Stress is the response of an organism to its environment, this includes our beliefs and perceptions. Noise, heat or cold are stimuli not stressors but the response they cause in the body is called stress.
"Our perceptions not any objective reality govern our emotional response and resulting behaviour. Perceptions are based on beliefs, assumptions, values and conditioning. We can dramatically reduce our stress by changing our distorted perceptions. Our distorted thinking can exaggerate our perceived shortcomings. We often paint events much worse, than they actually are by our distorted thinking, this greatly increases our stress . . . changing distorted perceptions . . . is an essential stress management tool." - (Dr Valeri O'Hara PhD, Clinical Psychologist)
Dr. Hans Selye first coined the term stress as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change." In numerous experiments Selye noted that laboratory animals subject to acute but different noxious physical and emotional stimuli such as blaring lights, deafening noises, extremes of heat or cold, perpetual frustration, environmental stress; all exhibited the same pathologic changes of stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenals. Hans Selye later demonstrated that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop various diseases similar to those seen in humans, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Hans Selye discovered that the body’s overall response to stressors of all kinds is similar. This means that the body’s response to a loud noise, extreme cold, a bacterial infection, a toxic metal, or worry can all cause the same stress response.
Every change that occurs in our physiological state is accompanied by a change in the mental and emotional state (conscious and/or unconscious). Our thoughts and actions are accompanied by electrical activity in the nervous system. When we perceive a threat the hypothalamus in our brain, secretes a corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which signals the pituitary gland. CRF activates special pituitary hormone-secreting cells, causing them to release adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH) into the blood. The ACTH then makes its way to the adrenal glands, where it signals the "fight-flight adrenal hormones. These stress hormones coordinate the function of the body's organs, providing us with great physiologic power to fight or flee from the danger. This is known as the HPA-Cascade.
Once the adrenal alarm is activated, the stress hormones released into the blood restrict the blood vessels of the digestive tract as this is no longer a priority, forcing the energy of the blood to nourish the tissues of the arms and legs.
The HPA axis is a ON/OFF system which inhibits our growth-related functions. Without the nourishment of the blood in the organs, they cannot perform their function of sustaining life; digestion, absorption, and excretion. When we perceive a threat we activate a protection mechanism and also simultaneously shuts down our immune system. An Individuals perception of a psychological situation determines whether stress is experienced.
Activating the HPA also interferes with our ability to think clearly. Adrenal stress hormones constrict the blood vessels in the forebrain, the center of executive reasoning and logic reducing its ability to engage in conscious declarative actions. The blood flow is redirected to the hind-brain, the limbic system which processes information quicker, enhancing the life-sustaining reflexes to more effectively control fight-flight behaviour, at the expense of diminished conscious awareness and reduced intelligence.
What are some causes of Stress?
Stress may result from a large number of factors they can be typically categorized as Chemical, Physical, Emotional, Environmental, and Electromagnetic. Some examples of Causes for Stress include:
- Nutrient Deficiencies; Mineral imbalances, Vitamin/EFA deficiencies
- Emotional Issues (anxiety, depression, attention short span)
- Biological Terrain (Chronic infections, Heavy Metals)
- “Low Self-Concept” whether caused by bacterial, fungal or viral infections, poor nutrition, toxic chemicals, hormonal imbalances or other means, anger, hostility, feeling ashamed, feeling inferior or superior, is associated to stress.
- Medical Conditions, Diseases or Disorders (asthma, clinical depression, anxiety)”
- Overworking or irregular attendance at work.
- Psychological Conditions, Diseases or Disorders (impaired concentration, worry, irritability)
- Relationship Conflicts (family, partner)