My adult son works a really stressful job. He’s under pressure all the working hours and is also ‘on-call’ for emergencies 24-7. He eats carefully and gyms as often as his schedule allows; he has a happy home-life and rests on weekends; yet whenever he has a proper holiday he gets sick. It happens every time. Do you have the same experience? Have you ever wondered at the seeming coincidence?
People who are very busy and very stressed ‘run on adrenalin’. The job of our adrenals is to activate our response mechanisms of fight, fright, flee, freeze or faint – whichever might be the most appropriate, based on the stressor. This ancient biological mechanism prepares us to flee from a stalking black bear or play dead so the leopard in the tree doesn’t spot us. In these times of immediate crisis, our bodies need certain things: pinpoint focus, expanded lungs, active muscles, and acute hearing. Our bodies do NOT need, digestion, immunity, planning & multitasking, or sex-drive (we don’t need to be halted in our run from the bear by the need to poo or to notice a sexy girl in a nearby hut…)
So as soon as you remove yourself from the stressful environment and your adrenals down-regulate, all the suppressed mechanisms reactivate. That flu germ may have been suppressed for weeks! You might find yourself sleepy or hungry at odd hours for odd food, and you may rediscover your libido once the flu has resolved. All these ancient mechanisms are designed to keep us alive, safe from leopards and bears, and our mind and body don’t differentiate in the 21st century – stress is stress (your boss is a stalking bear…)
However, the secret sauce is How We Manage our stress. Creating an awareness around our triggers, coping mechanisms and default states all help us in some way. Learning, through effective coaching, to respond instead of react, to manage our time or to set up early-lookout posts so there’s less chance of the bear breaching our defenses, are all weapons in the arsenal of ‘stress management’ and health promotion. Vibrant, energetic good health for as much of our lives as possible, this is the 1 Small Step Health Coaching vision.