Stress is a negative kind of concept that affects human mind and their bodily well-being. It is still not clear whether stress is an effect or a cause, or whether it is a connection of the two. According to Keil (2004), stress is a Latin word stringere derivative which means to draw tight (p.659). However, according to Koolhaas (2011), the meaning of the word stress should be really restricted to conditions where environmental demands exceed the natural regulatory capacity of an organism (p.1291).
The brain is said to play an important role in regulating body stress especially the central nervous system. This part of the body regulates the reaction of the body towards the stressors. The central nervous system normally works closely to the endocrine system in regulating the body regulation mechanism. The sympathetic nervous system of the human body becomes very active in response to stress. This helps in regulating most of the psychological duties in the body in order to make one adapt to the surrounding environment.
Effects of stress on immune system
Stress can be regarded as the reaction of the body to any source of disturbing its equilibrium. According to Kansari et al. (1990), if the equilibrium of hormones in the body is altered the resultant changes are harmful to the body immune system (p.170). The stressors reduce the ability of the body to protect it against any foreign attacks. Kansari et al. also noted that in cases of people infected with a certain virus, for example the HIV virus, those with stress were likely to develop AIDS 2 to 3 times than those without.
One can be said to have acquired chronic stress if they have had a long period of encounter with both internal and external stressors. These stressors are likely to result into bodily manifestations, for example, inform of diseases like back pains, fatigue, irritable bowels syndrome, asthma, ulcers or even headaches. If chronic stress affects the blood pressure, it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, depression, infertility and even premature aging. Certain events or perceived events may also result in stress that reduces the body immune system. For instance, according to Graham et al. (2006), students have reduced immune system when taking examinations because of the struggles they face during revision and the actual writing of the exams (p.389).
Coping with stress
Human beings respond to stress in various ways, for example, psychological coping like anxiety, stress management, or even depression. They can also adapt to stress. Since stress affects our health, then a proper mechanism of dealing with it must be realized and implemented. These mechanisms are supposed to enable the person faced with stressors to either cope with or better still change the stressors and the environment. One can do this by taking control of the source of this stressor or better still ignore some likely stressors. Taking time in sports and music or other hobbies may also be a good way of diverting stress. They act as ventilators.
One can also perform a cognitive appraisal on the stressed person. According to Lazarus (1966), for a psychological situation to be stressful, then it ought to be appraised as stressful (p.8). It is important therefore to use the cognitive processes in determining the stages of stress for the best treatment. One can adopt the problem focused coping strategy or the emotion focused coping strategy to manage any bad emotions.
Symptoms of stress can be divided into various categories. These include emotional, behavioral and physical. The cognitive symptoms of stress include inability to concentrate, memory problems, anxiety and racing thoughts, poor judgment and constant worrying (Clin 1997, p.4).
The emotional symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, moodiness, senses of loneliness and isolation, depression, agitation and general unhappiness. The physical symptoms include pains and aches, nausea, constipation, dizziness, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, frequent colds and loss of sex drive. The behavioral symptoms include eating more food or even very little food, isolating oneself from the rest, loss of sleep or sleeping too much, neglecting ones responsibilities or procrastinating issues, over use of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol abuse, nervous habits like biting of nails and pacing.
Psychologists have classified stress into various stages. These stages include alarm stage, which is further divided into shock stage where the body can endure the stressors, and anti-shock stage when the stressors can be realized. The resistance stage is where the body fights the stressing mechanism and the recovery where the body resistance mechanisms completely overdo the stressors. The exhaustion phase is where the body retreats due to its exhaustion and the resistance is completely overcome by the stressors effects on the systematic nervous system becomes evident for example increased rate of heartbeat, and the body immune system become weak hence the victim becomes prone to opportunistic diseases.
Graham, J., Christian, L. & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2006). Stress, Age, and Immune Function: Toward a Lifespan Approach. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, p.389.
Khansari, D., Murgo, A., & Faith, R. (1990). Effects of stress on the immune system. Immunology Today, 11, p. 170.
Keil, R.M.K. (2004) Coping and stress: a conceptual analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 45(6), 659–665
Koolhaas, J., et al. (2011) “Stress revisited: A critical evaluation of the stress concept.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35, p. 1291
J. Clin Psychiatry (1997). 58(suppl. 2) p. 4.
Lazarus, R.S. (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York: McGraw-Hill.