STRESS DOCTOR: There is no such thing as a stressful situation!

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"How can this be?" I hear you ask. "With everything that is going on in the financial markets right now, isn't it all one BIG stressful mess of a situation??"

Well, actually, no.

There is no such thing as a stressful situation.

There are such things as demanding situations. There are such things as challenging moments. However it is NOT the situation that determines whether we get stressed or not.

Two people could be experiencing the same situation and one person may get stressed and the other may not.

So what determines whether we get stressed or not?

It all comes down to our ability to adapt to the demands we are facing. If we are unable to adapt then it leads to a stress reaction - also known as the 'fight or flight response'.

Thousands of years ago when our ancestors were out in the wilds and came face to face with the sabre-tooth cat, the fight or flight response was very appropriate. They needed either to fight or flee! And so their body automatically flipped into stress reaction mode.

The heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, the blood starts to clot, stress chemicals flood the system in order to mobilise the body into action, acid dumps into the stomach to flush out any unwanted food so we can run fast - these are just a few of the symptoms of being under stress.

So now we're in the 21st century and you are at your desk and the markets start to take a dive... it's not appropriate to get up and run from your desk or start punching the screen in front of you! You don't get to play out the stress reaction. And yet all those physical responses to stress start in the body - heart rate up, blood pressure up, cortisol levels up, acid dumping into the stomach, and so on. Clearly, that's not good for us!

So how do we avoid the stress reaction? We get stressed through excitation and overload. So we need to do the opposite. We need to de-excite and rest deeply. When rested and calm we can adapt to the demands of our environment. When we are tired and worked up, we struggle to adapt to new information, we get stressed and this leads to bad behaviour and disease.

In the next instalment of Stress Doctor we'll look at some of the best ways to de-excite and accumulate rest...

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