Science of Stress
Stress is body’s preparation to a danger that needs an immediate change in our behavior and physiology.
In 1926, Hans Selye, called the Father of Stress, coined the term “stress” while he was still a second year medical student at the University of Prague. Later, in 1974, he defined stress as:
The non-specific response of the body to any demand.
Stress is our “fight or flight” response system — so that either we fight or we escape. The system lights up when we perceive something as a threat to our survival.
The perceived threat is called a stressor.
Now, a stressor can be real or imagined. But our stress system acts the same way: it jolts our nervous and hormonal systems into action to get us ready for that danger.
In brain, the main parts playing role in setting up a stress response are:
- hippocampus, and
- prefrontal cortex
The brain also helps the process with two main of its chemicals, called neurotransmitters:
- dopamine, and
And the prime-time hormones that feature in this fray are CRF, ACTH, adrenaline, vasopressin and cortisol.
Before stress happens, and after stress ends, the body is in homeostasis (a steady internal state).
Stress is our body’s natural reaction that we cannot sidestep. As Selye said:
Stress is not something to be avoided. Indeed, it cannot be avoided.
Stress in itself is not a disease. And not all stress has negative effect.
But prolonged stress can harm and invite a host of diseases. Research shows that almost every system in our body can be affected by chronic stress. Chronic stress has been linked to diabetes mellitus, asthmatic attacks, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ulcers, depression, social withdrawal, and even suicide.
American Psychiatric Association recognizes two stress disorders:
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Acute stress can cause numbing, detachment, memory loss, emotional freezing.
PTSD can cause anxiety, avoidance, sleeplessness, re-experience of the trauma (as rape, war, abuse, torture).
Symptoms of Stress
Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically, as well as how you behave. Some common signs of bad stress are:
- Anger, irritability, hostility
- Fatigue, lethargy, mental slowdown
- Lack of interest, drive, or energy
- Sleep disorders – insomnia, daytime sleepiness, broken sleep
- Headache, body aches, muscle tension
- Tummy upset, eating disorders, weight gain or loss
Now that we’re on stress, click the pic below to find out 10 Amazingly Practical Strategies To Reduce Stress.
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Author Bio: Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.
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