The Stress Response
The stress response is a natural response to perceived danger or threat and it is also a natural response to daily events experienced by people in the modern world.
The best way to explain how it works is to look at an example of a potential emergency:
Imagine you are asleep in bed.
You are awoken by a loud crash downstairs and you hear unfamiliar voices getting nearer and nearer.
Your body gets ready to tackle the situation by:
All these changes together are called the stress response. Sometimes the stress response is called the ‘fight and flight’ response and in an emergency or any dangerous situation can be vital to survival.
While it is potentially life saving in an emergency, the stress response can become a problem if it is ongoing in response to the ordinary, non-emergency frustrations of daily living. The result can be a build up of tension that you become aware of only once the tension itself becomes a problem, making your pain worse.
An example of a daily situation that can elicit the stress response could be:
Imagine how your stress levels might have increased from the time you overslept until you reached the place of your appointment!! Or if this scenario does not fit your life experience, then imagine your own particular stress nightmare, e.g. you overdid the housework yesterday so your pain has flared up, you have a sick child, the washing machine has broken down, your partner is going to be home later than planned.
You need to find a way to reduce the stress response to these ongoing daily irritations. Otherwise the level of tension will continue to grow within you until you feel fit to burst and your pain will also increase.
The stress response is an automatic response, but by learning to recognise the build up of tension as it occurs, you can control the stress response and prevent the unhelpful physical and emotional symptoms it creates.
You can do this by learning about and engaging the relaxation response.
The Relaxation Response
The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response and just as stress can become a habit, so you can learn to adopt relaxation as a habit.
Relaxation is useful in many ways:
How to achieve the relaxation response:
Basic guidelines for practising breathing exercises:
Practice the breathing exercises regularly, even when you are not stressed, so that you can keep your stress levels low.
Basic guidelines for practising relaxation techniques:
If the breathing and relaxation techniques are practised regularly you will find it easier to use them when you are feeling especially stressed.