By Hannah Aslin – MAC
I’m going to take a wild guess and say that everyone, everywhere, at some point and time has experienced stress. Whether it be work stress, relationship stress, or everyday stress, they all have one thing in common: they are not enjoyable to experience. Calm on the other hand is a state that we all strive for, but ultimately struggle to achieve and maintain.
Both stress and calm are well-known concepts, but there are some things that the general public doesn’t know, specifically around what both of these states cause our body to do, or not do.
For this article, just consider me a low-level encyclopedia because I’m going to share some knowledge about what stress vs. calm looks like in our bodies and the potential lasting impacts they can have.
First things first, let’s talk about the Fight or Flight Response. I’m sure this is a phrase that people use often, but sometimes don’t know what it truly means. Simply put, the Fight or Flight Response involves your body preparing to either face or run away from a threat.
This little hormone called adrenaline, which is involved in the Fight or Flight Response causes a lot of things to happen in our bodies, including increased heart rate, faster breathing (which can cause a breathless feeling), heaviness or tightness in the chest, tense, achy, or shaky muscles, increase in body temperature, lightheadedness, blurred vision, and racing thoughts. Sounds like such a great experience, right? Well, it depends on the context.
If this response is triggered rarely or every so often, this is something that doesn’t cause too much distress on the body and can serve us when faced with a serious threat, but if it occurs on a daily basis to non-serious threats or no threat at all, it turns into chronic stress, which is not what you want due to the high levels of distress it can cause on your body.
If you are freaking out because you experience this very often and are worried about what that means for your future, don’t fret because there are ways that you can implement a calming response to counteract this stress response.
You may be wondering if you have ever experienced a true state of calmness, and I don’t blame you. Calm is the exact opposite of the Fight or Flight Response and has an aversion to that little hormone adrenaline and the pesky stress hormone known as cortisol.
Calmness is when your body is not on high alert and involves: a decrease in heart rate, increase in focus, decrease in muscle tension, decrease in blood pressure, slowing of your breathing, your body feels less pain and an increase in immune system function.
This sounds more like it, hey? I would agree 100% with that sentiment. What are some ways you can achieve this level of calm and relaxation?
There are various ways to reach a calm state and some may work better than others based on the person, but relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery can do the trick. Even something as simple as taking a warm bath or shower, going for a walk, drinking some tea, or disconnecting from technology could work as well.
Just remember, stress is normal and sometimes serves a purpose, but too much stress can do a number on our bodies. Strive for calm and relaxation. Your body will thank you later!