Is it possible to understand stress?

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Stress is considered to be an integral part of human life. The truth is that we cannot totally eliminate it from our vision of everyday life. Frankly speaking, would life without stress be interesting? Not necessarily. Stress is not always destructive to

Stress is considered to be an integral part of human life. The truth is that we cannot totally eliminate it from our vision of everyday life. Frankly speaking, would life without stress be interesting? Not necessarily. Stress is not always destructive to us. Some stressors prove to be a powerful motivating force. It has to be stated that we can talk about a positive kind of stress, and this is the kind of state we should pursue.

The problem we discuss in this article is the need to understand stress. Can we understand the nature of stress at all? Researchers and scientists who specialize in the field of human psyche claim that we need a lot of time and effort in order to understand the stress that we encounter every day at work and in our private lives. As we can expect, this is not an easy task. The first important thing is to thoroughly examine the nature of stress, the issues related to this feeling, and how it can positively and negatively influence humans.

Responses to stress

As it is impossible to find two people of the same character, it is difficult to find a pair of people who react to stress in the same way. Therefore, stress responses are something very individual. It takes much time to indentify and understand them. These reactions are not involuntary; they are not of the same kind as, e.g., a knee’s reaction when it is hit in the appropriate part. It all depends on the current state of our organism and the conditions surrounding us. The same stressor will cause a different response in our private life and a different one at work.

First of all, we have to describe how it happens that people react to external stimuli. Initially, changes are recognized within our nervous system. Later on, they are passed on to other systems, like the circulatory or the endocrine system, via a net of thin nerves. This is how the whole mechanism of events is triggered. The sources of the so called biochemical energy are stimulated. This energy is responsible for how our organs, mainly lungs, heart, and muscles, react. At the same time, we notice our accelerated breathing, faster heart rate, and muscle tension. This is a simple and natural defensive response of our body to an unknown, and possibly unpleasant, stimulus.

Our body immediately prepares itself to act in some way, without our will. This is how stressors influence the various systems of human body. In brief, it all comes down to a swift defensive response that motivates the body to act.

Scientists discovered that such response of the human body to stress has always been a quality of our species. In times long passed, this was the way in which our body prepared itself to fight or to flee, so generally, to increased activity that later on lead to a time of relaxation and rest. Therefore, we might say that our responses to stress are based on instinct. Instinct is a key word in understanding stress and its nature.

Some things remain the same across hundreds of years, regardless of technological advancements, our personal mental progress, or the changes that affect our living conditions. This is true of our reactions to stress. Though, with the course of time, we silence our animal instincts, some of them are too deeply rooted to be eliminated totally. It would be unjustified for them to vanish anyway. If stress still remains a part of our lives, why should other instincts disappear?

Every one of our body mechanisms, including the nervous system, reacts to stress in the same way as it did in prehistoric times. Unfortunately, this is the main reason why we have problems in stressful situations today. Nowadays, the nature of stress underwent a significant change; the feeling is of a different character. This is why we should also change our way of reacting to stress.

Understanding the stress we experience nowadays

Nowadays, stress is not usually something tangible; we do not have to run away from it or fight with it, in the literal way. It is not caused by predators’ or rivaling tribe’s attacks. In this respect, the world seems to be pretty much free from dangers. However, we cannot exclude the possibility of armed conflicts with hostile countries, murder, or wild animals’ attacks. Nevertheless, such situations appear far less often today than in the past.

If our basic needs, including the need of security, are fulfilled, why do we still get stressed? It can prove to be surprising for some people, but the truth is that, today, we create stress ourselves. It is not of the same scale as it used to be in the past, yet we react to it as if it was a threat to our lives. What is this all about? Such questions might appear in the minds of many who read this article. We have a tendency to imagine our problems to be far bigger than they really are. Therefore, we treat our contemporary problems at least as seriously as mammoth attacks, though the reason for our stress is often petty compared to that. Looking back, in an objective way, at a situation which was the cause of stress at some point in time in the past, sometimes even those who were touched by this feeling in that particular situation say that they overreacted and that there was no need for so much stress. If those people had come to such a conclusion before they got stressed, they would have done their health a great service. Well, the knowledge about stress will help us control it, or rather, it will help us control our responses to it.

The sources of stress

Nowadays, the sources of stress are not related to existential matters, such as the lack of food or water, but to much simpler problems. Generally speaking, they are related to work or some job situation. One of the biggest stressors, according to statistics, is the fear of losing a job. Unemployment is spreading, and the crisis did not improve the situation of employees. Unfortunately, everyone has to be extremely careful not to fail at work. Mistakes, which are made even by the most efficient of workers, are the reason for large amounts of stress. Many people cannot afford to lose their job because that would lead to serious repercussions. The loss of a job results in many negative situations which lead to justified stress. Once unemployed, a person loses not only the means to earn money, but also an everyday activity that might have been the source of his or her satisfaction and the aim of life. Once an individual is deprived of a job, he or she cannot cope with life and feels an increasing amount of stress as days pass. Unfortunately, if the search for work lasts for an extended period of time, the level of frustration rises proportionately.

The amount of adrenaline within our veins increases when there is a chance that we will be late for work. We cannot do anything right, we cannot focus, and, in consequence, it takes twice as much time to complete any activity. In such moments, we have to become aware that we are paralyzed by stress, and we have to believe that if we settle down, we will be able to function relatively well. In consequence, we will not be extremely late for work.

Humans have to adjust to the dynamically changing world and to the progress of civilization and technology. We have to be flexible enough not to lag behind all those changes. If we do not manage, we experience stress. Nowadays, the inability to adjust to new situations can also be a source of stress. The lack of stability, of having a solid base that never changes is also a source of stress. If we do not find something stable in life, some kind of aim to pursue constantly, we will increasingly indulge in stress. We should not allow such a situation to happen.

The worst thing is that a simple man living in the contemporary world has little influence on anything that happens, and this fact causes justified frustration. If he is unable to change anything, he fells stressed once again. The level of this kind of stress depends on the individual qualities of a person.

What consequences are caused by stress?

The awareness of the consequences of constant stress also proves to be useful in the analysis of its nature. Moreover, this awareness helps further understand this peculiar phenomenon that touches every one of us and is ever-present in the surrounding world.

It has to be stated that the bigger the intensity of the stressor, the larger the amount of stress we feel and the bigger the impact it has on our physical and mental health. Depending on the kind of situation we face, the level of stress can be different. It is assumed that the biggest amount of stress is related to the death of one’s partner. This situation has been given the stress value of 100. What is interesting, a situation in which we are at conflict with our superior has been assigned the value of 23, which is also quite high.

We have to distinguish between the results of stress that we experience in private life and the ones that have their roots in our professional life. It has to be stressed that, no matter the source, stress accumulates, increases the pressure we feel, and amplifies our bad mood. If we are stressed due to several factors, we face serious consequences, e.g., serious illnesses and depressions. The higher the cumulative level of stress, the higher the probability of becoming seriously ill.

The so called chronic stress, so the constant feeling of stress, is the most dangerous state. Under such conditions, human body is in a constant readiness to act and fight. Such state cannot persist forever because our strength has to wear out some time. We become adapted to stress.

Once we understand what stress is, we are able to find the best means of coping with it. Thanks to the choice of appropriate methods of stress reduction, it gradually becomes smaller, and eventually turns out to be not much of a problem. We have to strive to make stress influence us only in a positive way. It should mobilize us to work more effectively, but only for a limited period of time. The chronic state of readiness that is caused by stress leads to serious illnesses, mainly heart problems and those related to the circulatory system of the human body.
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