A stressor is any event that causes stress. Change is often stressful, and so are raising children, relationship problems, and bereavement. A job promotion can cause stress, and so can a lay-off. While one is good (eustress) and the other is bad (distress), both are stressful.
Physical vs. Psychological Stress:
Did you know that starving or freezing can be just as stressful as going through a divorce? The first stress is entirely physical, while the second is psychological, but both cause huge amounts of stress.
Stress emerges from how we perceive a situation. What may be easy for one person could push another person over the edge.
Predictability and Control:
Predictability is another big factor in stress. The less predictable everyday life is, the more stressful it is perceived. This is why in nursing homes they have schedules.
A third aspect in a stressor is perceived control. If you feel in control of your actions and feelings and even the situation, itself, you experience significantly less stress.
General Adaptation Syndrome:
All human beings have an internal protocol for coping with stress called General Adaptation Syndrome.
First, the fight-or-flight response is activated by the body’s sympathetic nervous system. In response to a stimulus, the brain releases noradrenaline. The release of this neurotransmitter (or brain chemical) kicks the fight-or-flight response into action. Your pupils dilate, and your heart rate and breathing become rapid. You have increased sweating and higher blood pressure.
This hyper-action travels through the nerves to your major organs, glands and other parts of the body. Your muscles and energy use become more efficient, and you have more strength. Your liver releases sugar.
Another chemical your brain releases is Cortisol, which causes increased production of energy from glucose and acts as an anti-inflammatory, in the event that you are injured.
This fight-or-flight response is vital if you need to lift an automobile off a person underneath its tire. You’ve probably heard of those people who, with super-human strength, have picked up a car. This is from the fight-or-flight response, which in the short-run can save your life or someone else’s. However, in the long run, it can destroy you.
After some time of the fight-or-fight response, your body attempts to compensate and right itself back to normal. However, if the stressor goes on for a long time, all of this rapid release of brain chemicals pumping through every system in your body, depletes glucose storage and decreases immune function. Then you become exhausted and get sick.
Multiple organs and tissues begin to break down. There is damage to the hippocampus portion of your brain where you have memory cells. These are destroyed along with white blood cells.
A compromised immune system impacts reproduction by lowering sperm count and interfering with ovulation.
Here is a list of stress-related illnesses:
* Heart disease
* Slow wound healing
* High Blood Pressure
* Hardening of the arteries (cortisol hardens arteries)
Web MD details more information on the effect of stress on health:
* “Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress
* Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
* Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
* The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
* The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.”
The cure for staying healthy during times of stress is periodic relaxation so that your body can slow down and replenish what it has lost. By maintaining good nutrition, taking breaks, practicing perceiving stress differently, and learning different coping techniques, stress will not damage you.
Exercise is also important in stress abatement. Just taking a brisk walk for half an hour causes dopamine (the “feel-good” brain chemical) and endorphins (hormones that bring a feeling of wellbeing) to be released. These bring calmness, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and slow down all of your body’s systems.
Once you have relaxed and recovered from a period of excessive stress, you will be ready when faced with it again.