The ‘Stress – Reaction’

So recently I had the unfortunate experience of being stuck at Barcelona airport with a return flight booked right smack bang in the middle of the French air strikes… not planned I assure you!… So in true positive style I took the stance of making the most of the free time; grabbed a coffee and found a comfy corner to chill in, in my head I knew that there was nothing else I could do to change the situation so why not take some time to enjoy a coffee and read the magazine I’d bought with me and still not finished!

All I could think of as I watched everyone running around, raising their arms in the air and arguing was how amazingly fragile, explosive and out-of-character people can be once their ‘stress-reaction’ kicks in, almost anything that takes us out of our comfort-zone explodes into this mad 2nd person coming out!  Now don’t get me wrong I get completely that people had places to be, work to get back to, family and friends to meet, crying, tired and stressed out children to sort out and that being stuck at an airport through no fault of your own is causing us all grief in one sense or another… BUT when there’s nothing you can do about it what’s the point in getting stressed.

It did give me an amazing opportunity to really see how different people deal with such a situation and as I sat with my large Café con Leche, listening to music, and just watching… watching the mayhem unravel, I was intrigued as to how and why we change and how much impact the situations we are put in heighten our Stress-reactions.

  • A Spanish lady travelling with two teenagers was screaming at the Customer Services guys,  my Spanish is ropey at best, but I could tell she had an important event to get to in London and wasn’t happy about having her flight delayed (and that before they were eventually cancelled.. so goodness know how she reacted to that news!) The boys travelling with her were plugged in to their PSP and iPods and happy in their own little world of game and video.
  • The old man who just smiles and takes everything in his stride dozing in and out of sleep and asking every time he awakes if the flight has come up yet?
  • The group of girls returning after a weekend of ‘hen fun ‘ who have had no sleep and are still in the same fancy dress outfits they wore out last night! They laugh and joke for a while then kick into tiredness and anger and crying … getting more and more stressed about work and the fact they haven’t been told anything.  Because they are in a group they are more vocal and more confident in their approach when speaking to anyone ‘official’
  • The groups of golfers (all men) who are loving the extra time at the bar, drinking and laughing and eating… taking the micky out of each other… until they realise that they won’t be going home… and then their cave man instincts kicked in… banging their chests and raising their voices.
  • The family of 6; mum, dad and the four young children and pushchairs galore, trying everything they can to keep them entertained and getting more and more stressed in the process.
  • The business man trying to use the time effectively, plugged into his laptop and making calls on his hands free… wedged in between people in both sides of the seating trying to keep his laptop covered so that people couldn’t read, suited and booted and getting redder and redder as time goes on.
  • The business woman who is fretting about her luggage, her mulberry bag and Louis Vuitton laptop bag held tightly next to her. Pristine in presentation and almost not wanting to slouch in any way always checking her posture.. getting more agitated as time goes on.

I could go on and on … so many types of people handling so many different issues in one go…

The most amazing people in this story were he customer service guys for the airline… one guy in particular , I have never seen someone so calm, so smiley and so helpful… he single-handedly dealt with each and every person from the rude guys shouting and pointing at his face, through to the upset solo traveller consoling her.  Everyone from the grumpy , the rude, the sarcastic, the loud the screaming, the scared and confused.  By the time I was leaving he was still going… 15 hours later! An amazing guy, that I know wish I had grabbed his name so that I could have expressed my amazement and gratitude to his bosses. The un sung hero  the hour! Brilliant….

I’ve learnt a lot on my travels, and even more on this trip about people and how they tick… my own story ended at 2am in the morning with a long wait in a queue to rebook my flight for a another day and a cab ride back to a friend’s place to crash for another night!  No damage done just tired and in need of a good night’s sleep.

Still I guess at least I have a blog out of it!

The moral of the story – Stressful situations are not always a bad thing, there is a place for some stress in everyone’s life and it can be a motivator, but in these types of stressful situations it’s not good to let stress get to you, sleep deprivation and longevity of negative situations and push you into you 2nd person, your “stress-reaction” state.

Maybe we can all learn more about how we can deal with stress – in whatever form it takes – to help us tame our 2nd person!

So what do the professionals say about Stress…??

What is Stress??

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.  When you sense danger – whether its real or imagined – the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight or flight” reaction, or the Stress Response.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.

But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Common signs of stress include:

Cognitive Signs:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Signs:

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

Physical Signs:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

To assess your stress levels – there’s a great online test here:

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One thought on “The ‘Stress – Reaction’

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