WHAT IS STRESS?
Homeostasis describes our body’s tendency to auto-regulate and maintains our internal environment in a stable state: our brains have evolved to seek homeostasis. A stressor is anything that knocks us out of homeostatic balance. The stress response is what our bodies do to re-establish homeostasis and can be activated not only in response to physical or psychological threats but also by just thinking about them. Allostasis describes our body’s process of maintaining homeostasis through the adaptive change of our internal environment to meet perceived and anticipated demands: our brains coordinating body-wide changes, often including behavioural changes.
Stressors come in many different forms, often having both physical and psychological elements, and we’re susceptible to them even before birth. If our mother was:
or otherwise severely stressed whilst pregnant with us, we may be borne out of homeostatic balance.
As babies, if we’re repeatedly separated from our mother or primary caregiver, or if they’re too distracted or stressed to love, touch and cuddle us, these situations also act as significant stressors.
Growing up with:
- Social discrimination
- even moving to a new school
can generate a chronic experience of being an outsider which is a major stressor, as are physical and sexual abuse.
Adolescence brings all kinds of new stressors:
- Peer pressure
- Learning difficulties
- Gender issues
And once we make it to adulthood we are faced with rent or mortgage payments, work, relationships, bereavement and on, and on. Life can be stressful!
WHAT IS TRAUMA?
- Physical trauma (damage to the body) refers to severe physical injury caused by an external source
- Psychological trauma (damage to the psyche) occurs because of a severely distressing event or situation
- Immune systems
- and on our capacity for joy and intimacy.