stress

Synonyms

The word stress has different meanings. The first meaning is the effort, the second meaning is the burden and the third meaning is the effort. Furthermore, stress is equated with irritability. Other synonyms are tension, tension, tension, excitement, fears, stress symptoms, stress symptoms, extreme tension, high tension, life crisis, pressure to perform, bullying stress, extreme exhaustion, stress, nervous strain, neurostress-related illness, examination stress, mental tension, mental tension, mental health problems, Tensions, feeling of tension, states of tension.

English: stress

definition

Stress is an unspecific natural ( physiological ) reaction of the organism to various internal and external factors ( stressors ). These stressors disturb the balance of the human organism ( homeostasis ). The reaction as stress then serves to restore homeostasis and well-being.
This stress response is modified by individually assessing the needs of the situation and the resources available to manage the stressor. Stress occurs in two different ways, the positive stress ( Eustress ) and the negative stress ( Distress ).

Within the context of the term stress the expression of the general adapataion syndrome should be explained here. This describes the response of the organism to a chronic stressor. It consists of an alarm reaction, a resistance phase and a fatigue phase.

The stress response can be divided into two fundamentally different types, the physiological ( physical ) and the behavioral ( behavioral ) stress response. The evaluation of the triggering stressor depends on the experiences, the genetic predispositions and the behavioral possibilities of the individual.

reason

The stress response / stress changes at different levels of the organism. On the mental level, there is an increase in attention and responsiveness to respond to potential threats, emotionally, this can manifest in anger or anxiety. At the neural-hormonal level, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is activated, with the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, which causes the release of ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone) and cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Furthermore, the sympathetic-adrenal axis is activated, which manifests itself in a release of adrenaline and norepinephrine. It thereby activates circulation, respiration and metabolism. The effect of this stress response, antireproduced, immunosuppressive, activating, should be short-lived.

In chronic stress, the effects mentioned can have negative health effects on the individual. Thus, stress is a chemical reaction of the body. A situation or requirement is classified by the body as stressful, dangerous or uncontrollable. The body reacts to this requirement as described above by releasing various stress hormones. In the natural environment of the affected there are different stressors. One group consists of medical illnesses that can trigger stress at various levels. The other group includes competitive situations and performance assessments in school, university and work. All these triggers have in common that they have actual, mostly serious consequences for those affected.

Here, a bit more in depth, the above-mentioned stressors here trigger cellular stress, which leads to an ongoing attack on cell walls. So it comes slowly to the emergence of diseases. Damaging stressors such as heat, light, toxins, as well as hormones as well as energy production cause free radicals in the body, which attack the cells. The body, on the other hand, has developed sophisticated protective mechanisms, including active repair and buffering systems and antioxidants, which can, however, be depleted and collapsed when exposed to too much stress.

Typical symptoms of stress

Symptoms that are triggered during acute or chronic stress can be extremely diverse and vary from person to person in terms of strength and severity.

Acute stress symptoms:

  • Multiple sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

Chronic stress, however, usually presents itself in the variety of symptoms of various:

  • Increased sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, heartburn, constipation, vomiting and nausea)
  • Headache (mostly tension-type headache)
  • sleep disorders
  • Cold sores
  • irritable bowel
  • migraine

Long-term consequences of stress

What long-term consequences does stress have on life expectancy?

Basically, one has to say that chronic stress can have a negative effect on life expectancy. However, the exact extent of life expectancy varies widely between studies, which is why it can not be clearly quantified. However, it is clear that chronic stress is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the development of diabetes or increased blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), which can lead to premature death. At the center of this development is probably the stress hormone cortisol. This is increasingly released during stress and slows down regenerative processes in our body.

What are the long-term consequences of stress on blood pressure?

Chronic stress and the associated elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can have long-term negative effects on blood pressure. It is not assumed that stress as sole risk factor can lead to hypertension (arterial hypertension). However, in people who have other risk factors or are prone to hypertension, chronic stress almost always negatively affects its course. Thus, the reduction of stress is now an integral part of the therapy and the prophylaxis of chronic hypertension.

What long-term consequences does stress have on the psyche?

Stress usually has no negative impact on our health and psyche. However, this presupposes that the stress is not permanent, but relaxation phases for the body and mind are possible. If this is not the case, chronic stress can certainly affect the psyche of those affected.
The extent of psychological consequences can vary greatly.

So the possible psychological consequences range from a slight fatigue to the development of depression or a so-called "burnout syndrome".
The latter refers to a general emotional exhaustion associated with a significant loss of performance. This is usually difficult to distinguish from depression, as it may also be associated with listlessness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and general depression.

Stress is the main risk factor for "burnout syndrome." Research in recent years has shown that there is a clear link between chronic stress and depression. This can work in both directions. Thus, chronic stress can lead to the development of a so-called "stress depression". Conversely, an existing depression can make it much easier to get stressed, which can lead to chronic stress.

What is meant by stress factors?

