Clearer Understanding of the Stress Phenomenon

The word stress has been used al lot nowadays. To us stress means something that puts pressure on some part of our life. However this is just a small piece in the puzzle. Stress is an explanatory factor in numerous personal or social problems. In other words Stress is the normal response of your body to any change. We feel it when we pass from a warm to a cold room, when we run for a bus. Stress prepares us for change by pumping adrenaline into your system. In this process our muscles get tense, our heart pounds, our blood pressure rises. We use this mechanism for adapting and surviving.
However if this response is constantly triggered and surpasses illness or even death may follow. We as humans cannot avoid stress, we can nonetheless learn to use to our advantage. Many people have numerous problems that occurred from stress. Problems like cholesterol, insomnia, high blood pressure, and stomach ulcers, chronic back pain and other very serious and fatal diseases. However you can learn to make life easy for yourself by many stress management techniques such as breathing right, eating right, exercising, and using relaxation techniques.
In the early 19th century, scientists tried to explain the phenomena of how humans are affected by our surroundings and daily activities. Claude Bernard was one of those scientists that tried to prove the body”s motions during a stress related event. He emphasized how the underlying conditions affect free and in depended life. He said “every living animal tends to maintain a state of internal stability in spite of changes in the external environment”. Scientist Walter Cannon was another pioneer in the studies of psychology that gave his work recognition in today”s society.

