It’s almost become fashionable to say “ Oh! I am so stressed”
Well, actually stress arising from certain situations is healthy and much needed.
Firstly let’s gain an understanding of the body’s response to stress :
What is the Stress Response?
McLeod (2010) defines Stress as a biological and psychological response experienced on encountering a threat that we feel we do not have the resources to deal with.
A stressor is the stimulus (or threat) that causes stress, e.g. exam, work pressure, divorce, death of loved one, moving house, issues with interpersonal relations, loss of job etc.
Sudden and severe stress generally produces:
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in breathing (lungs dilate)
- Decrease in digestive activity (don’t feel hungry)
- Liver releases glucose for energy
Firstly, our body judges a situation and decides whether or not it is stressful. This decision is made based on sensory input and processing (i.e. the things we see and hear in the situation) and also on stored memories (i.e. what happened the last time we were in a similar situation).
If the situation is judged as being stressful, the HYPOTHALAMUS (at the base of the brain) is activated.
The hypothalamus in the brain is in charge of the stress response. When a stress response is triggered, it sends signals to two other structures: the pituitary gland, and the adrenal medulla.
These short term responses are produced by The Fight or Flight Response via the Sympathomedullary Pathway (SAM). Long term stress is regulated by the Hypothalamic Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) system.
EUSTRESS VS DISTRESS
Many people are unaware that there are two categories of stress: Eustress and Distress
Eustress is the good stress that motivates you to continue working. Stress can be a motivator and provide incentive to get the job done. This “good stress” is what eustress can be identified as and some people enjoy it. Everyone needs a little bit of stress in their life in order to continue to be happy, motivated, challenged and productive. It is when this stress is no longer tolerable and/or manageable that distress comes in.
Bad stress, or distress, is when the good stress becomes too much to bear or cope with. Tension builds, there is no longer any fun in the challenge, there seems to be no relief, no end in sight. This is the kind of stress most of us are familiar with and this is the kind of stress that leads to poor decision making. Physiological symptoms of distress include an increase in blood pressure, rapid breathing and generalized tension. Behavioral symptoms include overeating, loss of appetite, drinking, smoking and negative coping mechanisms.
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McLeod, S. A. (2010). What is the Stress Response. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/stress-biology.html