What is Stress
Stress can be a very negative but yet very healthy thing to experience. It actually means a force impinging on the individual, which tends to strain or cause harm to the body. Stress is a normal part of life that can help us learn and grow. Conversely, ongoing stress can cause us significant problems. Surveys have shown that 60% of the population of the Western countries believes that they are under a great deal of stress at least once per week.
Stress can lead to the release of powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action (to fight or flight). If we don’t take action, which the physiological activity of the hormones and compounds encourage, the stress response can lead to health problems. Prolonged, uninterrupted, unexpected, and unmanageable stresses are the most damaging types of stress.
Some examples of different kinds of stress includes: chemical stress and environmental stress caused by environmental pollution or toxic chemicals; emotional stress such as anger, depression, fear, frustration, sadness, betrayal, bereavement; mental stress including high work responsibility, long hours and perfectionism; nutritional stress due to nutritional deficiency, fat excess, or food allergies; physical stress includes hard labor, birth and competitive exercise; traumatic stress include infection, injury, burns, surgery and extreme temperatures and psycho-spiritual stress include relationship pressures, financial pressures, career pressures, issues of life goals and issues with spiritual enlightenment.
There is some speculation that an overactive stress response to every life can start when young. Early separation from mother can lead to altered stress responses and depression later in life. The stresses of the mother can affect the stress response of the fetus, and perhaps predispose the child to psychiatric illness later in life.
Symptoms of stress
Symptoms of stress may present differently in different people, and many may not even be aware of the high stress they face. When stress is encountered and perceived of as negative, reactions may become more emotional or reflect in moods: irritability, frustrations, guilt and anger; depression, sadness and weeping and overall confusion.
Physical reactions are common- especially in the initial stages or in acute physical stress. The “fight or flight” (alarm) response causes the release of the catecholamine neurotransmitters adrenaline, noradrenaline and the steroid hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. These hormones direct blood toward the muscles and limbs in order permit an individual to fight or flee. In addition, the pupils of the eyes dilate and alertness increases. Long term stress can create disharmony in the body with chronic increases of the levels catecholamines and cortisol. This can decrease the body’s resistance to disease, especially infectious illness.