One of the first scientists to study how the human body links stress and disease was Hans Seyle. Seyle developed a three-stage model to explain the relationship between stress and disease.
The three stages are:
- The alarm stage
- The resistance stage
- The exhastion stage
The alarm stage involves many physiologic responses including increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, increase in blood pressure & the release of stress hormones. These responses can result in changes in eating and sleeping patterns, headaches, and anxiety. The alarm stage seems to make people get sick more often, possibly due to a depressed immune system and possibly a lack of concentration, causing people to get into more accidents.
The resistance stage is the second stage. This happens when the body tries to oppose the stress. I suppose you could also call this the “coping” stage. This could be a positive time depending on the stressor. For instance, if you would take your vehicle into the garage fearing it would cost you a fortune, this would be distress. But after the repairs were done and it turned out to be very minor repairs, this would be a form of eustress but stress none the less.
God forbid if the stress continues, the third stage, is when the exhaustion stage kicks in. The body becomes very susceptible to disease because it seems to lose its ability to respond to any new stress at this stage. The body’s systems have been stretched to their limits in an attempt to handle stressors and are fatigued. These systems include the cardiorespiratory, endocrine, and the immune system. This means that prolonged stress can lead to heart and lung disease, increase systems of kidney disease or diabetes, prolonged cold or flu, or make you susceptible to every infectious disease that comes through the air.
Stress that lasts too long can negatively affect a person’s ability to learn, to make decisions, to interact with people, and to exercise. Distress that lasts too long is an overall bad thing, and the human body and mind aren’t meant to handle it. Current studies show that at least 15 to 20 percent on North American adults may be functioning below their potential due to prolonged distress.
Stress Management Guidelines:
- Look around. Look for strategies that can change a situation for you that can make you feel more relaxed. If a certain type of music can help you relax, have that music available to you during stressful situations. If you really enjoy speaking to a certain person, take 5 minutes to speak to that person when you’re having a “bad” day.
- Learn how to relax. Meditation and breathing exercises have proven successful in reducing stress.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Is this really worth getting a headache over.
- Set realistic goals.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. Make lists and honestly decide what you can and can’t accomplish in one hour, one day, one week, etc.
- Change the way you see things. Is the glass truly half empty? If it is, there must be a good reason why it is.
- Avoid extreme reactions. Yelling and screaming and turning three shades of purple puts on a good show for other people, but it only punishes your heart and nervous system.
- Get enough sleep. Try to get at least 6 to 8 hours of shuteye most nights.
- Work off stress by exercising. Just a half hour walk can do miracles.
- Avoid self-medication or substance abuse. The stressors will still be there when the substances wear off.
This is the second part of a series of blogs dealing with stress which unfortunately is a part of todays society.