The short-term warning signs of stress include headaches; light-headedness; general aches and pains; upset stomach; loss of sexual desire; weight gain or weight loss; inability to concentrate; unusual restlessness; tiredness and exhaustion; cold and sweaty palms or inexplicable fatigue; increased heart rate or palpitations; trembling and shaking; insomnia or sleeplessness; muscle tension in neck, shoulders or face; loss of appetite or over-eating; indigestion; diarrhoea or even vomiting; grinding of teeth; clenched jaw; dizziness; tingling sensations at the extremities; numbness (especially on one side of the body); etc.
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCE OF UN-ADDRESSED STRESS
The long-term effects of stress on the body include lowered immunity; asthma; cardiovascular disease (hypertension, heart attack, stroke, etc.); auto-immune diseases; depression; suicidal tendency; headaches; the common cold; Type II diabetes; premenstrual tension and menstrual irregularities; digestive diseases (e.g. gastric ulcers); sudden death; etc.
HOW THE HUMAN BODY RESPONDS TO STRESS:
Alarm Stage: – rapid heartbeat, loss of appetite, etc. This is most noticeable in acute stress. The body quickly and rapidly returns to normal after a while.
Resistance Stage: If the stressful situation does not dissipate quickly, the body moves on to the second physiological stage, called the Resistance Stage. This stage may last for anywhere from a few days to even years. During this stage, the adrenal glands release a class of stress hormones known as corticoids,which include glucocorticoidsand mineralocorticoids. Cortisolis an example ofglucocorticoids, whilealdosterone is an example ofmineralocorticoids.
Glucocorticoids, especiallycortisol, raise cholesterol levels, makes the blood to become thicker, and inhibit gastric secretions while facilitating colonic movement. In some cases, they also inhibitinsulin production. We can now understand how stress can be a causative or aggravating factor in cardiovascular problems, GI problems, and adult-onset diabetes. Cortisolmay also inhibit macrophages and natural killer cells, thus suppressing or compromising the immune system. This also explains why and how chronic or intermittent stress may make an individual vulnerable and susceptible to infections.Mineralocorticoids, on the other hand, may affect how the kidneys absorb and reabsorb sodium and water. This can also elevate a person’s blood pressure. Stress may also increase the body’s need for some minerals.
Adrenalin is another of the stress hormones released by the adrenal glands during a stressful situation. Adrenalinand cortisol prepare the body to respond to stress, making the heart to beat faster, raising blood pressure, and redirecting blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to organs that need more energy to function. Such organs include the brain and the muscles. Less blood goes to the stomach. This is why it is not advisable to eat a heavy meal when one is distressed or stressed. Less blood goes to the skin as well. This is to prepare the skin not to bleed profusely in case of an injury during this fight or flight situation. Fibrin, a substance that makes blood to clot more readily is released into the blood to slow or stop bleeding in the event of injury. Glucoseand fat are also released into the blood to provide energy.
Exhaustion Stage: This is the third stage of stress. At this stage, the body doesn’t know what to do again to address the stressful situation, so it gives up because it has exhausted all its resources and avenues for resolution. This stage is reached when the stress response mechanism has continued for too long. At this point, anything can happen. All the nerve energy of the body is virtually totally drained, the immune system dangerously compromised, and degenerative diseases can set in at this stage.
How stressful are you? This is called your stress quotient. Thomas Whiteman, Ph.D. and Randy Petersenoffer a simple equation to calculate your stress quotient thus:
SQ = (SV + SN) x A
SQ = Stress Quotient
SV = Stress Events
SN= Stress Environment
A = Stress Aggravators,
F = Stress Fitness, and
As we can see, the addition of stress events and stress environments, multiplied by stress aggravants will increase a person’s stress quotient. Meanwhile, the more stress fitness activities one indulges in, the less one’s stress quotient. To burst your stress, you can either lessen three factors (stress events, stress environments, and stress aggravants) or increase one factor (stress fitness). To lessen stress factors while at the same time increasing stress fitness will even achieve better results.
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