One word comes to mind when we imagine modern society, work, streets, public transport, traffic jams ,This is the word “stress”. A constant companion of each of us. But do we know who he really is and what is causing us?
What is stress?
Stress is a complete neurophysiological reaction of the body to certain physical, mental, health and other stimuli. In general, the “idea” of stress is positive for the body; subjected to conditions that are considered extreme or at least problematic, the body mobilizes through stress and prepares to respond to possible problems. Stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress can be, for example, that of doing work with a pleasant result for the person who did it. Negative stress can be fear or paranoia. According to Celie’s classification, the positive is referred to as stress and the negative as distress.
Under the influence of external factors, the body tries to adapt to special conditions and this causes a reaction, which Cannon describes as an alarmist, and Hans Cellier calls it by its popular name today: a stress response. The stress response is the body’s normal response to a stress factor. Usually, the stress factor must be removed to normalize the condition of the body.
What happens to the body under stress?
Although we know a lot about the biochemistry and physiology of stress, the mechanism of its origin is still not completely clear. If there is too much muscle or neuropsychiatric activity, catecholamines , a group of hormones secreted by the adrenal gland, increase in the blood. They have a number of effects, such as an increase in blood, blood sugar levels, etc .. Immediately there is a response of the nervous system, which activates the sympathetic nervous system .
Moreover, the function of catecholamines is to activate the hypothalamus and its hormonal secretion, through which it is able to regulate body temperature, appetite, urinary system, blood sugar levels. Adrenal hormones serve as mediators, unlocking already created and accumulated hypothalamic hormones, through which glands such as the pituitary gland are affected. Probably a large part of the reaction of the nervous system is provoked by the hypothalamus, which has a pronounced neuroregulatory function. The hypothalamus has also been shown to be associated with sleep and alertness.
Modern science attributes some of the emotions to hypothalamic stimuli. For example, fear and anger can be induced artificially by stimulating the hypothalamus. It is these two feelings that are a common companion in stressful situations. By stimulating the hypothalamus, its connection with motivation has been proven experimentally, with the emergence of a certain desire to do something, although in this case the connection is more complex and dependent on other factors.
However, the relationship continues. The hypothalamus produces groups of hormones classified as releasing factors / hormones or liberins and statins. Liberins activate the secretion of pituitary hormones through the adenohypophysis, and statins block the same secretion. For example, somatoliberin and somatostatin release or block somatotropin secretion; corticoliberin, thyroliberin and gonadotropins activate the secretion of corticotropin , thyrotropin and gonadotropin, respectively.
Through the adenohypophysis, the hypothalamus can practically affect the adrenal glands – the stress-triggering factor, the gonads, the thyroid gland … Ie. of the whole endocrine system and hence of the whole organism. Do you find it complicated? In fact, this is a rather simplistic explanation of the body’s main axis of stress response: the so-called hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), which has the function of a motor of stress. The variable influences during stress change the actions of this “motor”, it is able to turn off completely or act for a long time.
Stress is a bad word for us. During stress we do not feel well, we are overwhelmed by negative emotions, we have all kinds of signs of unhealthy condition. Why is our stress then? Why did the body choose him in the fight against problems? Stress usually occurs as a result of emotions, poisoning, infection, fatigue. These are the causative factors that the body tries to deal with.
What we do not feel and are clearly aware of from stress is an extremely positive reaction for the body, associated with changes that cannot remain lasting. Adrenal hormones sharply enhance the immune response, especially phagocytosis – the ability of white blood cells to absorb and neutralize foreign bodies, both toxins and bacteria. Blood clotting increases – hence the consequences of possible injury. Increased blood flow and blood sugar create an energy reserve for the muscle cell. Enlarged bronchi improve the contact of blood with oxygen and from there deliver more oxygen to the cells. Increased concentration and excitability help us cope where our participation is required and reduce the feeling of pain. Emotions such as anger, motivation or fear unlock both a sense of self-preservation and purposefulness in action. Suppressed appetite and urinary system action eliminate side irritants. For a short time, our body becomes a “superorganism”, hoping to eliminate it.
How does the body react to stress?
Modern science accepts the stages of Cellier. He formulated a total of three main stress stages.
