The Notion of Stress
The notion and definition of stress has been deeply researched by scientists and health care workers for years, especially in these latter days when life is getting faster and busier. Stress is around us, everywhere. For example, Australian scientists found that stress made human sick and that it was no longer a myth. According to Fabienne Mackay (2005), "During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it inhibits the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens in the body". But more often than expected this concept is perceived as something negative and depressing. However, the researchers add also positive evaluation to it.
The definition of stress can be determined as a feedback of human body on action of external factors, any difficult or threatening situation. Experiencing stress, human body produces hormone adrenaline which starts looking for way out. Stress has become a significant part of one’s life and it is really needed in a certain amount. Our life would be boring if we didn’t experience the elements of stress like risk or desire to work as hard as possible. Sometimes stress means a challenge or a motivation needed to perform something. That is why severe stress weakens the body. It makes the organism loose power and the ability to deal with problems. A number of scientific papers are devoted to the issue of negative influence of stress. For example, Almeida Osborne (2011) from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry explains, "Our findings show that stress hormones and stress can cause changes in the tau protein like those that arise in Alzheimer's disease". The mechanisms of stress are researched in detail and are quite complex: they are related to our endocrine, nervous and circulatory systems. It was observed that severe stress affects our health. Stress lowers the immune system and causes many diseases (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, etc.). It is therefore necessary to be able to resist stress and to tune in to a positive attitude. Experiencing the state of stress a person is able to overcome external threats. Brain is forced to work more intensively, making body ready for actions. But at the same time, anxiety and stress can start to suppress a man influencing his daily life and result in so-called stress or anxiety disorders. They may include panic, fear of loss of a job, specific fears, posttraumatic stress, other disorders and general anxiety; these types of disorders usually appear at the age of 15 to 20 and may even become chronic and impossible to deal with without an appropriate treatment. However, the effective methods of therapy are already developed and this does not pose a serious risk.
Causes of Stress
In fact, everything that touches and irritates a person may cause stress. Scientists have proved the existence of internal and external causes. The first group contains such ones as moving to a new place, new job, the death of a beloved one or divorce, everyday troubles related to money, fulfillment of obligations by a certain date, argues, family relationships, insomnia, etc. The internal sources of stress consist of the values of life, faithfulness, personal beliefs, self-esteem etc. Stress and depression may be susceptible to both women and men equally. However, each body has its own characteristics. If one starts to experience stress, the first necessary thing is to explore its causes. Obviously, it is much easier to overcome the causes than the consequences of stress.
Clinical observations have shown that minor stress is not harmful to the body, and even useful. They encourage people to find a way out of the current predicament. But one should not to allow the depression to get more severe i.e. a person must engage in self-education and develop the willpower. Many people are used to cope with stress by using anti-depressants, drugs and alcohol. It seems to be easy and fast but only from the first sight. Many people do not think that they may become dependent and no longer be able to get rid of stress without help of professionals.
As it turns out, the causes of stress may be associated not only with serious loads, unpleasant events, news and other things. Recently, the researchers have found that in addition to well-known circumstances, there are also “hidden” ones, i.e. stress can be caused by events or situations not absolutely associated with it.
Scientists believe that the first cause of stress is so-called “alone in a crowd,” a condition, which is usually experienced by the residents of big cities. They often even do not know the names of their neighbors. In addition, many of these people almost always do not have close friends, or meet them seldom. In the same way these “prisoners” of large cities live in the so-called "given" route day by day. They have no one to share the sorrows and joys, and even no one to talk with. Such circumstances lead to a sense of spiritual loneliness, worthlessness of own existence and finally to stress.
The second cause of stress is called by the researchers as a “virtual reality", which refers to the presence of Internet. At least about 60% of modern people who live in developed countries devote their time to a monitor and a keyboard. However, it is proved that the attempt to escape from the real world into the virtual one and the need to create a certain image and reputation in the World Wide Web require a lot of mental stress. Moreover, some people are trying to make their "virtual" life better or at least in some ways more successful than it is a reality. As a result, one is forced to lie and after that to support and follow this lie. Such a fact finally leads to loosing spiritual balance and peace.
The rivalries within the family are considered by the researchers as the third reason of stress. According to the recent studies, it was found that in 4 cases out of 10 the rivalry has a very negative impact on the psyche of children and then accompanies their entire adult life, leading to stress, depression, neurosis, etc.
The researchers recommend spending less time at the computer, leading more active social life, active communicating, regular exercising and having a rest to neutralize these causes of stress.
Symptoms of Stress
To understand the meaning of stress from a practical point of view the major symptoms of stress should be considered:
- Constant feeling of irritability, depression without any evident reason.
- Poor, restless sleep.
- Depression, physical weakness, headache, fatigue, unwillingness to do anything.
- Bad concentration of attention, obstructing study or work; problems with memory and slowed process of thinking.
- Inability to relax, recline and put aside all the affairs and problems.
- Lack of interest to the people around.
- Sadness, tearfulness, depression, pessimism, self-pity, etc.
- Loss of appetite or excessive absorption of food.
- Often tics and obsessive-compulsive habits: biting lips, chewing nails, restlessness, distrust of everyone.
If one is under stress, it means one thing: his body has reacted to an external stimulus. Symptoms may appear suddenly or gradually increase within several minutes. Panic attacks can last longer. They come in the form of emotional explosions, mostly with a feeling of horror and reactions of the body such as increased heart rate and sweating. In general, anxiety disorders are usually not a direct consequence of a particular irrational fear (phobia) but develop gradually. Stress and anxiety can lead to panic attacks. They are characterized by discomfort or pain in the chest, heart palpitations, short, shallow breathing, breathlessness, fever etc.
I absolutely agree that a role of stress in everyone’s life must not be underestimated. But strength, determination and the ability of concentration will help to step forward and overcome this disorder. Otherwise, when one understands that he or she cannot cope with stress the help of professionals is needed. Being aware of causes and symptoms of stress may contribute to better understanding of how to cope with it. When one gets up early in the morning, he must be prepared for the probable stress situations during the day, but he should try to overcome them or even prevent. Making strong decision and following it will grant success, joy, self-satisfaction, confidence, willingness to overcome difficulties, as it gives an additional life experience.
All the information presented above proves that no one can avoid stress. However, the researches confirm the existence of both negative and positive effects of stress. On one hand, it makes one stronger and forces to make progress, overcome new challenges at work, studying, and improve relationships. On the other hand, if we let stress reign in our mind, it will lead us to depression, misbalance and frustration. There are several symptoms of stress, which can be easily determined. The next step is to explore the causes, which may be external and internal.
The problem and notion of stress is open yet. The Internet forums are full of questions put by youth who are acquainted with this issue. “What stress management techniques have worked for you?” or “Symptoms of stress can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your physical symptoms?” are only a few of them (Conrad, 2011). Thanks to psychological institutes and the researchers, which are involved in study of this problem, people become more aware of it and more secured.