Why We stress (and why you can’t avoid it)

Picture yourself talking a nice, calm stroll around your neighbourhood. You are surrounded by rainbows and unicorns. You breathe in the fresh air and feel total peace and tranquillity. All of a sudden, you hear a bark. You turn around and see the biggest dog looking at you with piercing eyes. It growls at you, with foam coming out of its mouth as if it has rabies. It slowly starts approaching you, with its barking getting louder and louder. Fear creeps up on you, your heart beats faster, your hands become sweaty, and your throat becomes dry. At a psychological level, stress hormones are released into your bloodstream, causing mental and physical changes. If the dog decides to attack you, these hormones give you more strength and endurance to “fight back”. However, if you are quite the “scaredy-pants” like me, these hormones allow you to run faster than you ever could. This response that is caused by any stressful situation is known as the ‘fight or flight syndrome.’ Back in the day, our ancestors needed this syndrome when they lived in the wild to protect themselves from the dangers of animals and other tribes. We are all born with this instinctive stress response. Many people try to avoid stress, but it is a needed emotion. Our brains are wired in such a way that it was difficult to act on something without feeling a little bit stressed.

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an incredible benefit from experiencing moderate levels of stress. The study found that our performance levels peaks.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” says Elizabeth Kirby, who led the study.

Apart from helping you perform under pressure, moderate stress allows you to perform at your best. For example, while writing this book, I’m experiencing a moderate form of stress because I am on a tight deadline. However, it’s making me much more motivated to complete the work. I practice what I preach – Boom!

So you may be thinking “Oh my word, I should get stressed all the time.” Hold your horses. You see, the thing with being human is that we end up messing up all of the good things in life by overdoing things.

As our brains evolved over the generations, we developed the unfortunate ability to worry about the future or relive bad past events.  Instead of just using our “fight or flight” response in dangerous situations, we activate our stress hormones all the time. Whether it’s from school, your parents, and friends – you have multiple sources of stress. Coupled with technology and all those notifications that we get from our phones, we have barely enough time to breathe. All these factors have prolonged our stress. Instead of having moderate stress levels, our stress overwhelms us. It harms our moods, behavior, and relationships. This high level of stress is what is detrimental to us.

By: Shivad Singh

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