Imagine a person who comes home tired by his employer and never finds time for his spouse and children. His big problem is stress. In fact, it is an increasingly common problem in the lives of millions of people. But the reality is constant in front of every human being: Who has never been stressed? Who has never known stress? Unless we do not know what Stress is. It is therefore timely that the author Thomson Dablemond invites you to discover what Stress is: What definition do you give Stress? What are its physical and psychological effects? What are the sources of stress? What are the components of stress? What are the symptoms of stress?
First of all, I would like to lead you in the discovery of Stress. Indeed, it is thanks to the work of the Austrian endocrinologist Hans Selye of Austria, conducted during the twentieth century, that we understand the biological mechanisms of stress – what he first called the “General syndrome of adaptation”. He identified and defined the famous “fight or flight response”: what happens when the body monopolizes its resources to dominate the situation or flee it. It is also in Selye that we must have chosen the word stress (in English: mechanical tension) and imposed it in French. He called the good stress “eustress” and the bad “distress”.
Subsequently, the French biologist Henri Laborit studied what happens when the person can neither dominate the situation nor flee: what he called the “inhibition of action”. This “situational paralysis”, he demonstrated, leads precisely to neuro-psycho-immunologic disorders. Henri Laborit is also famous for having “praised the flight”, which would be a refocusing of our goals to save our skin … from the inside. As for the American Richard Lazarus, he is responsible for important studies on psychological stress and the effectiveness of the means that people adapt to coping with it.
Since the 1960s, thousands of researches have been carried out in various sectors (immunology, oncology, neuropsychology, etc.) on the multiple factors involved in each phase of stress, and on the impact of stress on health. Yet much remains to be discovered, especially on the links between the mind and the brain, that is to say between psychology and physiology.
But what is stress? For some, stress is simply “the present to excess”. Stress is part of our daily life.
According to Hans Selye, stress is life and since it is part of life, you have to learn to tame it. Stress is a natural and useful phenomenon. It is the set of responses of an organism subjected to pressures or constraints on the part of its environment. This mobilizes a certain energy that it is necessary to release to find a satisfactory balance. The state of stress comes from feeling overwhelmed or lacking control over a situation. It reflects a difficulty of adaptation.
For others, stress is a reflex reaction, both psychological and physiological, of the body facing a difficult situation that requires adaptation.
In light of the different definitions we have given you about Stress, it is obvious that you are wondering what are the sources of Stress? Well, the next paragraph talks about this subject.
Sources of Stress
For a situation to result in a stress response, it must include one or more of the elements. These elements are defined and characterized in terms of threats and feelings. That is, the source can be a threat or a feeling.
The more elements present, the more natural it is to feel stressed!
The level of stress depends both on your ability to adapt and your self-esteem.
Important: The “ P ” of “ SPUN ” is the only thing you can really act on.
For example, you do not choose a divorce or moving your parents. This is a situation over which you have no control. So, you cannot avoid the novelty and unpredictability of this situation. But you can identify the source of your stress and develop an adaptation strategy.
If you do not have control over the situation, you can control your reactions to this situation.
A situation is stressful if you interpret it as stressful. In this case, you feel that you lose the sense of control, that the situation is unpredictable or new or that something threatens your personality.
What is new to you is not necessarily new to another person. It is for this reason that stress is a profoundly individual and personal experience.
The word ” SPUN ” (Dr. S. Lupien, 2009) brings together the four sources of stress:
|Sense of decreased control||Feeling of having very little or no control over the situation.|
|Personality Threatened||The skills and personality are put to the test:
doubt of his abilities and self-esteem heckled.
|Unpredictability||Do not know in advance what will happen.|
|Novelty||Something that happens, never experienced.|
We would like to complete this component of stress sources with that of the three components of stress.
Three Components of Stress
When talking about stress, there are inevitably the following three elements, arranged according to extremely variable combinations:
The stressor or its source: a physical, mental, social or emotional stimulus occurs that must be adjusted. The stimulus can be minor (contravention) or important (move), positive (a marriage) or negative (a conflict), exceptional (a surgical procedure) or constant (too busy a schedule), planned (an examination) or unexpected (an accident), etc. It should also be noted that stress can be physiological and caused by events such as medication, injury or cold weather since the body must change its chemistry to respond to it. Lack of stimulation can also create stress. But today, we are mainly concerned with lifestyle stress and more particularly psychological stress.
The stress reaction. When the brain sounds the alert, immediate physiological responses – such as increased heart rate, blood vessel constriction and adrenaline rush – ensure that the body can respond to the situation. If they persist beyond the time needed to “flee the tiger or knock it out,” these mechanisms give rise to physical and psychological discomfort: the symptoms of stress.
