Everyone happens to deal with requirements they can barely satisfy or are unable to satisfy. This sort of lack of balance between requirements and possibilities results in stress. This in turn often entails undesired and strong emotions.
Due to stress, our organism needs to face a challenge and therefore adapt to, deal with or handle something. There is of course a positive stress which assures concentration and activeness. However people more frequently experience a strong and long-lasting stress which affects their mood and health. There is a wide range of sources of stress but let’s make a list of the most frequent ones. The list includes everyday nuisances (home, health-related, financial, work-related, past-oriented), life changes, conflicts, legal issues.
Most people react to stress in a similar way. We can distinguish such reactions as “goose pimples”, intense sweating, narrower blood vessels – skin, skeletal muscles, brain, internal organs, narrower pupils, wider bronchi, more frequent contractions of the heart muscle and increased blood pressure; generation of adrenaline causes the glucose to leave the liver and move to the blood circulation system. Its impact is dependent upon a type of personality, mental and health condition, susceptibility to mood changes, etc. If a person remains stressed out for a longer period of time, his/her physical and mental structures get seriously damaged. Stress may have a strong and negative impact on our health.
If we are stressed, our immunological system is less efficient. If stress remains for a long period of time, we feel exhausted because our organism is forced to generate steroids which hinder the work of our immunological system. And this lead to increased susceptibility to infections and diseases, including cancers. We need to highlight however that it is not stress that has a direct and strong influence on our immunological system but our organism defense against its impact. What matters is the extensiveness of the stressor and the scale of reaction to this stressor as well as accompanying immunological mechanisms. Weakness and submitting ourselves to stressful situations reduces productivity of our immunological system, whereas a positive and active attitude mitigates their consequences. Thanks to this, we can subconsciously reduce or increase immunity of our organism. Besides, less efficient immunity leads to early aging and entails all its negative effects.
The most frequent symptom of stress is headache. The most common aches result from increased shoulder, neck and forehead muscle tension. This type of pain is usually gradual, permanent, dull, two-sided and accompanied by a feeling of tension and pressure. To relieve, it is advisable to relax our muscles, assure a basic muscle tension and learn how to relax and stretch our muscles. The other group of headaches, including the most serious ones, that is migraine, results from blood circulation irregularities. It is a result of changes in the blood that is supplied to our head. Pain is frequently preceded by alarming symptoms, such as impaired vision and ability to smell unique smells, a migraine is accompanied by oversensitivity to light, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, sensory and motor disorders as well as changes of mood. Regardless of the causes of pain, we may encounter a vicious circle mechanism since headache, being a stressor, leads to increased muscle tension of arms, neck or face.
Interestingly, stress may make our life unpleasant regardless of our age or origins. Sensitivity to stressors is identified as early as in the fetal life. According to the studies, the activity of a fetus increases under the influence of mother’s stress and emotional shock. Such children have difficulties in assimilating food. What is more, a high degree of stress among pregnant women is associated with a development of fetus disorder, birth complications or oversensitivity. When a woman get stressed, her organism generates cortisol, a stress hormone, which is released to the blood circulation system and moves to the fetus through the placenta. An extensive concentration of this hormone combined with strong emotions may lead to serious development disorders or premature delivery. A number of studies have showed a strong and direct relation between mother’s emotional condition and development of fetus’s brain.
The question whether stress has a destructive impact on our organism depends on many different factors, but also on us. The way we deal with it is dependent upon differences in terms of personality and temperament. Regardless of the above, we have various instruments which can help us fight against symptoms of stress. We should get familiar with various methods in order to choose the most suitable one. Considering numerous variants, we should focus on a group of mental methods, such as relaxation or concentration workout, as well as recreational group, that is pilates or yoga. What is interesting is the fact that physical workout is a perfect idea to prevent consequences of stress although both stress and workout stimulate the organism. A few-hour rest that follows the physical effort relaxes our organism and mind, while regularity of our activities assures more control.
Stress discussed by:
PhD Milena Lachowicz, Rehasport Clinic Psychologist