Stress is one of the most common emotional tensions many of us feel on an almost daily basis, and can definitely be very difficult to deal with. But what exactly is stress? Why does it happen? How does it affect us? How to prevent it? Today we will be addressing to all such questions.
What Is Stress And Why Does It Happen?
From a psychological perspective, stress can be defined as a state of psychological imbalance resulting due to the gap between the individual’s abilities and the situational demands. Stress is the body’s reaction to any sort of danger or challenge. Moreover, it can also be said that it is the built-in system that responds to any threat.
It can be said that this “psychological imbalance” occurs due to a conflict that happens to appear in our lives. Conflict is bound to happen when there is a difference or incompatibility between two or more options. Conflict can be divided into three types:
- Approach-approach Conflict: where a person has to choose between two appealing choices. For example going to a family wedding or to a best friend’s party.
- Avoidance-avoidance Conflict: where a person has to choose between two unappealing choices. For example take one big test or to take 3 small surprise quizzes.
- Approach-avoidance Conflict: where a person has to choose between choices that are equally important but one is appealing and the other is unappealing. For example wanting to eat a delicious cake but not wanting to gain weight.
The Fight-Flight Response
Coming back to stress, the defense mechanism our body takes to deal with stress is the “Fight-Flight Response”. This is an in-built response when any situation at hand seems threatening or challenging, our body reacts quickly to provide protection by either dealing with it (Fight) or by leaving it (Flight). Cavemen’s sole key to survival was the fight-flight response. For example when a caveman faced a tiger, he had two options; either to fight the tiger or two run away, and the body was ready to react either way in order to protect.
The Physiology Of Stress
The physiology of stress can be defined easily and clearly through the image shown below. The diagram clearly shows as to what happens when our bodies are going through a stressful situation.
Now that we know what stress is and why it happens let us come towards who alerts our body. Of course it’s the brain but which part? The Amygdala does the job. The amygdala is known to be the feeling part of the brain and acts as a security guard to protect us from any danger or threat. Another interesting point to add is that the amygdala blocks communication with our PFC (Prefrontal Cortex), the “Leader” part of brain in order to prevent us from taking clear decisions and to react in a flash, whenever faced with stress.
Effects Of Stress
According to research it is stated that not all stress is bad since it helps us in reaching our goals. It’s called “Eustress-the positive stress”. Such stress is motivational, short-term and helps us improve our abilities.
However, “Distress” is the negative stress that isn’t healthy for our bodies. It affects us emotionally (in behavior, thoughts and feelings) as well as physically; unwanted thoughts, self-criticism, anxiety, avoidance, smoking or drinking, irritability, anger, loss of temper, guilt, muscle tension, tiredness, appetite changes, high blood pressure and many more. All these take a serious toll on our bodies and on our daily performance.
Types of Stress
Stress can be divided into two categories; acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress is usually short-term and is mainly due to the work pressure, deadlines, finding something, over exertion, increased physical activities etc. It causes muscle aches and tensions and rapid heartbeats.
Chronic stress is a prolonged stress and can last for even years. This stress occurs due big problems in life like broken families, earnings, marriages etc. Such stress can cause serious damage to one’s health and surprisingly individuals who are under chronic stress might not even realize it that they are under stress. Furthermore, cataclysmic events like earthquakes, plane crashes, tsunamis are also major triggers to strong stress.
How To Prevent Or Deal With Stress
Stress can defiantly cause havoc in our lives so it is important to learn to keep it at bay. Some ways to reduce stress or the happenings of it include:
- Adapt assertive behaviors
- Always keep a positive attitude
- Learn to make peace with the fact that some things are not in our control
- Meditate and exercise on a daily basis
- Eat a healthy diet
- Keep nicotine and caffeine on the low
- Set a proper sleep schedule