What is Stress?
So let's dive right in. What is stress? This is a core question. What is stress so let's by by way of getting to that let's. Let's, take a pop quiz. All right, so let's, look here. Which of these is true? All right, is stress is a form of motivation. And jennifer, you alluded to that positive stress. Perhaps stress can be eliminated with healthy habits. Stress is never a good thing. Is it none of the above? Or is it all of the above? What do you all think you say, it's all of the above. Okay? Yeah. Good. Any other opinions? Ok. So the answer I like to give is that it's actually none of the above. And here's. Why? Stress is a form of motivation. You talked about positive stress will dive into that in a second. It's. Not motivation itself. It stress is actually a form of strain which can be useful at times when which could promote motivation. But it's, not motivation itself. Motivation derives from things like values, the things that are important to us. S o it's close but it's not quite...
technically a form of motivation, it can. Be eliminated with healthy habits and the reason rhonda that that's not true is because we can never fully eliminate stress you know it's just a part of our lives as humans on dh then that it's never a good thing the flip side of it is sometimes it is a good thing there is such thing as good stress so that's why it's none of the above what I like to say is this definition from oxford um oxford english dictionary which is that stress is a mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very very challenging situations on I might add to it there's some physical component of that too but it there's an element of strain involved in it and it's in reaction to a challenging it is and the important other thing in this definition is that it's a state not a trait and why that's important is because it's changeable right so that's the good news right stress is something we can work with but where did stress come from? And you've probably heard this before recently a surly is this morning, which is that stress is a response to our environment and it comes from the fact that from an evolutionary perspective for the descendants of nervous monkeys right, we needed to be nervous to stay alive. It was very important to be reactive and jumping all over the place and multitasking and all the things that are necessary to just stay alive what it looks like is we were always tuning to the negative things things on and we tended to be paranoid and reactive right? Because if a twig snaps it's better to run or fight than it is to just stand there if it was a bear right in fact it's really interesting how from an evolutionary perspective this shaped our brains because the way chip their brains is still the way that our brains function today so from a, uh the perspective of nurse science here's something uh some some image of something like a brain on dh you might be familiar with the fact that the brain involved in different stages so the earliest part of the brain to evolve was right there at the bottom kind of the base area there right above our neck on dh that's responsible for just kind of our basic oughta gnomic functioning things like breathing heartbeat circulation things we don't have to think about then there's that middle layer there right in the kind of heart of our brain and that's the limbic system it's like the emotional alarm system of the brain and then finally there's this thing called the prefrontal cortex it's like the executive center of our brain now why is this important? Why are we talking about the brain and its structures in its evolution in terms of stress because the limbic system is kind of like the trip wire for stress in our brain it's our emotional center of our brain, it gets us into the survival behaviors of that nervous monkey and that part of our brain is still very alive and very active today. In fact, when we experience a threat, this region of the brain called the amygdala fires very intensely and very rapidly more rapidly than the thinking part of our brain can even work right, and it sends a signal out to the rest of our brain to do one of five survival behaviors and that's fun, and they call him the five f behaviors of survival. Five f fight flight feed, freeze or free produce five acts of survival all right, very powerful impulses, right, very powerful, powerful signals. But the critical thing to note about why that mechanism is important is because it's alive with us and it fires and kind of shuts everything down because it gets us into one of these survival behaviors in response to either a riel or a perceived threat. Ok, so let me let me try to elicit give you an example of what this looked like from an evolutionary perspective. We're walking along right in the forest and we hear a twig snap now we turn and we're ready to fight or we run away or we freeze the middle of fires as soon as it hears that twig snap because it thinks it's a threat that thinks it's a bear but ninety nine times out of one hundred it's not a bear right it's actually just a twig that fell off a tree but the reaction is the same right? So it's a perceived threat but we react and it sends the signal on gets us to fight or flee why is this important again? Why is that important today? Why is that important work in life? Because the perceived threat aspect of it is what we still key to write so let's take an example from real life you can raise your hand you won't be alone I guarantee you that how many of you have ever been severely extremely pissed off by an email? Raise your hand that's ok, so that's that's just about everybody in the room, right? And is that a real or a perceived threat? It's a perceived threat actually because it doesn't threaten your physiological survival on the planet it's not an actual bear, right? Um now you have the same reaction as if it were an actual bear, right? Which is the middle of fires and it gets you to enact the fight or flight behavior most typically so if you send it nasty gram back, right you're doing a survival behavior uh, that's born out of stress and reactivity, right? So that's the bad news. The good news is that wendy a middle of fires it also sends a signal to this other part of the brain right here in the front that was the last evolved part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex and it says, help me think about this because I'm about to go and kill somebody or send a nasty gram right or run away and hide, you know, and the prefrontal cortex is the thinking logical, linear, rational, analytical part of your brain and it starts to process that now the late and see is slower than the amygdala, meaning to say that the middle of fires and get you to behave much quicker than the prefrontal cortex khun process what's happening and think about the situation, but when the amygdala sends, you know court is all on adrenaline and trips that whole system to get you into action, it also sends a signal to pre front, of course, who said help you think about this? The prefrontal cortex thinks about it, and it takes about how long would you guess for kind of the thinking brain to kind of come on line and consider the situation and consider the optimal way to deal with the situation? How long do you think that would be? Generally speaking two minutes close yeah generally about ninety seconds but two minutes is also sometimes been cited the research suggests that it takes about that long for that region to activate and to send a signal back the other way and when it sends a signal the other way it kind of quietly magdala and then you can actually go with what you thought about it could be a good response to that email so I think the key tip here is wait ninety seconds before you send a nasty gram on a very practical level but why this is really important is because it tends to get us into this mode of being negative we have this negativity bias again it's a survival instinct typically at a ratio of three to one week pay attention more to negative things and we get triggered by them at a ratio of three to one compared to positive things that's why it was great to think about the science of happiness in a previous lesson here because how do we bring in mohr to counteract those three instances of negativity interestingly for close intimate relationships the ratio is different it's higher so it's about five to one some of the research john got mons research suggests out of seattle university of washington on dwi tend to overstate threats when there's negative state of mind and underestimate the resource is as you see here and we don't really take advantage of opportunities but there's good news, because not all stress is bad stress on daz, jennifer was saying here there is an aspect of stress that's good because it helps sustain a performances own now, if you've ever exercised at all, you're actually stressing your muscles. When you do that, right, you're stressing your muscles, and it promotes circulation and growth in those muscles, but at a kind of more internal level. We like to talk about moving from com into this performance zone where stress can be a positive thing where can actually provide some form of motivation, but and we call that you stress you stress coming from the greek for you pneumonia meaning healthful or beneficial beneficial stress. Now the thing we have to look out for is the negative stress, the bad stress, the dis stress as you see here, right where we experience fatigue, exhaustion, burnout, frustration, anger. When you experience strong negative emotions in response to these challenges are adverse conditions, then you're experiencing distress and that's how you'll know the difference, but one key other aspect how you'll know the difference and we'll go go deep in this now is through the tool of mindfulness.