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In the current climate, a lot of people are feeling anxious and stressed. On our assessed courses we observe the effects of stress on our delegates. When someone is in a highly stressed situation their body reacts by producing more cortisol. These days turning on the news can trigger feelings of stress for some people in much the same way as being faced with making a commercial decision.

Think of Cortisol as the body’s built in alarm system. It is your main stress hormone working with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, your motivation and when you feel fear.

Cortisol is known for triggering the body’s fight or flight response which occurs when someone is under pressure or in danger. This response is a physiological reaction to something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically.

So, what happens to your body when you are in this situation ? Your heart rate speeds up, your blood pressure increases, your digestion slows down and blood is pumped to your major muscle groups giving the body a burst of strength and energy. You are now ready to stay and deal with the threat or run away to safety, it is nature’s survival mechanism.

After the pressure or danger has passed your cortisol levels should return to a more normal level, for you. Your heart, blood pressure and other systems will get back to normal.

The fight or flight response plays a critical role in how we deal with stress and danger in our day to day life. It is important to understand that this response can be triggered by both real and imaginary threats.

The fight or flight response means we are better prepared to perform under pressure. The stress created can help you perform better in situations where you are under pressure to do well whether it is an important presentation at work, holding your nerve in a volatile trading market or surviving a life and death situation.

We (our minds, bodies and nature) sometimes get this reaction wrong. Sometimes we find ourselves reacting in this way when there is no real threat. Phobias are the obvious example of this reaction being triggered by a perceived threat. Whilst I can almost rationalise my fear of frogs to a fear of their unpredictability of movement, my fear of mushrooms is much harder yet creates the same response in my body and mind. That is probably a much larger subject to explore.

If you are under constant stress your hormones and body do not return to a normal state, which can impact your body’s most important functions and can lead to a number of health problems if left untreated. These can include anxiety & depression, headaches, heart disease, memory & concentration problems and weight gain.

Triggering your body’s relaxation response after a stressful event is very important so as to keep your cortisol levels healthy and under control. Do not underestimate the ability of the body to rebalance and reset.

Physical activity has a big impact on your brain and your body. Exercise reduces stress and improves many symptoms associated with poor mental health as well as improving your physical health.

So, remember to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Think of it as a long-term investment and find something that works for you and do it, regularly.  

We all need to be as fit and healthy as we can, at the moment in particular so we can help those around us. Take care of yourself, your family, your neighbours and those in your local community that might need your help.

Stay well and be kind.

By Jacqueline Holmes