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Everything You Need to Know about Stress

Stress is a psychological, emotional, and physical overload. The fact that everyone experiences stress in their own way makes it difficult to categorize and unify the disorder. Its sources can be both external and internal factors, and the response to stress is determined by a person’s personal qualities, health status, life experience, ability to adapt and resist conflict situations.

 

The effects of stress can be very different. From the weakening of the immune system to the exacerbation of symptoms of autoimmune diseases, the development of ulcers, diabetes and many other ailments. Sometimes shocks are even useful for a person, but if such a state drags on for a long time, you should be prepared for the consequences. So what is stress, how to protect yourself from it, and should you always be afraid of it?

 

What is stress?

Content:

 

What is stress?

Stress phases

Stress symptoms

Impact of stress

What is the danger of chronic stress?

How to deal with stress

Stress is a natural psychological reaction to the negative impact of external and / or internal factors. When we talk about stress today, we usually mean its negative impact on the body. Nevertheless, any events that occur in a person’s life are not always bad. In the course of evolution, they helped ancient man survive.

During a stressful situation, our bodies release adrenaline and norepinephrine, which accelerates the pulse and respiratory rate, dilates the pupils, and the muscles are filled with oxygen-rich blood. Simply put, the body adjusts to defensive mode in seconds. In this state, a person is in maximum readiness for battle or to escape from the source of the threat. That is, stress helped primitive people cope with dangerous situations more easily. Depending on the level of danger, stress can manifest itself in different intensity: from weak with almost imperceptible symptoms to very strong, when the body’s reactions can be more serious.

 

For a modern person, stress can also be beneficial. As in ancient times, a stressful situation helps to cope with dangers and quickly, almost instinctively, find a way out of the”dead end”. In addition, stress makes our lives more interesting. Such situations motivate you to take action. As an example of the benefits of stress, you can cite an exam, when in a state of shock the student remembers everything he has learned recently.

People also use the stress effect for entertainment. Remember at least the amusement parks and the great number of people who want to experience the thrill of bungee jumping, roller coasters or skydiving. All these entertainments would have lost their special feature if not for the body’s reaction to stress.

But in the course of evolution, not only the person has changed, but also the factors that cause emotional overstrain. Nowadays, most stressful situations arise not because of sudden external threats, but as a result of long-term negative effects on the human psyche that we experience in everyday life. In modern stress, external and internal factors are closely related. More precisely, this is how we perceive the situation, because our modern life is often accompanied by emotional exhaustion, when there is also chronic fatigue, unhealthy lifestyle, bad habits, etc. Most of the problems of a modern person are related to work, school, family, health and other difficult situations that, in fact, do not constitute a direct physical threat, but nevertheless keep us on our toes for a long time. This condition can last for days, weeks, and months, and our body, despite all the evolutionary changes, has not been able to adapt to such prolonged stress, which experts call chronic. And it is chronic stress that is the most dangerous, as it often causes irreparable damage to health.

 

Stress phases

It is customary to distinguish between 3 voltage phases.

 

The first or initial phase is anxiety. It is manifested by surprise and anxiety caused by a new situation for a person. This phase takes place in two stages. The first is shock, when a person realizes their inability to withstand a new situation. The second stage is to counteract the shock. At this time, the person makes the first effort to defend himself, using the methods known to him.

The second phase of a stressful situation is adaptation. At this stage, the body has already learned to effectively cope with stress without excessive consequences for itself.

 

The third phase is exhaustion. It occurs if the stressful situation is still ongoing, and is also accompanied by constant negative emotions and complete disappointment. In this phase, the person reaches a peak point and loses the ability to resist the stressor, begins to show destructive behavior. At this stage, the physiological failure of the body begins (psychosomatic diseases may occur), emotional compensation is lost when the world appears in gray colors. A person concentrates only on the problem, does not see a way out of the situation, perception narrows.

Stress symptoms

The fact that a person is in a stressful state can be recognized by different symptoms – each of them has its own. But there is a certain set of signs that appear most often. Some of these symptoms are visible at the initial stage of shock, while others are already the consequences of chronic stress.

