The Stages of Stress

Stages of StressThe stages of stress occur when environmental changes in daily living cause your central nervous system to adapt. There are negative or positive events in life that are stressors including divorce, a new baby, death, marriage or a new house. These changes in your life require you to adapt. When the demands, challenges and pressures in life exceed your abilities to cope, the result is stress. The manifestation of stress includes symptoms that are behavioral, emotional or physical. Indeed, while a bit of stress might help motivate us, too much can have serious emotional, mental and physical consequences.

Many different symptoms can come from chronic stress when this is left untreated. These include a weak immune system, high blood pressure, insomnia, muscle pain, panic attacks and anxiety. When you live with stress year after year without really paying attention to the severity of the situation, this may cause obesity, depression and heart disease. The moment you are aware of how severe a situation of prolonged stress is, you can begin to learn how to reduce and manage stress correctly. Knowing all you can about the stages of stress may help you truly understand the role that stress plays in your life.

Here is a course that may help you take control of your stress through techniques such as mindfulness.

Most people are affected by some sort of stress. Short term or sudden stress can lead to rapid bodily changes. Almost all the systems of the body including your brain, sensory organs, digestive system, lungs, immune system, blood vessels and the heart great up to meet the danger perceived. In a life-or-death, critical situation, these responses to stress can prove to be beneficial. However, over time repeated situations of stress strain your physical body and may be a contributing factor to psychological or physical problems. Long terms or chronic stress should be addressed the same way as other health issues as these can also have real consequences to health. Fortunately, people can help manage their stress through techniques of stress-reduction and making lifestyle changes. Here is one course about stress management that gives you basic tips about how you could actually use stress as a source of motivation. This course is especially useful for when you feel like you have gotten stuck in a rut and want to ‘get out.’

Strategies that help in stress reduction include cognitive programs for behavior therapy, exercising, yoga and meditation. Here is a course we love about how to stop stress eating that you might find useful, especially if you find yourself overeating during stressful situations.

Remember, you can only laugh or smile in the midst of a stressful circumstance for so long. This may relieve the tension, but does not really cut to the chase or tackle the issue at the root. If you feel that you could use a lot less stress in your life, finding out all  you can about what it is and what you can do about it is a good starting place.

First Stage: Recognizing the Demands of the Environment

Even environmental demand from the ringing telephone to the weather has some kind of impact on people. Some are predictable events, such as the mortgage or the rent payments due on the second week of each month. Another event you can predict includes knowing ahead of time that you will be expected to make conversation when you attend a social event. Other events are not as predictable, such as when you spill coffee on your new pants or when the baby wakes up sick or when you get cut off in traffic by another driver. Regardless of whether events can be predicted or not, you have recognized a demand the moment you start becoming aware of an event that is occurring.

Second Stage: Demand Appraisal

The moment you understand that an event has taken place does not automatically mean that stress is being experience. Demand appraisal is usually a lightning fast and largely unconscious occurrence. The way you automatically appraise a situation will determine how much stress you will experience. Partially, the process of appraisal is responsible for an event causing negative stress to one individual but not to another person.

Two questions help people appraise demands. These questions are:

  • Are these events threatening to me?
  • Do I possess the resources of coping with these events?

Once you feel that events threaten your safety, or come to believe that you do not possess the means to respond effectively to the events, stress is the subsequent feeling. As a matter of fact you might love this course if you are feeling like you have too many tiny tasks taking up your time and feel overwhelmed, as it helps you gain control of your stress by focusing on yourself.

Third Stage: Nervous System Mobilization

You will need to know a bit about how the human nervous system functions in order to understand what occurs at this stage. All the automatic body functions are controlled by the automatic nervous system of ANS. These include your digestion, rate of breathing, body temperature and heartbeat. The ANS regulates all these functions.

Once you perceive something to be a threat, one ANS branch called the sympathetic nervous system signals your body automatically for actions. In this phase of mobilization, the sympathetic nervous system prepares for two biologically-driven, primary and useful methods of reacting to a bodily threat.  Fighting or fleeing occurs when the brain’s ‘circuit of stress’ called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis gets triggered.

This axis has to do with a set of complex interactions between the nervous system and multiple parts of the brain, including the adrenal glands, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Also controlled by this system is the way your body reacts to stress. It also handles other important functions like the body’s overall usage of energy, sexual behavior, mood, the immune system and regulating digestion.

Corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH is also released by the hypothalamus as a response to a stressor. CRH in turn acts on the pituitary, which triggers the release of adrenocorticotropin or ACTH, another hormone, into the blood stream.

The next thing that happens is that the adrenal glands found on top of the kidneys are triggered by ACTH to release adrenalin, also known as epinephrine, cortisone, norepinephrine and cortisol. The brain and nervous system are served by norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are chemical messengers or neurotransmitters. Keep in mind that chemical messengers called hormones work within the blood stream rather than the brain.

Under stress, once cortisol is released this increases the body’s energy amount immediately. Within the brain, cortisol also increases the glucose level, which helps in quacking your process of thinking and sharpening your attention. This is not unlike what happens when you step on your car’s gas pedal to cause your car to go faster. As cortisol gets your body going, it also shuts down systems in the body that are not really the priority for handling perceived threats such as growth, reproduction and digestion. Generally, cortisol’s mobilizing effect is temporary since it tells your brain’s hypothalamus to gradually slow down CRH production. In this third stage of stress, elevated norepinephrine and epinephrine levels boost your level of energy, speed up your time to react, elevate your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. While epinephrine and cortisol exert their effects, both the brain and the pituitary gland also release enkephalins and endorphins into the blood which gives you an enhance sense of well-being and help in relieving pain.

Fourth Stage: Responding to Threats

Once various neurotransmitters and hormones prepare your body for action, you are ready to respond to stress by taking action physically. The 2 most usual types of response that your body tends to take is called the ‘fight or flight response by psychologists. When you fight, you tend to neutralize or influence the stress source by attacking it. On the other hand, to reduce stress, you might also flee by escaping from the stress-causing location to leave the fighting for next time.

Other than the classic options of fight or flight, a third possibility of response is often added by psychologists who conduct stress research. At times, instead of just fleeing or fighting, people instead ‘freeze.’ When this happens in sports events, this is called the ‘choking’ response.

The response of fighting or fleeing is fast and automatic. To your ancestors, this was helpful as it provided automatic responses to a threat when logical thinking about how to handle a situation was out of the question. For instance, in the situation of when a herd of buffalo comes charging towards you, spending a bit of time debating the options you have for handling the situation could be fatal. When faced with an intense physical stress such as this, the most sense for survival would be to either fight or flee.

It is when you respond to physical threats that the fight or flight response is optimized. With the intangible threats that are usual in today’s world, this response is not very useful.  In other words, punching your workmate in the face is never appropriate no matter how many times you catch him taking credit for your work. You won’t get help either if you flee from your place of work, as you still need a pay check. Does this sound like something you go through as well? If so check out this course that tells you how to effectively master your stress in twenty-one days.

Fifth Stage: Returning to the Baseline

Once a source of stress has been successfully avoided or neutralized, the other branch of the Automatic Nervous System called the parasympathetic nervous system begins to undo the response to stress through sending out new body signals for calming down. The parasympathetic nervous system slows down your breathing or your heartbeat, gets your digestive juices flowing once more and causes your muscles to relax. The parasympathetic system is designed for energy storage, promoting growth and other processes for surviving in the long term.

If you enjoyed reading this and find that a lot of the information applies to your own life, you may want to go through this course about changing the way you manage stress dramatically. This way, you can begin enjoying life and work with ease.