Meaning of the word stress
According to the dictionary, stress is:
- a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense
- a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension
Suspense, according to the dictionary, is apprehension about what is going to happen. Synonyms for suspense:
- apprehension; dread
- doubt; uncertainty;
- anticipation; expectancy
Consequences of stress
Our body is designed to deal with stress like it deals with a (perceived) threat. You are probably familiar with the three responses:
Our body is pumped up with adrenaline and other hormones to prepare us to be able to either fight or flee, whichever is needed. When we feel overwhelmed, we freeze. Once the (perceived) emergency is over, our body has to work hard to deal with the fall out and to calm things down.
The effects of stress on our overall health is well-known. Our immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems suffer. Where it only takes a moment for our body to be ready to fight or flee, it takes much longer to reach the equilibrium we need to be and stay healthy.
When stress becomes a chronic feature in our lives, just imagine what damage this will do to our body. A lot of the damage we might not notice at first, but we are sure to notice it later. Arteries thicken, brain cells die, blood pressure raises, risk of heart attack and stroke increases and the list goes on.
Recovering from stress
Our body wants to obtain the state of homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the state of metabolic equilibrium between the stimulating and the tranquilizing chemical forces in your body.
If the stimulating chemical forces are tipping the scale, we are in trouble. So are we when the tranquilizing chemical forces have the upper hand.
Those of us with bipolar disorder are pretty familiar with balancing the scales of our emotions. Adding stress to the mix can easily tip one of the scales to a position we definitely don’t like. When that happens, the time it takes us to ‘recover’ and obtain a measure of equilibrium is what tells us how well we are doing.
Did you hear that? The deciding factor on how well we are doing is NOT the fact that our scales are tipping either side. The deciding factor is the time we need to recover and obtain some measure of balance.
In order to recover faster we are learning tools to handle our bipolar and everything else that comes with it.
Stress is not all bad
Photo credit: Rick
Both stress as well as suspense do not necessarily have purely negative connotations attached to their meaning. Stress can cause tension and strain, but it can also cause anticipation and expectancy.
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain OR a state of mental or emotional suspense.
What or who decides which it is going to be: strain or anticipation?
Stress is a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension.
What or who decides what stress is going to cause?
It seems to center around what is going to happen. Meaning that the actual event is in the future. So we don’t know yet what it is going to be. It could be bad OR good!
One of the things it (stress) does is to release norepinephrine, one of the principal excitatory neurotransmitters. Norepinephrine is needed to create new memories. It improves mood. Problems feel more like challenges, which encourages creative thinking that stimulates your brain to grow new connections within itself. Stress management is the key, not stress elimination.
Managing stress is finding a strategy to deal with it that works for you. Since we are all unique, what works for you might not work for me. But rest assured that there is always a way we can learn to deal with stress and whatever else life decides to throw at us.
You see, what is really important here is how we respond to stress. Remember how stress can relate to dread (fear), doubt and uncertainty? But it is also related to anticipation and expectation.
What is it gonna be for you? Being stressed or enjoying dessert?
Follow-up blog post: To stress or not to stress
For further reading:
If you really knew me, you would know that…
I love to pick words apart by using the dictionary!