What is Stress is considered the mechanism
What is Stress is considered the mechanism that is set in motion when a person is involved in an excess of situations that exceed their resources. Therefore, they are overwhelmed in trying to meet the demands that are placed on them to overcome them. In these cases, the individual experiences an overload that can influence physical, psychological, and personal well-being.
The causes that can cause stress are many, but stress does not have to be bad, there is also positive stress. In these circumstances, stress acts as a general process of adaptation of individuals to the environment. For example, stress can appear when someone is cold tensing their muscles to produce heat, when there is an effort to digest or when someone sleeps less to study.
Stress is essential for life . It made perfect sense thousands of years ago when the human being was dedicated to hunting and it alerted him to danger. Now adversities are very different and everyday or work situations lead us to activate that stress mechanism without the need for our lives to be in danger. According to Víctor Pérez Solá, director of the Mental Health Service of the Hospital del Mar, in Barcelona, and a researcher at Cibersam, “It is not intrinsically bad. If, for example, a person has to take an exam and does not have that level of alertness or stress, his performance will drop. At the other extreme, if the level of stress and alertness is higher than is tolerated, the person will lock out.” So, a little “healthy” stress allows the person to perform better and be more decisive.
Therefore, stress serves as a stimulus against important situations for the affected person, such as the loss of a loved one, economic bankruptcy or facing a wedding. It can also serve as a response mechanism, according to the Spanish Society for the Study of Stress and Anxiety (SEAS), stress manifests itself in the first phase of activation or preparation of the person in the face of this stimulus; then there is a period of maintenance of the state of high activity and, finally, when the situation has been overcome, there is a phase of exhaustion in which the high activity falls sharply.
To adapt to the demands or needs, we activate the stress process that allows us to adapt and manifests itself with reactions such as speeding up our thinking, employing more energetic behavior, and increasing our efficiency to successfully overcome certain situations. Throughout the day we can experience stress without negative consequences, it can also help increase self-esteem by increasing performance and overcoming the challenges and goals set.
However, it starts to be detrimental when the energy or resources spent are not recovered. If this happens, there is significant wear and tear on the body. Antonio Cano Vindel, president of SEAS, gives the case of students as an example: when the exam season begins, they sleep less than the body needs, undergoing changes, such as cellular aging.
Stress can cause many symptoms, both physical, psychological, and emotional. Many times those affected do not relate the signs to their own stress, the most frequent are:
- Headache: it is the most frequent type, everyone has had a headache at some time. The most common is the tension headache (caused by the muscular tension that we exert on the head, jaw, and neck, among others), generated by stress or anxiety on a regular basis.
- Bad memory.
- Diarrhea (excessive loose, watery stools) or constipation, or difficulty passing stools.
- Lack of energy or concentration: people focus so much on a subject that it is difficult for them to pay attention to other things, thus losing part of their concentration.
- Behavior changes.
- Mental health problems: such as anxiety or depression.
- Cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems: when stress lasts a long time.
- Changes in weight: generated by bad eating habits linked to stress. Changes in appetite are usually accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle.
- Stomach problems.
- Constant and prolonged tiredness.
- Problems at the sexual level: the fatigue generated by stress can be prolonged causing problems in many areas of life, including sex.
- Stiffness in the jaw and neck: which can cause headaches.
- Insomnia or excessive sleep: Difficulty falling asleep is a common cause of stress, affecting both the quantity and quality of sleep.
- Wear at the cellular level and aging: with rest, the process of stress wear and tear can be recovered and reversed. If someone does not sleep continuously, they will avoid being in a state of continuous hyperactivity and stressful events will accumulate. In these cases, the affected person may have health problems, both physical and mental.
It is very important to detect stress.
Stress is necessary to overcome situations that require more effort and activation: what needs to be prevented is its excess. It is beneficial to know how to detect this stress and see if it is repeated unnecessarily in order to stop it and avoid putting your health and well-being at risk.
People often run into situations that require a greater investment of energy to be able to solve them successfully but do not exceed the limit by spending energy unnecessarily. Many times what you have to do is stop and analyze the problem from another perspective and take other paths, if necessary. In addition, it helps to have greater confidence in oneself and one’s own abilities to be able to solve setbacks with as little stress as possible.
The demands generated by the situation that is being experienced are subjective, says Cano Vindel, they depend on how the subject of stress values the possibilities and solutions and what affects their own interests. Depending on the degree of assessment, the situation will be more or less stressful depending on the person who suffers from it.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress, in its normal phase, has two types:
- Acute stress: This is stress that occurs over a short period of time and usually goes away quickly. It is common all over the world, it appears when experiencing a new or exciting process, or when going through complicated situations, such as breakups. Given the short time it lasts, it does not usually cause significant health problems.
- Chronic stress: It is suffered over a longer period of time than acute stress. This time can vary from several weeks to months. People who suffer from this type of stress can get so used to the activation situation that they may not even realize that they are experiencing it and end up suffering from health problems. It usually appears when people do not see a way out of a complex and depressing situation, sometimes it appears due to an experience lived in childhood that is internalized and remains latent ever since.
The most general way to diagnose stress is through an examination by an expert. These will carry out one or several questionnaires that will allow the identification of cases of patients suffering from stress. One of the most used questionnaires is the “perceived stress scale” (designed to measure the degree of stress in certain life situations). There are also others who value stressful life events or the emotional consequences that people who are subjected to a lot of stress can present.
This scale was designed by Cohen Kamarck and Mermelstein. Originally it consisted of fourteen questions, which had to be scored between zero and four, zero being never and four always. The questions are:
- How often have you been affected by something that has happened unexpectedly?
- How often have you felt unable to control important things in your life?
- How often have you felt nervous or stressed?
- How often have you successfully handled life’s irritating little problems?
- How often have you felt that you have effectively coped with the important changes that have been occurring in your life?
- How often have you been confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
- How often have you felt that things are going well for you?
- How often have you felt that you couldn’t cope with all the things you had to do?
- How often have you been able to control the difficulties in your life?
- How often have you felt like you had everything under control?
- How often have you been angry because things that have happened to you were out of your control?
- How often have you thought about the things you still have to accomplish?
- How often have you been able to control how you spend your time?
- How often have you felt that difficulties are piling up so much that you cannot overcome them?