Stress is a phenomenon that helps people cope with difficult situations and is primarily a protective physical response. As such, it should not be viewed as purely negative. When we are stressed, our body thinks it's under attack and switches to 'fight or flight' mode.
The brain releases various hormones (adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine) to prepare us physically to either fight or flee. Blood is diverted away from our gut to our muscles, our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate and the hair on our arms and neck stands on end. This enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
Stress only becomes destructive when it exceeds a certain threshold. In the modern world, the 'fight or flight' mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, for example reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes. The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to focus or think straight - a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for protracted periods, it can be detrimental to our health. Having elevated levels of cortisol and other stress hormones can have a negative effect on all of our organs.
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