Stress

Sep 14, 2017 in Psychology

People experience stress every day it might be considerable or low, harmful or useful to the body, it might be created by a wide range of internal or external factors, but in any case, it is particularly useful to know where it comes from, what its consequences might be and how to manage it.

I would not call myself a person that gets easily stressed, but there have been a number of situations in my life, when I was quite distressed. One of such moments happened after an argument with a friend of mind. The person is very dear to me, but as it often happens, we had a clash of opinions, and none of us would admit to being wrong. These were the external factors of stress. The internal one was my desire to prove that in this particular situation my friend was mistaken, and losing the argument was beneath my dignity. The reaction to the stress was characteristic of most people I was angry, kept replaying the argument in my mind and could not concentrate. As the result, I felt dull pain in my head and chest, and I had a troubled sleep. Nevertheless, what seems to be stressful to one person may be of no importance to another. This idea is promoted by the cognitive appraisal approach which says that an individual's cognitive appraisal of a situation is the determining factor in any stressful situation.

It goes without saying that stress, as any other process in human body, is controlled by brain. The parts of the brain responsible for stress management are hypothalamus and pituitary. Another organ involved in the process is adrenal glands in the kidneys. So, once the brain detects danger, it sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin which makes the heart beat faster. Then, hypothalamus makes pituitary glands stimulate adrenal cortex to produce hydrocortisone a hormone which helps a body escape danger.

Being exposed to stressful situation for a prolonged period of time, a person increases the risk of falling ill. Among the first symptoms are sleeping disorders. The first reason for sleeping problems is that a person thinks about the problematic situation all the time, thus he or she cannot relax and fall asleep. Another reason is stress hormones to which sleep is extremely vulnerable. This is only logical, for cortex increases heart race and sugar level and raises blood pressure a normal reaction of the body to help a person cope with stress. On the other hand, however, sleep is the best medicine to cure stress, especially if there is nothing else to be done to solve the problem.

Obviously, everyone should avoid very stressful situation, but this rule is of central importance for pregnant women. It is not a secret that maternal psychological disorders have a negative impact on a fetus. According to DiPietro, "fetal programming implies that maternal and fetal factors that affect growth impart an indelible impression on adult organ function, including functioning of the brain and nervous system." (p. 71). Possible effects of the mother's distress might be both immediate (such as miscarriage) and late (after the child is born and grows up). However, this, too, happens if a mother's level of stress is too high; if the stress is moderate, the child is not going to be hurt. Interestingly, the researchers argue that if there is little stress during pregnancy, the child can also experience health problems in the future. So once again, human body needs stress, but it should not be excessive.

It goes without saying that the extent to which a person is vulnerable to stress depends, first of all, on his or her character. Personality concepts play a crucial role in coping with stress. For instance, extroverts show that they are in distress (they might cry, laugh, scream, etc.), while introverts keep everything inside them, they prefer managing stress on their own. Apart from that, life experience might change a person's comprehension of stressful situation, so with time, one might become less anxious or vice versa. The extent to which someone is stressed also depends on their psychological well-being. A person may experience acute stress reaction after severe psychological traumas. This happens because a victim re-experiences the situation many times in his or her mind. The treatment of the disorders is directed at dealing with traumas which cause stress disorders. This involves recalling the traumatic situation and the feelings accompanying it, in order to help a person control the emotions.

The way people suffer from stress also depends on aging. Its symptoms also vary in different periods of a life cycle. For example, stress disorders do not last for a long time in children, but they often appear again when they become older. Anxiety disorders in young people often lead to depressions. Adults undergo stress very often, thus they experience multiple disorders. Older people often experience stress due to their medical conditions, but it can be caused by stressful life situations as well. It is not a secret that stress affects cognitive functions of the brain. Still, contrary to popular belief, stress does not hamper human memory, because it simply functions as an interference which prevents the information from entering long-term memory, but it does not do any harm to the memory per se.

Stress can be classically conditioned, which means that a conditioned stimulus is preceded by the unconditioned one (Shors). For instance, if a person who is afraid of clowns sees them after hearing a doorbell, and the situations repeats couple times, soon this person will be anxious just after hearing a doorbell. To extinguish the response, one should change one of the stimuli. One can reduce stress with the help of operant conditioning, which means that having faced a stressful situation a number of times and controlling them, a person will eventually not be hampered by stress. So, if, for instance, someone is afraid of public speaking, he or she should give a couple successful speeches to learn to manage stress.

Finally, it is important for everyone to find a way to manage stress. One can do it in groups or individually, and both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. Being alone, a person might be in distress for a longer period of time, because he or she will be concentrated on a stressful situation, while in a group of people, it is easier to distract oneself, and maybe even find another perspective to address stress. On the other hand, however, being a part of a group, a person might fail to analyze own emotions and will find a solution to a problem. In addition, one can sense other people's emotions, and if they are anxious, there is a likelihood of becoming anxious oneself.

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