Stress is not always bad. Sometimes we need to be challenged to grow or to take a leap out of our comfort zones. Acute stress or challenging situations forces us to reinvent ourselves or to figure out how to deal with a problem.
However, when this stress becomes constant and persists over a period of time, it can and will affect our physical and psychological health. This is when high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other bad side-effects settle in the body and mind. This is called chronic stress.
Much of the stress we live with, can be chronic. Constant worrying about money issues and your children’s future – all those nagging little thoughts that keep you awake at night – takes its toll. Our body is not designed to live with chronic stress.
I find the frog story the best way to explain the difference between acute and chronic stress. I never witnesses the experiment, but I can believe the outcome. It is said that, if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will know to jump out. This is what acute stress does – it forces you to react. However, if you put the same frog into a pot of cold water and gradually turn the heat up, it will get used to the temperature and get cooked. This is the effect of chronic stress. You get used to the pain and discomfort, until you see it as the norm for your life.
Can you turn this around? For sure!
By refusing to get used to permanent stress as part of life.
By knowing that the actions of fight, flight or freeze are meant for survival only, and not for daily living.
Living in permanent stress overload and with constant anxiety, is simply bad for you. It signals danger to your brain, even when there is no real danger.
Do not be a frog in a slowly warming pot – you will get cooked that way!