Change, Threat, and Sauerkraut

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You might be in a
stress reaction and not know it.





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Change is often perceived and experienced as an annoyance or frustration, or as scary, frightening, and dangerous. Change is may be experienced as a threat and this is where the problem arises.

When we are threatened by anything including change, we respond with a typical alarm reaction. It does not matter what the nature of the threat is. As long threat is perceived then this alarm reaction, which is the natural, built-in response of our bodies, will occur. Our bodies only know how to do one thing when confronted with a threat, and this one thing is what they always do. It is what the human body has done since the time of the caveman. When a threat is perceived the body goes into an emergency or stress reaction characterized by a state of heightened physiological arousal. Today, with so much potentially threatening change surrounding us, we often live our lives in an almost continual stress reaction.

As a citizen of modern society it is likely that you are in a mild stress reaction right now and that you do not know it. You might be in a stress reaction and not know it because you have gotten used to it. You have been in such a state of emergency preparedness so long that you now think that this state is normal and no longer notice it. You have "habituated" to the problem of stress.

Habituation is like cooking sauerkraut for dinner one evening and noticing the odor in kitchen as you do so. Soon the odor seems to disappear because you have gotten used to it. You have habituated which means to become accustomed to something through a prolonged exposure to it. The odor is still there, but you do not notice it. If you go out for a walk in the fresh air after dinner, when you return you will once again notice the odor, and the habituation process starts over.

When the stressful events in life are continually present, we get used to them and then no longer notice the stress reaction that is created. If the stress level in our life goes up then the stress reaction may increase and once again get our attention, but we may soon habituate to this new level. Over time the stressful level of physiological arousal gradually intensifies, but we adapt and eventually think, "This too is normal." We are becoming more and more stressed but do not know it. Our bodies, however, are very much aware of this turbulent state of affairs.

If you live in habituation to stress long enough, your body eventually calls your attention to it. You might begin to notice: headaches, neck aches, backaches, chest pain, belly pain, tightness in the chest, palpitations, dizzy spells, and a variety of other physical symptoms. Your body is trying to get your attention. Your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong, and you cannot keep living like this. Your stress level is too high and must be lowered. Such physical symptoms arrive because they are the natural result of living with a chronic, low-grade stress reaction. If you have gotten used to the stress reaction then you may have actually forgotten what stress feels like.



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