Uncovering the Stages of the Stress Response
Stress has always had a negative connotation, yet stress does not always have to be bad. “Stress” by definition is something that demands our attention and response. The response is we have personally to stress has a lot to do with the type, duration and intensity of stress we are experiencing, our personality and where we personally sit within the stages of the stress response.
The Difference between Good Stress and Bad Stress
Good Stress (Ordinary Stress)
So long as a person is equipped with the ability to plan, organise and set structures in place, everyday stress such as a regular deadline or a project that challenges us, won’t require much stimulus for a response. Goals should be set that are realistic.
Timelines should be obtainable, leaving room for the unknown. It is key for those who have trouble with executive functioning to practice these skills to minimise stress and anxiety. One must realise the need for exercise, rest and recovery and of consuming a nutritionally balanced diet. In doing so, future stress can be buffered a lot more readily. This is an example of stress management.
Symptoms of Bad Stress / Physical Effects
- Heart Problems
- Bowel Conditions
- Muscular pain
- Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
- Stomach Ulcers
- Blurred Vision and Eye Problems
- Mental Illness
- Cognitive and Memory Loss
- Increased risk of Alzheimers Disease
What are Stress Response hormones ?
Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone “ and it has been shown to shrink and cease the generation of new neurons
in the brain. (Stress Response)
The Self Regulatory Processes in ones Stress Response
How we react to stress is very personal. Stressful encounters lead to a variety of coping mechanisms. Stress management strategies give us the tools to improve our reactivity and survival of stress that is chronic.
There are two known self-regulatory processes in stress management
1) Direct Action.
Direct action is that which is designed to modify a relationship that is causing stress or an environment.
2) Palliative Activities
- a) Intrapsychic processes, ie) denial, detachment and diverting attention
- b) somatic-oriented devices, ie) relaxation training, biofeedback methodologies
Does your Personality Type determine your Stress Response?
- The Type B Personality does not react with high sensitivity to stress. Instead, stress is relatively trivial, and in normal
circumstances, they can appropriately respond to the daily pressures in life without getting too rattled.
- The Type A Personality are known for being wound much more tightly. These types are the highly motivated “go-getters” that are quick to lose patience and are often seen as “stress heads” in need of a break. The type A personality types are those that often are driven by their experience of stress and anxiety. It keeps the adrenaline pumping. People with this personality type should keep a close watch that their stress has not transitioned into something chronic and harmful to the body. Chronic stress affects the body all over, and over time makes everything that much harder to accomplish in life. Be wary.
What are the Stages of the Stress Response System?
“The Alarm” – 1st Stage of Stress Response
The alarm indicates the first stage of stress. It refers to the stress alarm signalled by the brain. This alarm alerts the sympathetic nervous system using the hormone release from epinephrine.
The Effects of Stress in the 1st Stage of the Stress Response
- Pupils dilate
- Saliva dries up
- Muscular Tension
- Increased Heart Rate
- Shut down of the Digestive system
- Increased Breathing Rate
- Stored Sugar is Pumped into the bloodstream by the Liver to fuel activity.
- Stimulation of the adrenal glands results in the production of increased adrenaline.
- Blood is diverted to the brain and muscles for adequate supply.
“Adaptation” – 2nd Stage of Stress Response
The events that take place in the body when it is in the alarm stage are designed to prepare us physically if there is a danger or threat we must meet and deal with. Fight or flight is just that response whereby you either fight the threat as a means for protection or you flee.
Regardless of which reaction is chosen, the body must have resources to access for self-preservation. This “Fight or Flight” response is not appropriate for most stress experienced, however, many people who are stuck in the adaptation stage are using the fight or flight response constantly. The stress and anxiety they experience is never dealt with healthily and over time this causes physical illness.
How long a person can withstand these heightened emotions and physical symptoms before reaching the final stage of “Exhaustion” depends on their coping skills. One needs to develop resilience and implement strategies that effectively manage their stress levels.
“Exhaustion” – The Final Stage of Stress Response
The final stage of the stress response is where an individual experiences complete and utter exhaustion. Priority must be made in setting boundaries and implementing coping skills before illness and disease take over. At the “exhaustion” stage the body shuts down to preserve energy. Fatigue is a red alert.
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