Stress is the way of our body‘s response to a challenge or threat. It is a mechanism that helps us survive in life-threatening circumstances, where the body uses all its system at maximum capabilities. It is actually a kind of self-protection, although people rarely see it in that way. In many life circumstances, it helps us stay focused, awake and alert. For example, when you‘re passing through large crowds or you‘re crossing a street, a small dose of stress provides security.
Eustress and distress
Eustress, also known as positive stress is one that promotes action, providing an opportunity to realize personal capacity. It induces motivation for personal growth and development through the effort to achieve individual goals.
Distress or negative stress can be divided into acute stress if it has a short but intense duration, or chronic stress if it lasts for a long time. In both cases, the person is affected by psychological suffering and pain, which can result in a health disorder in the form of the occurrence of some of the psychosomatic diseases.
Stages of stress
1. Alarm stage – This stage is characterized by preparing of the organism for fight or flight reaction. The level of hormones that increase the heart rate, respiration, muscle tension is elevated. A person feels restlessness, anger, anxiety, and/or fear.
2. Resistance stage – Resistance stage is less dramatic than the previous stage. It includes processes that enable the organism to cope with stress, people often emotionally isolate themselves and deny their feelings.
3. Exhaustion stage – Also known as burnout stage, the third stage is characterized by damaged functionality or physical/mental illness accompanied by loss of self-confidence and impaired sleeping habits.
Negative emotions that are accompanied by psychical suffering, self-defeating behavior, and thoughts, as well as with physiological manifestations are emotional symptoms. There are no other symptoms of stress without emotion, so it represents its main symptom. It is always the first reaction to a stress inducer, and only after that, all the other symptoms such as behavioral, cognitive and physiological symptoms occur. Emotional symptoms are most often described as feelings of irritability, tension, helplessness, insecurity or anxiety.
Stress and cardiovascular system
In chronic stress, a norepinephrine (noradrenaline) secretion is elevated. Norepinephrine causes the increase of peripheral resistance, the secretion of renin, and angiotensin and aldosterone. Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system significantly increases the blood pressure leading to hypertension. Furthermore, sudden stress accelerates the heart while narrowing the blood vessels, increasing the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases or death in people who are already suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Various cardiovascular diseases including arrhythmia, angina, stroke, or heart attack may occur over time. Female hormone estrogen provides pre-menopausal women some protection against stress-related heart disease.
Although it‘s often easier said than done, stress can be reduced with certain lifestyle choices. Some of the recommended tips include:
Relaxation – Even small inconveniences can induce stress in people who do not sleep and relax enough, so try to find time to relax, listen to some calming music, and search for relaxation techniques.
Positive attitude – Positive attitude can change your view of the world, and some stress inducers can be completely ignored if you stay positive.
Exercise – Exercise has positive effects on your mind and your body. You can always find a little time for light exercises.
Nutrition – A healthy, balanced diet benefits your body by maintaining the immune system.
Reduce intake of alcohol – Although it seems that alcohol can make your worries go away, it isn‘t the case. Alcohol can just make it worse, so it should be avoided.
Go out to nature – Spending time in nature can reduce stress, and going on sunlight can increase your mood.