The attitude. The intensity of the stress response depends on the message sent by the brain to the endocrine glands, and therefore on the mind’s perception of the stimulus in question – seeing it as more or less dangerous, demanding or constraining. For example, a five-minute delay usually does not create stress, unless we think we’re going to miss the train, or if the brain imagines another catastrophic scenario – which may be the case if our education has ferociously trained us to punctuality. Negative attitudes or unrealistic expectations also give rise to stress problems.
We cannot study Stress without mentioning the symptoms of Stress. What are the symptoms of Stress?
Symptoms of Stress
Stress causes physical, emotional or behavioral manifestations. Recognizing and understanding the messages sent by stress rather than trying to fight can help you to have better knowledge of yourself and stay in control. Thus, the symptoms are at three levels: physical – emotional and mental – behavioral.
► Symptoms of Stress – Physical Level
• Digestive problems for example, like a pain in the stomach
• Moist hands/perspiration
• The tension in the neck or neck/ball in the throat
• Back pain
• A headache
• Nausea / vertigo
• Sleep problems
• Allergies/skin diseases
• Increased or decreased diet
• Small, repetitive diseases
• Muscular tension.
► Symptoms of Stress – Emotionally and Mental Level
• Concern + +
• Irritability/nerves on the skin
• Aggressiveness / anger / irritation
• Mood swings / sadness / depression
• Feeling of emptiness
• Decrease/loss of self-esteem
• Memory problems
• Loss of sense of humor
• Lack of joy
• The loss of libido
• Difficulty concentrating
• The Agitation
► Symptoms of Stress – At the Behavioral Level
• Absenteeism/tendency to isolate oneself / more difficulties in relationships
• Difficulty completing a job / doing several things at once
• Speak too fast, too loud
• Agitation / aggression
• Difficulties to decide / indecision
• Fixed ideas/perfectionism
• Difficulties to concentrate
• Confusion/whirlwind of ideas in the head
• Television Abuse
• Risky and increased consumption: tobacco, caffeine, sugar, chocolate, alcohol, drugs
• Avoidance of demanding situations
• The negative perception of reality
The study of Stress symptoms wisely leads us to look for the physical and psychological effects of Stress.
The Physical and Psychological Effects of Stress
Stress affects various diseases, and the state of imbalance caused by bad stress weakens the mind and body by preventing the body from coping with these situations.
Thoughts, emotions, and behavior are also affected by the effects of excessive stress.
Thought: difficulty thinking correctly, faulty memory, lack of concentration, misconceptions, and so on.
Emotions: constant tension, fear of contracting certain types of illnesses, impatience, irritability, insecurity, and so on.
Behavior: lower verbal flow, the risk of using dangerous substances, habitual absence from school or work, difficulty sleeping, relationship problems, etc.
Stress is part of our daily life. The pressures of time and work, interpersonal problems, noise, pollution, finances, and insecurity are some of the causes of stress. The consequences of stress affect our body, mind, and emotions.
Stress must be monitored because its effects can cause fatal damage. For some, less fortunate, stress reactions are so intense or so long-lasting, even in everyday situations, that it hurts their social and professional functioning. And in others, the nervous system is slow to trigger the necessary relaxation reaction, even after the disappearance of the stressor. This is where we talk about “bad stress”.
On the other hand, if managed at a minimal level, stress is a good source of motivation. The mechanisms of stress release energy so that the individual can cope with almost any situation. In reality, we tend to ignore it, but stress reactions are normal and useful. In many circumstances, we, therefore, speak of “good stress”. It is known, for example, that the performance level at the time of a task is better when there is a certain amount of stress because it would help to stimulate motivation, to better judge the parameters of the situation and to prepare accordingly. Many people, moreover, love this excitement of stress and seek it – in the competition, for example. So, we talk about “good stress”.
It is in this sense that some even classify it as follows: stress – physiological state necessary and useful in life and survival; anxiety – state of imbalance, detrimental to health.
From all points of view, we are not unaware of the fact that there are “tolerant” to stress and “intolerant”, but we could also define a third category of people: “addicts” adrenaline. They are big workers, workaholics, people with intense social life who run constantly, but who would not want to do without stress, because it allows them to feel “alive”. However, it is likely to catch up in the turn, as evidenced by the frequency of cardiovascular disease in this type of people. Note, however, that stress does not depend on the intensity of the action, but on the intensity of the tension – since there are very active people who are also very relaxed while people who are not very active can be very tense.
Stress is therefore manifested in different ways according to personalities, and the solutions also vary according to the person. It should be noted that children and adolescents are also subject to stress, which can be generated by situations at home, at school or between peers. Everyone can experience stress!