Let’s take a look at the science of stress to determine what it is and how stress can cause harm to both the human body and the human brain.
Let’s take a look at the Science of Stress
Do you still think that stress is just a state of mind? If you do, this post about the science of stress is an important one for you to read. It’s been known for several years that stress is not limited to just our minds.
The science of stress has proven that when an individual suffers from chronic stress both their physical and emotional health are profoundly affected and impacted by it. If you consider yourself “stressed out” it’s really important for you to get a grip on stress management.
Why? Because when a person suffers from stress, especially chronic stress, they tend to have a much higher risk of developing health problems like hypertension. It’s very likely that stress will also make any existing health issues worse.
What causes stress?
There are three distinct and different phases to stress. Let’s take a deeper look at them:
Phase 1: Alarm
This phase begins when you see a certain situation or circumstance as harmful. These types of situations are referred to as stressors. Your body then responds to the stressors with a physical reaction to combat that stressor.
This physical response is also known as the fight or flight response. Once it kicks in, your respiration rate and pulse may increase or you may feel a rush of adrenaline. This happens to prepare you for a sudden, intense physical activity like running away from a physical threat.
Phase 2: Resistance
Stress usually abates once the perceived threat or danger finally subsides. The body tries to become balanced with a process called homeostasis. There are many variables that can stop this process from happening, but the real problem occurs when you stay in phase 1.
You may think that you are dealing with the stress caused in phase 1 because things seem to have calmed down, but many of those stressors occur on a daily basis keeping you stuck.
Phase 3: Exhaustion
Exhaustion occurs when your body has been fighting stress for days, weeks, months and even years. In this stage the damage to your body may manifest in the form of illness, a variety of conditions, and disease.
What are the signs that a person is experiencing stress?
Below are some common physical symptoms:
- Inexplicable perspiring of the hands and feet
- Acute headaches that have a tendency to disrupt work or chores at home
- Hand and arm tremors
- Increased heart rate even when you are not performing challenging or strenuous physical activity
- Minor muscular pain
- Facial tics
- Inexplicable exhaustion or fatigue
- Shallow chest breathing
- Turning to different substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and even recreational drugs
- A general feeling of nervousness and anxiety
An Here is a breakdown of the mental symptoms associated with moderate to extreme stress:
- Short temper
- Feeling angry all the time
- Inexplicable mood swings
- Feeling of isolation and helplessness
- Short term memory problems
- General decrease in work productivity
- Lowered sexual desire
- Distracted thinking
Why do people experience psychological stress?
The psychological signs of stress often manifest when a person has been under stress for a long period of time. These signs come about because the mind is trying to escape the stressful situation however it can.
This is one of the main reasons why stressed individuals are often less productive in the office. Their minds are effected so profoundly by stress response that their own thought patterns prevent them from focusing on the things they have to do.
How severe are stress-related symptoms in the general population?
In the United States alone, it is estimated that 90% of all physician visits are associated with symptoms related to chronic stress. It has also been estimated that on a monthly basis, 400 million people take medication to ease these symptoms*
Of course, we know now that medicating a stress-related symptom is a futile effort because you’re not addressing the main cause of the symptom – you’re just padding the symptom itself. You should read our article Stress Management: How to Use Reiki for Stress Relief to see if this is a good solution for you.
Now, it should be noted that the symptoms we discussed earlier may also be genuine signs of other health conditions (and not just stress). Consulting with your physician is still your best option if you experience symptoms such as racing heart rate or persistent headaches.