The word stress comes from the Latin word “stringer”, which means to squeeze, clasp or wound. It became “estresse” in French, meaning narrowness or oppression and gave English the word “distress”.
Stress is the body’s response or reaction to any change in body’s environment requiring an adjustment. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of our life and can affect the body physically and psychologically. In general psychology, the term stress means a feeling of pressure or strain or a threat. Stress can be due to sickness, injury, grief, anger, anxiety, depression, financial problem, death of a loved one, divorce, separation, marriage, etc. Bad or even good experiences are the factors which can cause stress. Physical or psychological demand arising from your environment can trigger stress. Stress affects each of us at certain time in life.
The father of stress phenomena Hans Selye, Austrian endocrinologist wrote about stress as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) which was published in 1936 in British Journal “Nature”. He described three stages of GAS, first the “initial alarm reaction stage” which occurs for a short time after the stressful event. It is followed by the second “stage of resistance” which is the resistance by autonomic nervous system. Finally stage 3 or exhaustion stage arrives in which body has depleted its sources in an attempt to repair, so either the body recovers or exhausts if stress persists. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers and mental illnesses such as depression.
Stress is a positive force that enables you to survive. Small amount of stress may be desired, beneficial and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. When you are waiting to cross a busy road you need to be temporarily stressed. Because you are alert, vigilant, and aware of danger, you are more likely to cross safely. Like an electric current, stress increases arousal, gives you energy, and improves your performance. However, if the current is turned up too high, stress can produce unpleasant effects and cause your performance to deteriorate. Conversely, too little stress can cause you to feel listless and unstimulated, and you are likely to perform slowly and inefficiently.
The stress is a state of physical, mental, emotional or other strain. It is the pressure exerted on a person by his environment. It is a shortening of distress, which means extreme anxiety or suffering. Man feels stress when he feels that his ability to cope with the demands is not enough. You have to be stress free. Try to handle the stress and also try not to increase stress or produce unwanted stress from routine life situations.
Physiology of Stress
The symptoms of stress are due to certain hormones called stress hormones.
- Adrenaline or acute stress hormone:
It produces a “fight or flight” response to acute stress, which causes physiological change in the body to prepare the body to fight with the external stimulus or run away. Our metabolism increases to provide more energy. The heart beats faster and the rate of breathing increases to provide blood and more oxygen to body. Digestion diminishes. Muscle of limbs contract to pool blood in vital organs where the requirement goes up in preparation for a fight or flight response.
- Cortisol or chronic stress hormone:
It is released specially under chronic stress. Chronic stress causes hypertension and coronary arterial blocks. It weakens the immune system, develops osteoporosis and memory disturbances and may cause infertility.
A very much overlooked side of stress is its positive adaptation. It gives feeling of hope, and motivation rather than anxiety and depression. Positive stress is also called ‘Eustress’. Overstress is called hyperstress and low stress is called hypostress. The aim of us should be to have maximum eustress and no hyperstress. Selye advocates balancing these. …… stress is extremely useful for a productive lifestyle because it makes working enjoyable instead of distress.
Stress is the negative response of the body and the mind to the external stimuli so if we change our response to external stimuli we can reduce the stress or even we can convert the negative situation to the positive one.
Scientific studies have proved that most of the heart attacks are caused by anger and emotional stress. It is observed that quite a good percentage of heart attacks are caused at a time of fit of anger or emotional outburst.
Always go slow in life, change the attitude towards life and practice yoga and meditation. When you feel stressed, leave the job and take 15 minutes off, go to a good restaurant and sit there, order herbal tea or light mint tea or earl gray tea and sit silently, observe people around you or you can just sit in some place and close your eyes and do few deep breathing exercises.
False Stress Busters
- Cigarette Smoking:
Nicotine acts as a tranquiliser but increases heart rate and blood pressure.
Coffee, tea, cola, etc., stimulate the body and relieve tiredness, but also increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause insomnia.
It depresses the brain and causes reduced tension and anxiety. However, regular overuse leads to disturbed sleep and depression and causes problems of liver and heart.
Why You Have to Avoid Stress or Handle It?
Stress is good for you if it is in small quantity or in mild degree as then it is a positive factor helping you to accomplish tasks and succeed. It improves your performance. You can’t get rid of stress as it is a part of our life. To reduce stress you have to have clear idea of your life, what you have to do in life? What is your goal? You have to be positive for changes in life and not to be negative. Barring these, you have to pass time with your family and friends to relax. Keep some hobbies to keep yourself happy and satisfied. Passing time with family and eating at least once a day with family makes one happy and stress free.
We have to avoid stress or to reduce it so that we should not fall sick due to its negative effects. Stress if continuous then may affect you physically as well as psychologically. It can lead to following problems:
- Eatin- g disorders
- Drinking problems
- Chronic fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Gastrointes- tinal problems
- Panic attack
- Sleep problem
- Addiction to drugs
How to Know That You Are Under Stress?
You can diagnose yourself suffering with stress or at least can suspect it by introspection. Everybody reacts to stress differently, some suffer with headache, nervousness, sleep disturbances, bowel disorders, panic attack or anxiety others may have worries, lack of confidence or low self-esteem. You can suspect the influence of stress by asking yourself following questions.
- Are you loosing interest in sex life or developing early ejaculation or erectile dysfunction?
- Do you get feeling of fear or panic suddenly?
- Do you have problem in getting sleep or you are sleeping for a short time only?
- Are you becoming irritable and short tempered? Your family members may also tell you about this change in yourself?
- Are you feeling inability to concentrate and fading memory?
- Do you feel exhausted or tired inspite of a night’s sleep?
- Do you take deep breath quite often, as there is a feeling of short of breath?
- Do you frequently suffer with acidity, burps, upset stomach, indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea?
- Do you sometimes feel much emotional and cry?
- Have you lost interest in life and feel it is not worth living or you get suicidal thoughts?
- Do you wish to be left alone and don’t wish to meet friends?
The factor which causes stress is called, ‘stressor’. Actually stressor is a neutral factor contrary to public belief and it can cause either distress or eustress depending upon our responses to it. Stressor’s response from us can lead to psychological or physical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease or depression. Usually the recurrent attack of stressors on our health leads to illness.
Some Starling Facts
- Repeated and frequent episodes of anger increase chances of a heart attack.
- Discussing problems with one’s life partner relieves stress.
- 50 per cent of single middle-aged have a chance of dying within 15 years, compared to 17 per cent for a married man with many friends.
- Tension stresses and depresses the immune system (bone marrow, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes), leading to an increased risk of infection.
- Cancer is commonly seen in patients with depression but a strong will and desire to survive reduces the risk of relapse.
- Stress diminishes white blood cell formation and function, and causes the thymus gland to shrink.7
Stress is the main troublemaker of today’s life. “Stress is a situation, which produces a negative body response.” Though stress is good for the human body if it occurs in small amounts, recurrent heavy stress can lead to psychological problems as well as physical illness.
Ten Commandments to Beat Stress
- Set a realistic goal for yourself.
- Don’t remember failure or disappointments.
- Learn to say “No”.
- Exercise regularly and play games of your liking
- Sleep for a full 6-7 hours.
- Follow a low-fat vegetarian diet. A diet rich in fibre, fruit and fresh vegetables relaxes the mind and body.
- Be happy and enjoy life.
- Be positive in your thoughts.
- Practice a few minutes of meditation, yoga and deep abdominal breathing daily.
- Always open your heart to your partner and discuss every problem.