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Stress II 28 - 08 - 2003

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Stress II Hi everyone, How was your week? I hope that it was not too challenging, especially weather wise. Today we are looking at the effects of stress. Here goes…. We already know how stress affects us personally. Perhaps it makes us feel tired, fatigued, nervous, or depressed.. Stress makes us feel as if the weight of the world was on our shoulders. Emotionally, stress may make us prone to anger, irritability, or even tears. No matter how you personally react to stress, however, the physiological effects of stress are the same for all living creatures. What happens to our body when we experience stress? Here are the physiological responses by the body to physical stress: 1. An increase in arterial pressure. 2. An increased blood flow to the muscles with a decreased blood flow to the organs. 3. An increased rate of cellular metabolism throughout the body 4. An increase in blood glucose 5. An increase in glycolysis in the muscles 6. Increased muscular strength 7. Increased mental activity. The overall effect of these responses is to let you perform far more strenuous physical activity than would otherwise be possible. Why is this? Because if a stressful, or threatening situation is present, then we would probably need to flee from it or fight it. This is called the fight or light reaction because an animal in a physically stressful state decides almost instantly to stand and fight or to turn and run. Here’s an example of how extreme physical stress can activate the energy reserves of the body: In the national newspaper there was an account of a 71-year old grandmother who had been on crutches continuously for the last two years. A fire broke out in her neighbours house and she heard the cries of a trapped child inside. Immediately she ran into the house and carried the child a full block to freedom before she realised she had thrown the crutches aside. She then collapsed and had to be removed by ambulance. During a time of great crisis, or stress, her body responded so vigorously that she forgot she was an invalid. So far, stress doesn’t seem to have that destructive an effect, and it doesn’t – if it is short-term, physical stress. When stress becomes prolonged and internalised, however, it has decidedly negative results upon the person’s health. It is amazing that almost any type of stress can cause the same reaction in the body. Scientists often refer to two kinds of stress: physical and neurogenic. An example of physical stress is being exposed to extreme cold. An example of neurogenic stress is the worry that you won’t be able to pay your bills. A vital body can quickly adapt to physical stress. Neurogenic stress, worry, or tension, however, may take their toll. Regardless if the stress is in the body or in the mind, the same physiological reaction takes place in the body. The most noticeable effect of any type of stress is a marked increase in hormone secretion in the body. The adrenal gland is right above the kidneys, and control many functions. Perhaps you’ve heard of athletes or other people speak of the “adrenalin rush” Adrenalin is the most powerful stimulant known. Stress causes adrenalin to be released, and we consequently feel “stimulated” If we are constantly over stimulated by stress, we become burnt-out and incapable of responding to true stress situations. When some people drive in heavy traffic or experience other intensely stressful situations, their adrenal glands may actually “ache” or hurt from the constant stimulation being received.. An older gentleman who complained of lower backaches while commuting in rush-hour traffic believed he had kidney problems. In reality, his adrenal glands were just being overworked by the stress of commuter traffic. This is the danger in the stress reaction. You can be under stress or over-stimulated almost continuously. No one can run on “high” speed all the time, and the body eventually suffers. The type of stress that can provoke this adrenal reaction is widely varied. Researchers have discovered, however, that the following situations are sufficiently “stressful” to spark high body stimulation: 1. Intense heat or cold 2. Injections of any sort 3. Surgical operations 4. trauma of any type (physical or emotional) 5. Pain 6. Any debilitating body crisis 7. Emotional outbursts or anxiety attacks. It seems as if stress is all around us, and its sustained effects can wear us down and make us vulnerable to negative thoughts and poor living habits. But there is hope and next week we will analyse the Life Science stress management program. Yours in wellness, Elise

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