Physiological reactions:

 

reduced immunity;

hypersensitivity to stimuli;

chills;

allergic manifestations;

problems with the digestive system (nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation);

arthritis;

muscle pain;

migraines;

cardiovascular disorders (tachycardia, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack);

disorders of the respiratory system (shortnessof breath, cough).

Emotional and behavioral responses:

 

fear;

anxiety;

disappointment;

distrust;

irritability;

impatience;

apathy;

low self-esteem;

emotional instability;

pessimism;

tearfulness;

anger and unmotivated aggression;

impulsivity;

stuttering;

taciturnity or talkativeness;

sleep disturbance;

nervous tics;

emotional chills.

Cognitive responses:

impaired concentration;

memory issues;

lack of coordination;

fear of making decisions;

feeling helpless;

blurred consciousness;

irrational thinking.

Impact of stress

As mentioned above, stress can also be positive, motivating a person to take active and effective actions. However, its prolonged influence has negative consequences both on the psyche and on the functioning of the body as a whole. The impact of stress on the human body can be of several types.

 

A temporary impact is a short-lived and usually reversible stress. It can cause mild malaise. As a rule, under the influence of short-term stress, a person’s pulse accelerates, the skin of the face turns red, sweats appear, the muscles of the neck and face tighten, and the jaws tighten.

A long-term effect is when the tension, although moderate, continues for quite a long time. As a result, this leads to depletion of the body’s resources. And even in this case, the work of the hormonal, cardiovascular and nervous systems is disrupted. Often, the results of laboratory and instrumental studies reveal pathological changes. For example, a violation of fat and carbohydrate metabolism, a hormonal shift in sex hormones, thyroid hormones and adrenal glands.

 

What is the danger of chronic stress?

Each person reacts differently to emotional stress. Some people experience sleep disorders, memory loss, decreased concentration, and impaired functioning of the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal tract against the background of increased psychological sensitivity. But sometimes there may be unexpressed and non-specific symptoms – loss of appetite, mood instability, increased irritability. You should not underestimate them either. Moreover, at this stage it is still quite realistic to help yourself. If you allow stress to become a part of your normal life, then sooner or later psychosomatic illnesses will begin and the quality of life will decrease. Sometimes stress demands payment immediately, sometimes-after a few years.

Researchers say that approximately 80% of diseases that occur during stressful situations affect the immune system. The reason is that in a state of chronic stress, the body produces the hormone cortisol almost continuously, while the number of white blood cells decreases. As a result, the body’s ability to produce antibodies weakens. Prolonged production of cortisol leads to a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to this hormone. In such cases, the immune system does not receive danger signals, and therefore does not respond. However, the body feels in danger and begins to unconsciously fight with its own cells.

People who have problems at work or in the family are more likely to suffer from various viral, bacterial or fungal infections. In addition, their body reacts worse to vaccination. More and more modern studies confirm that people in a state of chronic stress are more susceptible to cancer. For example, Swedish researchers have shown that stress increases the risk of breast cancer.

Chronic stress also often causes or increases the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Against the background of chronic emotional stress , diabetes mellitus, autoimmune thyroid diseases, ulcerative colitis , psoriasis, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis often occur.

Stress is a very insidious condition. Physiological changes in this pathological condition occur in those organs and systems of the body that are most sensitive to high levels of stress hormones. For many, it’s the cardiovascular system. Doctors say they are increasingly diagnosing patients with so-called broken heart syndrome. Its symptoms are very similar to a heart attack (even the cardiogram in both cases looks identical), although these are two different conditions. Unlike a heart attack, such patients do not have stenosis or occlusion of the coronary artery. But this condition is very dangerous. As a rule, relief for patients with a “broken heart” comes within a few days, although such a shock does not always end without consequences for the cardiac system. In a state of stress, a huge amount of adrenaline gets into the blood, sometimes in a 30-fold amount (this happens, for example, due to the death of a loved one, an accident, a robbery, etc.). In this state, the flow of calcium into the cells of the heart muscle is blocked and in this area it stops contracting. After the stressor is eliminated, the patient’s condition improves. But there are cases when a strong tension ends with a fatal heart attack.

 

Sources of chronic stress

Chronic stress is caused by a series of situations that are layered one on one, or prolonged troubles that cause irritation and nervousness. So, what are the most common causes of chronic stress?

