Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to a real or perceived threat. The onset of a stressful situation causes our adrenal glands to spill out a cocktail of massive chemicals like dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline and the very powerful cortisol into our system. These chemicals trigger changes in our body, preparing us for ‘fight or flight’. For example our sexual response is reduced (who thinks about sex when their life is in danger?), digestion is slowed, heart rate is increased to allow greater blood flow to the muscles as well as a number of other changes to our nervous system. This process is designed to be a short burst response (for instance when we are being chased by a vicious animal or confronted by a mugger in a dark alley).
Unfortunately we are using our SRS (stress response system) all too often – when there is neither a ‘fight’ nor a ‘flight’ situation. We may be sitting in traffic not going anywhere fast and getting stressed about it. That kind of reaction doesn’t make the traffic move any faster, so ‘flight’ is not an option! We therefore default to ‘fight’ mode. We start hitting the horn and yelling at the driver of the car in front of us. We may even resort to a range of gestures to get how we feel across! As the car in front isn’t going anywhere fast either your aggressive tone is likely to fall on deaf ears, or worse yet escalate the things into road rage situation. If we continually react to situations that we face by releasing stress hormones eventually our body loses its ability to regulate the hormones and starts releasing them in just about any situation. This causes our stress hormone levels to rise to dangerously high levels.
Remember the incredible hulk? Going green was out of Dr. Bruce Banner’s control. Something would stress him out or make him angry and before he knew it he was a big green fighting machine. There is a little bit of The Hulk in all of us so we need to ensure we keep him or her under control. If we allow stress hormones to have free reign in our system over the longer term we will end up in an early grave. We must get into the habit of triggering as many of the ‘pleasure’ chemicals as possible. Dopamine and endorphins are a good tonic for high levels of stress. Try setting up a Daily Laughter Plan. Find something to laugh about every day. There are great resources at the click of a mouse. Subscribe to a “Funny picture of the Day” web site or follow the “Just for Laughs” videos released on YouTube. The list of ways you can find laughter is endless. Most importantly remember that as good as it is, laughter from a cartoon or funny video only accounts for around fifteen percent of our overall laughter response. Eighty five percent of our laughter comes from social interaction. So, find the right people and go out with them one night! Have some fun. The biggest threat facing us today is feeling overworked and stressed, too tired to go out with friends and only half paying attention to what’s on the TV. If that sounds like you – be careful! Make a concentrated effort to laugh. If you do chances are that the world laughs with you.