Stress and Situational Awareness

School of Yoga explains Stress and Situational Awareness

School of Yoga explains Anatomy of Stress

Homeostasis, may be defined as the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. This means that the body works with a certain set of parameters for proper functioning, like body temperature etc. Consequently, when this parameter is disturbed, as in any stress situation, the body takes compensatory action to bring it back to equilibrium.

  • The primary impulse/stimulus is received by the amygdala, a small pea sized organ behind the eyes and between the ears for evaluation of threat.
  • When the amygdala perceives threat, it triggers the hypothalamus which, transmits the threat to the adrenal glands through the pituitary gland.
  • As a result of this input, the body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream, activating the sympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to react to meet the threat.

School of Yoga explains Stress and the Self

  • First, all stimuli enters the body through the sensory system or “indriya”. These comprise – touch (skin ot tvak), hearing (ears or shrotr), taste (tongue or jihva), smell (olfactory, nose or grahna) and sight (eyes or chakshu).
  • Secondly, the stimuli are collated at the center of cognition or manas. This is the somatosensory cortex of the brain. The information also goes to the amygdala.
  • Third, since all stimuli are potential sources of stress, each stimulus gets evaluated by the amygdala for threat. Herein, the amygdala is a repository of experience or anubhava. Both good and bad experiences are stored here and this is called conditioning or dharma.
  • Lastly, the incoming information is processed in the brain and compared with dharma (natural state or conditioning) using logic stored in the memory which is called buddhi (intelligence).
  • After this, the person processes a reaction.
  • All stimuli cause change. The first reaction to change is “fear” on account of a perceived danger to the existence of the Self or asmita (self-worth) by the change.
  • Consequently, change causes confusion which is known as tamas.
  • Subsequently, the stimulus enters the amygdala and is compared with the resident conditioning (dharma). Depending on the impact of the change on the sense of Self (asmita), the response is either withdrawal (tamas) or passion (rajas). This is also known as “fight” or “flight” response. 
  • Subsequently, a response and feedback loop is started and this leads to better understanding of the stimulus. This results in homeostasis or sattva.
  • This balance is ever changing and the process is called  attribute or gunaOur relationship with our environment is a weave of our Self or self-worth (purusha) with our behavior (prakriti) and this is called personality or    svatantra.

School of Yoga – Conclusion of stress and situational awareness:

Stress is experiential and very personal. Obviously, only the person experiencing it knows the high and discomfort of anxiety. Time, place, situation and capability, all could trigger a stress reaction. Consequently, a situation that stresses one person need not stress another, even thought the people may be related or in the situation together. Also, that which stresses one at any point in time need not affect the same person in the same manner at other times.

Finally, as propounded by Abraham Maslow, when, in any situation where safety and security are endangered, stress in these issues would take precedence over other issues.

In conclusion, the best way to deal with anxiety is to manage it as the experience unfolds and we become aware of the anxiety. Be aware of the stimulus and test it against ones conditioning before responding. Keep an open mind to learning and be sensitive to impact on others.

School of Yoga – Indicators of Stress

Physical: fatigue, headache, insomnia, muscle aches/stiffness (especially neck, shoulders and low back), heart palpitations, chest pains, abdominal cramps, nausea, trembling, cold extremities, flushing or sweating and frequent colds.

Intellectual: Decreased concentration and memory, indecisiveness, mind racing or going blank, confusion, loss of sense of humor.

Emotional: anxiety, nervousness, depression, anger, frustration, worry, fear, irritability, impatience, short temper, nervousness (nail-biting, foot-tapping), increased eating, yelling, swearing, blaming.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand stress…

Given below are a series of situations. Some are motivational situations, others distressing while some boring. Decide what you would experience in these situation and weigh between 0 and 5 on the impact; for example – on the day of marriage, most would experience a mix of motivation and anxiety. Let us assume that the stress experienced =2.

Similarly, assess the stress you would experience in the following situations;

  • Anxiety on the day of exams.
  • Apprehension on the day of the results of the exams.
  • Fear of not getting good marks.
  • Anxiety of having got poor marks.
  • Fear of not getting admission into a college.
  • Stress of losing a job.
  • Anxiety of argument with one’s best friend.
  • Impact of hunger.
  • Do animals experience stress? 
  • Anxiety that a pet experiences when master returns from work.
  • Is earthquake a result of stress between 2 plates?

Points to ponder about stress;

Internal Tags: Conditioning or Dharma, Self Awareness or Asmita,  Guna in Bhagawat Gita chapter 14

External Tags: Hypothalalmic-Pituitary-Adrenal activity)

Share your opinion and experiences regarding stress;

  • How do we recognise a stress situation? 
  • Is anxiety hard to manage? Why? Are all forms of stress hard to manage? 
  • How do we recognise elements of our behaviour? 
  • Is giving up bad? What happens when we give up? 
  • What is fear of failure? 
  • Does prayer help when we are afraid? 
  • Can we really control events or are we mostly reacting to them? 
  • Is fear of death a stressor or a motivator? 
  • Can one get stressed when feeling motivated? 
  • Is environmental degradation a source of stress? 
  • Can lack of education become a stressor? 
  • Is anxiety impulsive or pre-meditated? 
  • When is it hard to admit that you are stressed? 
  • Is it possible to recognise an anxious person?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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