- Alarm stage, alarm reaction. This is the stage of unlocking stress in the body. The processes mentioned so far take place in it. It lasts from a few hours to two days, depending on the irritation. Here the body “allows” stress. The reaction leading to termination was delayed. The body’s resistance to stress at this stage is low.
- Stage of increased resistance – high blood pressure, body temperature, etc. cause the blocking of some hormones, and elevated blood sugar levels, for example, increase the secretion of insulin, which in turn inhibits many of the stress hormones. Gradually and in a controlled manner the body returns to its normal levels of functioning. This is the normal end of stress.
- The exhaustion phase – this stage occurs if the stress factor is constant, such as mental or if the body is unable to cope with the problem. This leads to a stage of “saturation” of the body as a result of a fruitless and very long stress response. The constant nervous stimulation, acting in a neurochemical way, weakens with each subsequent impulse, over time it costs a lot of effort to the body, and ceases to perform its functions effectively; persistently elevated hormone levels lead to receptor saturation and increased cell resistance. Without removing the stress factor, the body’s reactions subside, the immune system weakens. Some of the stress symptoms also disappear, but in general the condition is a disease, it can even be life-threatening. The body’s ability to react is minimized.
How to know him?
Stress has many symptoms, which can be divided into two groups. One is the visible symptoms, which are established through self-observation. Other symptoms are physiological, provable by examination or having secondary manifestations, such as high blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, etc. Visible symptoms of stress are:
Impaired appetite and digestion;
The physiological changes are even more and we will only mention some of them, including:
- Fluctuations in hormone levels;
- High blood pressure;
- Increased blood clotting;
- Elevated blood glucose;
- Rapid breathing;
- Exacerbated immune response.
When stress is persistent and leads to phases of exhaustion, ie. it already becomes uncontrollable, there is a frequent recurrence of infections or rapid capture of such in the stressed individual, weight loss, dizziness, allergic reactions, sweating also at night for no apparent reason, tremor and so on.
Diseases of stress
The phase of exhaustion, unfortunately, is not “satisfied” only with external signs and slight deviations in health, but also leads to some serious diseases. Diseases such as hypertension, ulcers, joint diseases, diabetes, Addison’s disease, Simmonds’ disease, etc. have a proven connection with stress. Many other diseases have a presumed but unproven connection with stress. Including some deadly ones. In fact, even a weakened immune response is a serious enough precondition for major problems.
Okay, but how do we protect ourselves? There are a number of therapies to relieve stress. Relaxation, SPA procedures, aromatherapy, acupuncture, psychotherapy, meditation and yoga, self-control and self-training, immune and healthy diet, exercise, entertainment, massage, cinema and television and many others are common. But there is hardly a more important therapy and prevention of stress than defining stressors and their timely elimination.
So, He is a familiar companion of each of us. Stress is a specific physiological response to problematic environmental factors. The body falls into an alarm state, aiming to overcome the stress. Thus, he improves his chances of success, but does not always succeed. In cases where it fails, it leads to fatigue and overload, reduced immune protection, disease, even death. To avoid this, you can help your body. Fight with your own body. Fight, but not against stress, but against the factors that cause it. Try to anticipate them or at least identify them in time. Only in this way will your fight be guaranteed success.
- Catecholamines – tyrosine derivatives, catabolic or stress hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine.  Sympathetic – sympathetic part of the nervous system, which increases heart rate, dilates the bronchi, suppresses the movement and secretion of the digestive system, blocks the urinary system, increases intraocular pressure, dilates the pupils and more.
- Sympathetic – sympathetic part of the nervous system, which increases heart rate, dilates the bronchi, suppresses the movement and secretion of the digestive system, blocks the urinary system, increases intraocular pressure, dilates the pupils and more.
- Hypothalamus – literally a hill; higher center of the autonomic nervous system, which also has excretory functions (ie it also functions as an endocrine gland). It is located at the base of the cerebellum.
- Some sources consider the hypothalamus to be the leading one. Due to stress, it is believed that it, as a vegetative nerve center, reacts first and releases corticotropin and from there activates the adrenal gland and the cycle described here. However, this is not entirely certain, especially since corticotropin activates a separate group of hormones in the adrenal gland known as glucocorticoids. In addition, it has been proven that stress is more of a hormonal, chemical than a nervous reaction, because it also occurs in organisms without a nervous system.
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