22 | Developing Leaders Issue 35: 2020 Viewpoint W hat actually is stress? Stress is a reaction to something that affects our mental and physical equilibrium. As a result of this imbalance, our autonomous nervous system provides a physical response which leads to the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, where the body releases hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline to prepare the body for physical action. During ‘fight or flight’, the heartrate increases, raising blood pressure as the muscles need more blood to act. Breathing increases to receive more oxygen moving from the abdomen to the upper part of the chest, simultaneously accumulating carbon monoxide in the blood, and sometimes causing dizziness and a feeling of unreality. This is a completely natural response which works exactly as it is designed to do. In certain cases, during ‘fight or flight’, the brain function is minimised as blood is diverted to other parts of the body, causing a reduced cognitive ability, and so negative effects on work and life. Remaining in this state of stress for extended periods has a negative impact on our general health, due to high cortisol levels, an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels and the lowering of libido. The Science of Stress New insights on stress and its impact on performance By Rakesh Sondhi and Stig Solvhoj