What a rubbish question? This will be the first reaction of most of the people who will read it. With bombardment of information floating around on whatsapp, facebook, google about stress, its impact on health, the answer to this question looks obvious. I have this question for many years. How can there be such a thing which is only bad. With my limited understanding, I was not able to deal with it. I used to think, with such serious problems like stress and its abundance everywhere, how come most of the people are able to live their life fairly happily. If stress is so bad, there would be sea of people struggling with all sort of diseases and hospitals would not have been capable of providing services. Situation is not so grim. I am not saying that there is no problem but it is not so bad as it is made out to be. I read many books, I found two things common. Most of it deal with only bad effects of stress and they just scratch about how to deal with stress.
You would have noticed that I am writing this blog almost after 3 months. Why? Was I too busy? Absolutely not. I was stressed a lot. What kind of stress? Financially, I am doing OK. Work-wise, I am doing what I wanted to do. There is no work pressure. Relationship wise/ health-wise no issues. I am not saying everything is perfect and that can’t be. Then what? This could be because I was not having enough stress or pressure. This could be shocking because all the life we struggle to have stress free life and once we have it, it is filled with emptiness. This made me more curious about my question about positive effects of stress. I found some reality in a whatsapp message which said that if you are bored with your present job, then take a new home loan.
Finally, I got something interesting to suggest positive effects of stress. Before going into it, I will first discuss about stress in common sense, why it is considered bad, how it affects our health etc.Today, how to deal with stress? is one of the most common search on GOOGLE. Modern physicians say that around 80% of the diseases can be traced back to stress. Diseases ranging from common cold, acidity to diabetes, heart diseases can be linked to stress. It is all pervasive. It impacts child of 4 to 5 years as well as senior citizens. A child is stressed to attend “N” number of classes to the satisfaction of his mother, while a senior citizen is stressed due to reasons like health, loneliness etc. A working person is stressed to manage financial needs of the family, work needs of company he/she works for and or also
relationship needs at various levels. Working woman has additional stress to manage house apart from work needs. Everyone is stressed.
There are so many definitions of stress. Stress is a response to situation concerned with yourself. However, this response is accompanied with feeling of incapability, inability, deficiency, lacking or scarcity. I resonate more with this definition. You could be stressed with situation concerning yourself, your family, your colleagues, your state, your country or your world. Since stress is response, therefore it varies from person to person. It depends on the nature, i.e. genes that a person got from his parents as well as nurture, i.e. environment in which a person grew. Therefore, it is highly possible that response of individuals could vary to same situation. So, stress is negative response to a situation. A person may feel unable to complete work within stipulated time or not able to reach on time for important meeting due to traffic jams or unable to meet financial needs of the growing family requirements or unable to meet expectations of parents or family members. This is very common situation. But what is the problem.
It was in 1936, When Dr Hans Selye was working on some experiments on rats, he observed that rats were not getting sick because of what they were injected with but because of what they were experiencing. He found out that by subjecting rats to uncomfortable, painful experiences, within 48 hours rats lost muscle tone, developed digestive ulcers and entered immune system failure. This was beginning of science of stress. He dedicated rest of his career to spread word about stress. He is known as Father of Stress. Even before this, Walter Cannon had first described fight or flight response in 1915. He was interested in how fear and anger affected animals’ physiology. He observed that when threatened; sympathetic nervous system stimulates receptors in heart that make it beat faster and harder and cause coronary arteries to constrict. Secondly brain causes adrenal gland to secrete stress hormone adrenaline and cortisol. Basically, body prepares for action. As a result of signals from these hormones, a series of physiological reactions occur.
Muscles tightens to protect from body injury.
Metabolism speeds up, more sugar is pumped into system. It provides more strength, energy with which to fight or run.
Breathing rate increases, heart rate and amount of blood pumped increases
Our digestive system and other non- important functions slow or stop.
Arteries begin to constrict to avoid loss of blood in case of injury.
Our blood clots quickly.
These mechanisms have evolved over centuries to help us survive the danger. This response must have saved many lives. But this is helpful when stress is acute, urgent and very clear. Suppose your cycle is chased by a stray dog, this response is helpful to get out of the acutely stressful situations. Problem is that modern emotional stress is chronic. In a day, we have to face so many small problems that we are always in fight or flight mode. Our body is always in that zone. Being continuously in this phase has lot of health risks attached to it.
Continuous muscle constriction leads to tension and pain in neck, back and shoulders. Constriction of arteries, fast clotting of blood increases risk of cardiac problem, elevated level of blood sugar increases risk of diabetes and continuous stoppage of digestion system leads to all sorts of digestive disorders.
Now you will realize that being in continuous stress is very dangerous to health. New research is showing that increased level of cortisol is responsible to damage and kill cells in hippocampus (brain area responsible for memory) resulting into loss of memory. There is robust evidence to show that chronic stress causes premature aging of brain.
With such a material against stress, it is impossible not to get stressed by this word stress. Please log in to my next blog where I will deal with strategies to manage stress and see if it can be good for health.
What do you think about stress? Were you aware about health hazards of stress?Do send in your response.