In our last post, Stress Happens Pt I, we looked at the nature of what stress is, and how it is a part of every moment of our lives. Today we will look at how stress affects us, both positively and negatively.
When under immediate threat or unexpected event, our body goes into the fight, flight, or freeze mode. In the animal kingdom this is seen when a gazelle is being hunted. At the sign of danger it takes flight, knowing it can outrun the predator. An elephant? They don’t run from much. We will fight if we decide we can beat our opponent, flight if we believe we can outrun them, and freeze if we believe neither of these options are going to work and need a moment to determine a best response, or simply because we have no response to make. This is when stress is a positive and can save our lives.
This is where mental toughness comes into the equation. Think of mental toughness as being a rope tied between two posts. What kind of rope? That depends on the mental toughness. It could be cotton rope, or a rope used to hold a ship to the dock. The stronger the mental toughness, the thicker and stronger the rope. When a rope is under stress for long periods, or taking weight too heavy, it breaks. However, when the burden is light, or the burden is shared with other ropes it becomes so strong it can be preserved for decades, or even centuries.
When we constantly live in a state of stress our immune system is weakened, our blood pressure increases, we can experience muscle pain, heart disease, diabetes… The list is endless. Stress, when left to run rampant, can be a silent killer. However, we can change this by improving the way we manage it and working on mental toughness.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Fight, flight, or freeze should be temporary. They are survival tools. When living under a constant shadow of stress our health can be negatively impacted.
2 – Think of your mental toughness, or mental state as being a rope. There is only so much stress it can take before being broken. But sharing the stress with others can help reduce the burden.
3 – Aside from those events where the fight, flight, or freeze instincts are legitimate, stress can be managed but as with training our body to get stronger, it takes time and effort to train our mind to be stronger as well.
Stress is a part of every day life and we all experience it. Sometimes it is very easy to look at the one heavy burden causing the majority of stress, and we fail to see the many smaller items that are adding to the strain. We will look at how to manage this next time.
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