What is stress

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What is stress

What is stress:

Any physical or psychological stimuli thatdisrupt homeostasis result in a stress response. The stimuli are called stressorsand physiological and behavioural changes in response to exposure to stressorsconstitute the stress response.

Stress response:

is mediated by a complex interplay of nervous,endocrine, and immune mechanisms.

The stress response is adaptive, to begin with,that prepares the body to handle the challenges presented by an internal orexternal environmental challenge (stressor) e.g., the body's physiologicresponses to trauma and invasive surgery serve to attenuate further tissuedamage.

But if the exposure to a stressor is actually orperceived as intense, repetitive (repeated acute stress), or prolonged (chronicstress), the stress response becomes maladaptive and detrimental to physiologye.g., exposure to chronic stressors can cause maladaptive reactions includingdepression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and heart disease.

Effect ondifferent body systems:

Stressgenerally affects all systems of the body including cardiovascular,respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, muscular, and reproductivesystems.

Withregards to the cardiovascular system, acute stress causes an increase inheart rate, stronger heart muscle contractions, dilation of the heart, andredirection of blood to large muscles.

Therespiratory system works with the cardiovascular system to supply cells of the bodywith oxygen while removing carbon dioxide waste.

Acutestress constricts the airway which leads to shortness of breath and rapidbreathing.

Theendocrine systemincreases its production of steroid hormones, which include cortisol, toactivate the stress response of the body.

Stresscan affect the gastrointestinal tract by affecting how quickly foodmoves through the bowels. It can also affect digestion and what nutrients theintestines absorb.

Withregards to the nervous system, stress will activate the sympatheticnervous system which in turn activates the adrenal glands to release Adrenaline.

Stressaffects the musculoskeletal system by tensing up the muscles as a way ofguarding against pain and injury.

In the reproductivesystem, chronic stress can negatively impact sexual desire, spermproduction/ maturation, pregnancy, and menstruation.

Chronicresponse to stress

Chronic stress leadsto dysfunctional responses causing heart disease, stomach ulcers,sleep dysregulation, and psychiatric disorders.

Stress causes the cardiovascular system torespond with elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and chronic activation ofthis response is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Coronary arterydisease, stroke, and hypertension occur at a greater incidence in those withstress-related psychological disorders. The release of Adrenaline andNoradrenaline in the stress response can have maladaptive effects in thegastrointestinal tract through decreased local blood flow. Chronic stress,weakens the immune system, increasing the probability of gastric ulcers andbleeding.

Sleep quality and quantity affect cortisolresponse to acute stress.

Self-reported high sleep quality showed strongcortisol stress response, and fairly good sleep quality showed significantlyweaker cortisol response in men but not in women. Independent of gender, ablunted cortisol response to stress was observed in people who reported troublestaying awake and difficulty maintaining enthusiasm.

General adaptation syndrome

it describes the different stress-inducedphysiological changes through three different stages, with the last two stagesshowing the pathological changes of extended stress.

This syndrome is divided into the alarmreaction stage, resistance stage, and exhaustion stage.

The alarm reaction stage refers to the initialsymptoms of the body under acute stress and the "fight or flight"response. After the initial shock of the stressful event, the body begins torepair itself by lowering cortisol levels and normalizing the physiologicresponses (i.e. blood pressure and heart rate). During this recovery phase, thebody remains on alert until the stressful event is no longer an issue. However,if the stressful event persists for extended periods of time, the body willadapt to cope with the higher level of stress.

The body will continue to secrete stress hormoneswhich keep the body's physical response to stress elevated. This induces theresistance stage and includes symptoms of poor concentration, irritability, andfrustration.

If the stressfulevent continues to persist, the body will enter the exhaustion stage. Symptomsof this stage include burnout, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and reduced stresstolerance. As the stressful event persists, the body's immune system willcontinue to weaken. This is due to the suppressive effects of stress hormoneson cells of the immune system.

To know how to cop with stress, check our blog about it. 

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