"I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
"Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and be vibrantly alive in repose."
Half of all adults in the U.S. suffer adverse health effects from stress.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, over Two-thirds of all office visits to family physicians are due to stress-related symptoms.
So what is stress exactly?
Stress is a failed physiological response to a threat, whether imagined or real.
Symptoms of stress include irritability, muscle tension, rapid heart beat, muscle tension, agitation, and inability to relax and concentrate. It also includes a high state of arousal and adrenaline production.
Acute stressors affect a person, or animal, in the short term. However, if these stressors persist they become chronic and may lead to a condition known as: General Adaptation Syndrome
Over time, chronic stressors push the body into three different stages:
During this stage, the body's response to a threat is a state of alarm. This is the stage where the body will produce adrenaline to bring out the "fight" or "flight" response.
There is also some activation of the HPA axis, producing cortisol.
If the threat continues, the body adapts to the strains or demands of the stressor. However, the body cannot keep doing this indefinitely. Overtime, the organism weakens and its resources are gradually depleted.
This is the final stage. If extended, long term damage can result. People who are in the last stage develop illnesses digestive problems such as ulcers and colitis. The health problems might extend to the cardiovascular system and the mind.
The body is at its lowest and cannot continue fighting back. Its as if the body's defensive system turns on itself for resources. If stage three is extended, long term damage may result as the capacity of glands, especially the adrenal gland, and the immune system is exhausted and function is impaired resulting in decompensation. The result can manifest itself in obvious illnesses such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, trouble with the digestive system or even cardiovascular problems, along with other mental illnesses.
Examples of common stressors:
Sensory such as pain or a reaction to a light.
They can also be environmental such as housing or finances or difficulty in relating to others. This last one can include relationship conflicts, divorce or the loss of a job.
However, stressors can also be positive in nature such as major events like marriage, birth, or a job promotion.
Poverty is a major source of stress, and the poor are more likely to suffer from major depression, alcoholism/drug abuse, and mental illnesses than the middle class.
When the stress response is self-induced:
Over-thinking and rumination create internal stressors that affect feelings and the way the body reacts to stress . Examples of internal stressors include:
Maybe it was an event that happened many years ago, or maybe something someone said in the last meeting that was offensive. These incidents can trigger over-thinking; which is in a way like re-playing the same part of a movie over and over again. These thoughts lead to anger and set the "fight" or "flight" reaction.
Such as the fear of underperforming at work, or the fear of speaking in public. Fears can create enormous anxiety, that if left untreated, can lead to panic attacs over a period of time.
These can include attitudes that you learned growing up, career expectations, or religious beliefs.
You may not even think too much about how they shape your experience, but quite often they set us up for stress. Remember that feeling when there is a deadline you have to meet, or a final test you have to pass?
Stress is a loyal follower to your thoughts. If the thoughts are negative, your body will react to these thoughts as threats. If they are positive, but they come with excessive expectations, your body will react to them as if you were ready to run the 100 metres race.
The key to keep stress under control is to keep good control of your thoughts.
Some useful strategies to control stress include:
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2004
Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD, editors. "Psychiatry in Medicine." Section 15, Chapter 1 85 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.
Cosen-Binker, L. I., M. G. Binker, G. Negri, and O. Tiscornia. "Influence of Stress in Acute Pancreatitis and Correlation with Stress-Induced Gastric Ulcer." Pancreatology 4, 2004: 470-484
McQuillan, D. General Adaptation Syndrome. Retrieved September 10, 2010 from General Adaptation Syndrome
Updated: May 5, 2012
Article created: September 10, 2010