges, or seek thrills or excitement. Some people can be energized by stress, not just at the workplace, but also in recreational pursuits that thrill the daredevil in us, such as bungee jumping from a bridge.
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com