Basically, the term "stress factors", or stressors, summarizes all external influences that can lead to a stress reaction.
Stress factors can be divided into different groups. These include physical, mental and social stressors.

The group of physical stressors includes, for example, external stimuli such as:

  • heat
  • cold
  • Noise.

Mental stressors are usually based on their own or external performance requirements. For example, one of these is:

  • exams
  • time pressure
  • Solving difficult problems

Include social stressors

  • interpersonal conflicts,
  • separations
  • the loss of friends or relatives,
  • competitor
  • or problems in a relationship.

It is easy to see from the above examples what is meant by "individual" stress factors, since each person makes or feels different demands on himself and on the outside. Requirements can act as a stress factor, but they do not have to. The perception of these significantly depends on the subjective self-assessment and the feeling of being overstrained.
Since much is known about chronic stress and its consequences, many people are trying to keep their stress levels as low as possible. To achieve this goal, it is important to identify one's own stress factors and to find a way to deal with them.

Among the most common stress factors that are stated in surveys are an ever increasing performance and deadline pressure in the work. But the long-term accessibility through digitization also plays an increasing role as a stress factor. Furthermore, the double burden of work and family, serious illnesses, the loss of relatives or friends, fears of the future and excessive demands on oneself are given as the most important stressors.

It is clear that one does not manage to simply omit all stressors, in order to reduce the personal stress level. The aim should therefore be to develop a good deal with one's own stress factors or to find ways to compensate for them by relaxing activities.

How does stress affect our cortisol levels?

Cortisol is a vital hormone in our body that regulates many functions in our body. Together with the hormone adrenaline, it is one of the most important representatives of stress hormones whose function is to alert our body and make energy reserves available. The cortisol level is subject to normal fluctuations throughout the day.
Thus, the level of the mirror during the day can be increased up to five times, compared to the values ​​at night. Thus, the normal value in the course of a day is between 45 and 225 μg / l. A stress situation can lead to an increased cortisol level in our blood within a few minutes. The amount of this rash depends largely on the strength of the stressor.
If the stress situation is overcome, the cortisol level erupts over the next few hours. However, if one is in constant stress, such a reduction is only conditionally possible and the cortisol level sets in on a higher basic value, which can have severe consequences for the body.

What other stress hormones are there?

All stress hormones are linked by their effect on alerting the body and making energy reserves accessible. In addition to cortisol, there are still some other hormones that can be assigned to this group. Here are the so-called catecholamines.

These include the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. Like cortisol, they are produced in the adrenal gland and enter the bloodstream from here. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the fastest-acting stress hormones, and their levels rise fastest in a stressful situation. They lead to an acute increase in heart rate, increased blood pressure and an increase in blood sugar, to make the body maximally efficient.

Only a few minutes to hours delay then follows an increase in cortisol, since its production must be stimulated only by complicated hormone cycle. But its elevated level in the blood also lasts for a longer time than is the case with catecholamines. Other hormones that cause increased blood levels due to stress are the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), prolactin and the β-endorphin.

The connection of stress with other diseases

Stress and burnout

It is now known that there is a very clear relationship between chronic stress and the development of burnout. The cause is considered to be the combination of excessive demands and overwork, which are playing each other high and thus ultimately leading to a kind of vicious circle. Almost all sufferers have strong external stressors that affect them.
These include a stressful job with long working hours, conflicts with work colleagues or in the family, a high performance and time pressure or low recognition as the work done.

This is usually accompanied by an internal burden, an increased ambition, unrealistic expectations of one's own performance or excessive perfectionism. The development of a burnout syndrome is thus the result of a long-term downward spiral, which is mainly caused by chronic stress. Thus, stress management is also the focus of therapy for burnout. On the one hand, attempts must be made to reduce the strength and the number of stressors and to find a reasonable way of dealing with them. On the other hand, it makes sense to reduce one's own performance requirements to a proportionate one.

Stress and gastritis

Although the exact mechanisms have not yet been clarified in detail, it is now proven that long-lasting severe stress can lead to gastritis, called gastritis. It can be shown that people who suffer from chronic stress have an increased production of stomach acid, which can then irritate the stomach lining and thus lead to an inflammation.

Gastritis is treated with so-called proton inhibitors, which result in less stomach acid being produced. However, if increased inflammation occurs as a result of ongoing stress, this can lead to a chronic change in the gastric mucosa. Thus, if recurrent gastric mucosal inflammation is present that may be associated with increased stress, it should be attempted to reduce it to avoid consequential damage such as gastric ulcer

Stress and tinnitus

The diagnosis of tinnitus caused by stress is not uncommon. In one study, 25% of sufferers reported stress as the cause of their tinnitus. For example, stress is generally considered a risk factor for the development of tinnitus. However, scientific evidence for this hypothesis has not yet been found. The most common thesis, however, suggests that the increased heart rate caused by stress and the increased blood pressure can lead to flow changes in the inner ear, which in turn cause the perception of tinnitus.