 

Health issues

A long-term or incurable illness is a significant source of stress. People who suffer from diabetes or cancer,for example , experience a lot of physical stress. But in addition, they have a pronounced emotional reaction to even minor life events, which further complicates their condition, as well as treatment and rehabilitation.

This group of problems, according to researchers, ranks second in the list of the most serious stressors of our time. For many, work brings physical and emotional exhaustion. Employers ‘ demands on their employees are constantly growing all over the world, and the time for rest is constantly shortened. Often at work you have to communicate with people who in ordinary life a person tries to avoid. And a friendly team is rather an exception to the rule, which also does not add to the pleasure of going to work. Meanwhile, it is in the team that you have to spend most of the day. Many people are stressed because of dissatisfaction with their work, if it is boring or requires constant tension and increased concentration. As a result, even after working hours, it can be difficult for a person to relax, he continues to think about work, experience events and emotions transferred during working hours, and as a result – falls into the trap of chronic stress.

By the way, European researchers have compiled a list of professions that most often lead to stress. They are a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a journalist, a social worker, a driver, a police officer, and a prison guard. And according to research conducted by Swedish scientists, heart attacks in the workplace most often occur on Mondays.

 

However, stress can occur not only because of too hard work, but also because of its absence. And as the researchers say, stress due to unemployment occurs with the same frequency among residents of poor countries and fully developed ones.

 

Environment

Some people are forced to live in unfavorable conditions, and this fact also causes them chronic overexertion. First of all, this applies to residents of megacities. Very large cities are always noisy, the air is polluted, and the crime rate is usually very high. Because of these factors, a person is constantly in a state of increased tension. Even more stress increases from the understanding that you can not influence the situation on your own.

Loneliness

Man is a social being, and most of us can’t stand being alone very well. Feelings of exclusion, lack of belonging, and mutual understanding are increasingly common causes of stress. In modern society, many people live by the principle that you can only count on yourself. Loneliness and the stress associated with it is becoming an increasingly serious social problem of our time.

In fact, this is quite a significant source of stress. If a person is forced to do something that contradicts his beliefs, he experiences tension, and in most cases it is quite strong. Often, it is against the background of such stressors that people develop various psychological and physiological disorders.

Suppressing emotions

Another danger for the human body is prolonged suppression of emotions. According to experts, the most severe stress occurs if you hold back anger, despair and guilt for a long time. And if we are already talking about emotional sources of overexertion, then it is impossible not to mention low self-esteem. This factor also often puts people in a stressful state.

 

Long-term concerns

Long-term anxiety about their own problems or constant anxiety about loved ones lead to the fact that a person falls into the trap of chronic stress. This can happen to anyone who tends to see the problems of their loved ones as exaggerated. In such situations, a person usually feels helpless: he sees the problem, for him it seems extremely serious, but can do nothing.

 

Life situation changes

A change of job, relocation, illness or death of a loved one, divorce, marriage or the birth of a child – all this also puts a person in a state of emotional tension. These and other events that affect the course of life are unsettling. Now a person must adapt to new conditions, build their life according to a new scheme, adapt to a new reality, and all this is usually accompanied by feelings and increased physical activity, that is, stress.

How to deal with stress

Modern life is such that it is impossible to completely protect yourself from stress. However, there are methods that can be used to reduce the impact of shocks. Experts advise people who are exposed to stressful situations to learn how to relax and get more rest, play sports, get a good night’s sleep, think positively and try to abstract from unpleasant thoughts, choose the most suitable relaxation methods for themselves. This can be yoga, music therapy, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, or dancing. And also psychologists they advise you to believe in yourself. This banal, at first glance, advice can bring a lot of benefits and make a person more stress-resistant. And of course, don’t ignore the help of people close to you. It is important to note that when a situation of stress is prolonged and you feel prolonged emotional discomfort, especially if psychosomatic reactions of the body appear, immediately contact a psychotherapist.

 

Sometimes it is enough just to talk to someone to calm down and look at the problem with different eyes.

 

Remember, stress happens to everyone. But it depends only on you how your fight will end and who will win over whom: stress – you or you-it. We prefer the second option. What about you?

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