Scientists are increasingly looking at stress as an important factor in the origin of illness. Stress mechanism is something that starts and ends in the body. When under stress, our bodies give a chemical response, and this response affects our emotions and the way we look at things. The researchers have proved the fact that prolonged, acute physical or emotional stress is likely to have adverse physical effects.The fact that we always associate stress with a certain negative connotation also does not hold true. It must be remembered that stress has a dual role to play. With stress, the anxiety & hormone levels fluctuate which is essential and these acts as a sort of protection too.
We have to understand that everyone and every living thing need to experience stress and adjust accordingly. Being born and then making an effort to remain alive is stressful. And sans our stress hormones we would not be able to react effectively. In our effort to remain alive we have to address hunger, traffic, infection, varying temperature, relationships, face up to the challenges of growing up and so on and so forth. It takes stress to get out of bed in the morning!
If stress has so many plus points and every reaction has some amount of stress in it then why and at what stage do the physical effects of stress stop protecting us & start to damage us? And what measures do we need to take to combat these effects?
Taking stress affects our Allostatic systems. And when the amount of stress is more than what we can handle normally its called Allostatic load. Allostatic systems form part of nervous system, which controls heartbeat, blood pressure, cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems. Nervous system controls functions like the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, which work together to produce a hormonal response.
Allostatic load affects our immune system adversely. It can also lead to insulin resistance, which could eventually be a cause of diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis etc. In extreme cases stress may even promote cancer. Stressed individuals can also feel isolated and may lack control in certain challenging situations like, stressful jobs, ailing close relative etc.
Stress may occur because of many reasons. Genetics may be an important factor. What happens to us in life, where we stand economically and educationally may also have a role to play in our everyday handling of stress. Treatment accorded us by peer group. Also the way we live, eat, smoke or don’t, our alcohol intake, our overall lifestyle, whether it is active or sedentary etc….
Coping with stress, learning to handle the challenges better are some lessons we all have to take. Each one of us will have a different way to deal with it and we must know it clearly before the situation gets better of us. We have to learn to steer clear or such situation by trying to work out a positive solution, problem-solving technique and attitude. This may require re-arranging our thoughts to an extent. We cannot change what has already happened to us, which is likely to reflect in the way we react. But we can change our mindset and attitude. We can certainly bring changes in our lifestyle, get into activities, pursue hobbies, quit drinking and smoking, inculcate exercising habits, join a peer group or community to increase the level of social interaction etc. Living in isolation and trying to deal with stress without social support will worsen the existing situation. For overall well being it is must that we learn to deal with stress in a positive manner.
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