Stress. We’ve all experienced it. Whether it’s due to environmental factors – such as work deadlines – or psychological – such as an ongoing relationship troubles – the impact of stress can be extremely damaging to our health.
But why do we get stressed? Well, it’s all down to our biology. Way back in the day (I’m talking primitive, caveman times), our stress responses evolved in order to help us survive. Our ancestors would have experienced stresses in the form of short, sharp shocks: a rock falling, for example, or needing to escape a predator. Our primitive stress response would be to pump out hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which would result in a whole host of physiological changes:
- An increase of blood supply to our arms and legs – very handy for both fighting and running away from predators.
- Increased breathing in order to take in more oxygen and send it to the brain so we’re feeling sharp and alert to tackle the stressful situation.
- An increase in the digestion of sugars, so that your body is utilising every source of energy possible to either ‘fight’ or ‘flee’.
- A decrease in sensitivity to pain – this makes it much easier to focus on escaping.
- A decrease in your immune system – does your body need to worry about catching a cold when there is an imminent threat to life?
- A decrease in the blood supply to the language parts of the brain – this is a ‘modern’ part of the brain so not necessary for those primitive ancestors of ours.