He concluded from his work that animals or primate men, when confronted by danger to their internal equilibrium, would either prepare to fight or to take flight. However it took the work of Hans Selye to provide clearer understanding of the stress phenomenon. He noted that various factors like chills, traumas, and infections produced a stereotyped syndrome characterized by hypertrophy and hyperactivity. Then in 1950 he introduced the symptoms as “stress”. Today we still don”t have the unanimous definition of the term stress. Many people give different definitions to the word.
Some give it the meaning that is, the group of biochemical changes, which typically occur in the organism when the internal equilibrium is threatened. Others psychologists use the term “stress” to talk of a stimulus. There are many psychological reactions to stress. These biochemical reactions may be benign, but in some cases they alter the body”s functioning to the point of inducing illness or death. Many of the reactions are well known like the heart rate increases, muscles tend to contract and a lot of the time perspiration increases.
All of these reactions are very little for importance. Emotional and behavioral reactions to stress are often more apparent than psychological reactions since everyone could see. That”s why when a human being reacts to a stimulus you can see if he or she laughs cries, jumps. Emotions and behaviors due to culture vary, personality varies and time period always changes. Another very important criteria that help define stress are the present of stimuli or other agents that make us react to stress. However this criterion varies because of different traits that the human being may have.
Many laboratories testing on humans have been done to show that humans react to different stimuli in different ways. Humans in many testing were subjected to loud noises or sometimes would be shown stimuli like a dog barking or even a snake. All of these things were great stimuli”s that affected the human in different ways. Stress may not be triggered by all the stimuli to which we are exposed but by the action of certain psychological factors, which make us perceive certain stimuli as dangerous, or threatening to life. Also perceptions of danger depend on many things.
For example, past experiences, cognitive expectations which is the way you interpret the situation, personality, and your emotional factors. Many researchers have found several general rules that depict stress agents. One is that pervious experiences of stress agents diminish the stress felt. It has also shown that the greater the stimulation the greater the stress felt. Another stimuli is emotions. With the increase of emotional intensity of an experience the lower the stress level becomes. However the stress level can never be at zero because that means that you”re dead.
When a person has a very low stress level it isn”t good. Low levels of stress can cause symptoms similar to those of intense stress. Many researchers use the word stress to describe not only reactions that humans or animals give off, but also the many internal pressures that provoke these reactions. Another name for this is “stress agent”. Hans Selye defined the stress agent as any demand made on the mind or body. Some people think that only life threatening situations are stressful for human beings. I personally believe that stress has to do with the individual person and how he perceives the stressor.
Stress agents can be negative or positive, pleasant or unpleasant. Some say that anticipation of an event is more stressful then the actual event. One example of this is skydiving. When you get to specific height and you have to jump you become so stressed that you are afraid to jump. Even if you know you won”t die. On the other hand an unexpected occurrence can cause greater stress on a person. Like a car accident can cause great stress because of amnesia or sometimes even comas. When a human is stressed it is being in a state of psychological alert. This provides a better perception of danger.
When confronted with a dangerous situation we as humans think of two things that we can do flight or fight. We use fight when we want to defend ourselves, or flight when we want to live or survive the danger by not interfering with it. However a very high level of activation can bring about a state of physical or psychological distress. In today”s world fight or flight response is very useful. It can help us to escape a fire or survive a disaster. When the body prepares for a fight or flight response, the adrenal gland releases hormones into the body, increasing the heart rate as well as the blood pressure.
In many cases digestion stops eyesight is sharpened and muscles tense. Stress doesn”t only cause physical illness but also mental illness. Some symptoms are benign and common but such as fatigue and muscles however too much stress can bring on depression and even schizophrenia. According to Epstein moderate stress can help achieve self-concept. However heavy stress can rapidly unbalance self concept functions like threat to physical integrity and loss of self-esteem. He defined many of these functions as “maintaining new experiential data and maintaining self esteem.
If an imbalance occurs, the individual may become defensive in order to keep his self-concept enact, and varying degrees of pathological symptoms appear”. Many psychologists agree that defense mechanisms are ways of facing stress. A good defense mechanism that has been proven to work is humor and jokes. Another example of a defense mechanism is denial. Denial can either help or hurt you. For example if a women has breast cancer and she is in denial that she has this disease, she then can hurt herself by not going to the doctor and trying to solve the problem and try to treat it.
However she can be in denial and not do something that can alter her well being permanently like taking her own life as a means of escape from the illness. There are many psychological disorders however the two most known and common are macro-stressors and micro stressors. A serious accident or a very stressful experience are very good examples of macro-stressors. Reactions to these stressors are so intense that it causes temporary chronic traumatic neurosis. A good example of micro-stressors is depression. These stressors may vary because of daily criticism, unrealistic goals, and sometimes lack of social communication.
Both of these stressors bring on difficulties in breathing, frequent sighing, and a lot of the times emptiness in the stomach. In most cases these symptoms disappear with time however for some people this becomes into a chronic condition and it disturbs their every day life. They lose all interests in everyday activities, develop problems at work and live in a state of mind where they are afraid of their own self-confidence. To control stress Psychologist say that stress management is the only way to go. The reason for this is because managing stress through special techniques will reduce the stress that affects your health in a bad way.
Self-management comes from a belief in internal rather then external controls of ones life. Many people think that their lives are directed by destiny. However this has never been proven. In my opinion and many psychologist opinion is that self determination of ones power to maintain or modify your behavior according to your goals will overcome any obstacles. A lot of what stress management consists of is in the body. Selye believed that adaptation energy is limited and the cause of most deaths related to stress.
However we see in many cases that this isn”t true because we as humans know that being in good physical and mental condition helps us overcome daily difficulties and traumatic life events. Managing stress is a very important thing. However their is a limit on the right way to manage internal factors that act on stress is to take care of your body with the following. Exercising is the primary stress reducer that we are exposed too. Exercise is a very important factor in keeping physically fit. Exercising acts directly on hart efficiency, blood circulation in the lungs and in the vascular system.
Exercising lets us digest better look better and feel better. Another important aspect to reducing stress is eating properly. A good diet gives the body the right amount of nourishment that it needs to survive. Eating the wrong foods stress the body because it lacks normal functioning and harms the body”s cells. Another very important and crucial aspect of stress reduction is relaxation and relaxation techniques. Never ending activities and daily worries are constant sources of tension. Because of this we need to relax. To relax many people often smoke cigarettes or even weed.
Other use tranquilizers and drink liquor. In today”s society we find out that these types of “stress reducing agents” are wrong and sometimes fatal. About 20-30% of Americans smoke and this increases the lung cancer risk by 700%. Smoking also brings on other dangerous problems with the liver kidneys and poor heart and blood circulation. Many relaxation methods more natural and safer than drugs should be used. The right methods reduce the psychological effects of tension. This helps to slow down adrenal secretions and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to work with ease.
Physical conditioning was only introduced to us in the beginning of the 19th century when scientist found a correlation between health and fitness. Exercises help people consentrate, improve sleep and get rid of aggression that gives us stress. Exercising also gives us a feeling of personal control and provides us with greater bodily awareness. Physiologists say that sports act as medicine for relieving most stressful situations. It takes your mind away from pain and lets you relieve it. When people exercise it also gives them more energy to do other things because you get tired less quickly.
All of this is a very beneficial stress reducing agent. However if you don”t exercise you can increase your risks of obesity, bad digestive functioning, back pain, and other problems of the body. For our body”s to function well we need a good diet. A good diet consists of carbohydrates, fats, protein, minerals and water. To have all of these aspects you need a balanced diet. There has been a lot of evidence that having a poor diet increases stress levels. When a person doesn”t eat right that stresses the body by preventing normal metabolism. To reduce stress you have to eat the right food.
If you have low calcium levels you should start eating more dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurts. Many dieticians prefer eating whole grain products because they contain alimentary fibers needed for digestion. Fruits and vegetables are another source of healthy foods. They provide us with vitamins we need for living. You should reduce the fat content by about thirty percent because the more fat you eat the more stress you are putting on the functioning organs in your body like the heart. There are many relaxation techniques that you can do.
Some have to do with playing a sport or some you can do while doing nothing at home. The most important and the most affective relaxation techniques have to do with ones control over mind and body. Meditation is one thing you can do that helps to achieve a stress free environment. Meditation has to do with centering your attention on one thing. The two main goals that are tried to reach during meditation are states of a deep relaxation and a mental state of awakening and alertness. When you reach a state were you feel relax your body also relaxes and takes time out for itself.
The body slows down and you feel warm and comfortable. However there is no scientific proof of this but it works and helps to relieve stress. Another very affective way to achieve peace within your body is to tighten specific muscles. You must first learn what muscles you have to relax, and then you begin the process. When you find the muscles and tighten them you then let the muscle loose up, which gives a very comfortable feeling. This feeling is equivalent to taking a hot bath after exercising. Laboratory tests have shown that this exercise really reduce stress a lot.
Stress cannot be avoided, however we can limit the amount of it that is subdued on us. Each time the body reacts to a stressor, numerous biochemical changes occur. If the stressor goes beyond the available adaptive abilities, illness or even death may occur. We as humans instead of battling stress need to reduce the amounts that we are exposed to. We should do what we need to stop the hurting of our body. We need to adopt a lifestyle that is stimulating and maintain a physical and mental state which gives a resistance to stressors.

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