by Luke Elliott, MS, MD, FAAFP, MBA, Assistant Professor, Oakland University-William Beaumont School of Medicine
Our body at rest is in a homeostatic state, but when presented with a perceived physical or emotional threat, our body is able to react quickly. This reaction is called the “fight-or-flight” reaction, that is, we either stand our ground or run when faced with a dangerous situation.
The workplace can be filled with many “dangers,” which need a quick response. In the workplace we feel the pressure of processing more and more, and yet, at the same time, maintaining excellent quality. And, we are asked to accomplish these tasks in an environment where, at times, relationships are strained, and we have less autonomy in how we work. This can lead to prolonged emotional stress, producing negative short and long-term health consequences.
When we are presented with a dangerous situation, we need to react. The normal physiological process starts in our brain, spreads throughout the body with the release of glucocorticoid steroids, ending in an increased heart rate and shunting of blood supply to our muscles, enabling our body to ultimately fight or run away. The problem is our bodies were not designed to handle prolonged exposure to these glucocorticoid steroids.