However, stress is not just a cause, but a risk factor for chronicity of pre-existing tinnitus. In addition, the ear noises themselves can be a stress factor, which further amplifies the possibly triggering stress. In patients with chronic tinnitus, it has also been shown that they perceive the intensity of the ear noises as more intense when they are in an acute stress situation.

Stress and asthma?

The extent to which the development and severity of asthma, or bronchial asthma, depends on stress has long been a hot topic in research. However, new research suggests that such a relationship exists. In terms of mechanisms, one must first differentiate between acute and chronic stress.
For example, a strong acute stress reaction can increase the respiratory rate, called hyperventilation, which causes respiratory irritation. This irritation can then lead to an acute asthma attack. But also chronic stress can promote the development of asthma. Due to the influence of the stress hormone cortisol on the immune system, it is modulated in such a way that the allergic respiratory reaction to allergens can be stronger. This promotes both the emergence, as well as the strength of an allergic asthma.

Stress and rash with pustules

Almost everyone has ever suffered from pustules, acne or rashes caused by stress. Since this connection is meanwhile accorded an ever greater relevance by science, even a separate direction of dermatology, the so-called psychodermatology, has formed. The mechanism by which stress leads to skin changes has a significant effect on the cortisol produced during stress. This inhibits our body's defenses that normally protect our skin.

Thus, the formation of pustules or rashes is favored. The resulting skin changes can be very diverse here. In addition to simple pustules, stress can also lead to or aggravate the development of psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, hives or acne. In addition to the local treatment, stress reduction is the focus of therapy for these skin changes.

Is there stress for no apparent reason?

The development of stress is always the reaction of our body to a stressor. In this respect, there is no stress that arises without cause. Sometimes, however, we are unaware of the direct relationship between perceived stress and the triggering stressor. This can be the case, for example, if we are heavily burdened by other factors and even small triggers cause a stress response, since the stress threshold is very low.

How can you improve your stress resistance?

It is well known that some people are more resistant to stress than others. The situation perceived by one person as the maximum stress is nothing but everyday stress for others. In times of increasing stress in everyday life, it makes sense to deal with how to increase your own stress resistance.

One way to do this is to be mindful. Here mindfulness describes the conscious perception of the current moment with regard to external factors, but also to emotions, thoughts and physical processes. This leads to being able to better regulate one's own emotions and to be able to handle a stress-neutral situation in a neutral way.
The so-called mindfulness training usually consists of a form of meditation, the focus is on the perception of internal processes and the attempt to gain a certain distance to their own emotions. In addition to increased stress resistance, it has been demonstrated that mindfulness training can also increase concentration, productivity and overall satisfaction.

Can you measure stress?

Acute stress causes a number of changes in our body, which are summarized as so-called acute stress response. These include the increase in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, increased sweating, a slightly elevated body temperature and increased muscle tension. All these parameters can be measured by different methods.
So it's not true that you can measure stress directly. However, it is possible to measure the individual stress response of a person and thus, albeit with considerable inaccuracy, to conclude on the strength of the triggering stress trigger. In addition to this acute stress response, it is also possible to detect chronic stress by determining the cortisol gels. This measurement is usually made by the 24-hour collection of urine, in which then the cortisol level can be measured.

relaxation techniques

There are now countless relaxation techniques that can help reduce stress. But not every technique works equally well for every person and over time, many people develop preferences for certain methods. So at the beginning of the search for the individual best relaxation technique is the motto: try it! Among the best known techniques are yoga and meditation.

However, both terms are only an umbrella term for many different subspecies. So there is yoga, which is designed more for fast sports movements, but also very slow yoga, in which the search for rest is in focus. One of the most commonly used types of meditation is the mindfulness meditation.

Those who find these types of relaxation techniques too exotic can also try to find the right technique for themselves on more classic ways. These include slow breathing with closed eyes before starting a stressful work, listening to quiet music or for others also doing sports.

prophylaxis

Resistance to stress consists of three elements. On the one hand the commitment and sense of responsibility, because if people actively contribute and get involved in everything they do, it protects against stress. The second element is the sense of control, which manifests itself in the ability to concentrate in life on what one can change, and the confidence that one's own activities are also useful. The third element is the challenge, with the expectation that life's changes will be a stimulus to one's personal development. The ability to see stressful situations as opportunities. Also, a sufficient amount of exercise in fresh air is considered as stress prophylaxis. Furthermore, balanced healthy nutrition, adequate sleep and a good work-life balance.

Summary

Stress is a very complex health problem when it exceeds the level at which it can be balanced by the body. It influences many systems of the body and has influences on the cell, on individual organs and on the complex immune system of the body. Even the highly sensitive process of pregnancy can be strongly influenced by prolonged stress (see: Stress during pregnancy).
But there are good treatment options for stress, ranging from supplementing with substances that lack the body on movement therapy to psychosocial management systems. Stress prophylaxis plays a special role, especially in our very accelerated time. A good work-life balance with sufficient relaxation, life control, sports and challenges ensures a balanced homeostasis of the body and thus the stress resistance is very high.

How stress affects your health (December 2019).


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