Managing Stress

What is stress?

Problems associated with stress

Some pressure or stress is perfectly normal and can actually be quite a useful thing. It’s fine for the fight or flight response to be activated, as long as it calms down again afterwards. The parasympathetic nervous system needs activating to bring your body back to rest and digest mode, allowing the stress hormone levels to return to normal.

And it’s really important that this happens, because when the stress hormones stay around in high doses, this can have a serious impact on your health.

  • High levels of cortisol suppress your immune system so you are less able to fend off viruses and infections.
  • It can cause digestive issues, like IBS.
  • It thickens arteries and makes the blood ‘stickier’. This leads to high blood pressure and can bring heart problems.
  • It reduces bone density, increasing likelihood of osteoporosis.
  • In the brain, it can have a shrinking effect and reduces neural connectivity in the prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain associated with planning, decision making and emotional control. The same thing happens in the hippocampus, affecting learning and memory.
  • It’s also associated with weight gain.
  • And, of course, it’s difficult to sleep when in fight or flight mode, so the body doesn’t get the recovery it needs.

Did you know that 57% of sick days taken are because of stress?* This is partly because when people are off with stress, it’s not usually for a couple of days, as it might be when someone has a cold for example. Infact, the average number of sick days taken for stress is 25.8 per case.

Fortunately, there are many ways of activating your parasympathetic nervous system and of building your resilience to stress. Some you will know intuitively, but in addition, other examples include Mindfulness, Tapping and Active Participation.

*Health and Safety Executive statistics 2017-2018

Helping children cope with stress