Stress takes many forms and affects all of us at one time or another. Stress at work stress, stress in transport, family stress… it is the main accuse of virtually all the ills of modern society. Yet it is often possible to manage stress, through small efforts and a change of attitude.
Stress entered our vocabulary during the 50s and at first it meant “ordeal”. This is an adaptive response of our body to change, aggression or an external perception. Stress can be stimulating, but more often than not, it persists and leads to a number of pathologies. The body and mind react badly to stress.
Mary, 43, knows the effects of stress. Five years ago, a beautiful Friday morning, she thought the sky had just dropped on her head. “I was at the counter of a small cafe when suddenly my heart began to accelerate, my head started spinning and my stomach started heaving, all this because of sore heart. I panicked and I left the restaurant, leaving everything behind me.” She recalls.
Somehow, Mary presented herself at the first clinic on her way. After review, the doctor listened to her story and he simply said: “Madam, you are at wit’s end, and your body has just launched an important signal. Go take care of yourself.”
“I do not know if I should be shocked or relieved by this diagnosis. But then, I thought about that and I realized that my life was a frantic race, leaving no room for balanced meal, any really rewarding activity or any fun which was really appreciated. In short, I lost control of my life, and the accumulation of stress had come to remind me of that fact.” Says Mary.
Psychologists hear these kinds of stories frequently in their offices. The pace of life becomes a hell, and if the stress becomes too intense, too repetitive, the body can no longer adapt. It gives rise to the problems of all kinds, such as insomnia, generalized anxiety or depression. The individual no longer has the time to transform the stress into positive energy and he stumbles.
In his early forties, Charles too, had to make significant changes in his life, as he was to relax more, and enjoy the moment. “My brain was still in turmoil. I always asked ten thousand questions and worried about everything and nothing. I slept very badly and I started losing weight. Immediately I thought of the disease. But, a consultation with my doctor quickly made me realize that I was completely undermined by stress. Undergoing therapy is quickly became the best option to free me from this existential pain.”
Detecting the Three Steps of Stress
Specialists generally agree that stress follows three main steps.
1. The first reaction is summed up in alarm, the sudden reaction of the body to the aggressor (divorce, death, job loss, etc.).
2. The second phase is more resistance. The body set up its defenses to combat external aggression. If this phase of resistance is still too long, this is when the body becomes more vulnerable and may show signs of frailty (fatigue, loss of appetite, colds, etc.).
3. Then comes the final step, that of exhaustion. It occurs when the body is on the defensive for too long, or as external attack that are too strong, too violent. From there, the door opens to all of the most serious diseases and ultimately to major diseases.
Do not forget that as such stress is not a disease. Initially, the stress is very important because it allows us to motivate, and challenge ourselves to achieve our goals. But, when it becomes a bad stress, it may contribute to the onset of many diseases. We must recognize the signs that our body sends us and be able to know how far our bodies can tolerate the stress before it comes to bad for our health.
Recognize the Signs of Stress
Mary knows now how to recognize the warning signs of a stressful situation and knows when she can tolerate it or not. “It sure makes you feel more vulnerable when we had an episode of severe stress that changed our lives. I remember a time when I felt invincible, ready for anything. This invulnerability has been the foundation of all of my problems lately. But, now I’m out.”
And this is where is the good news comes. Stress can cause serious problems, but with determination and a willingness to change, it can be controlled and even become an ally in the everyday life. Many tools are now available to us, and stress research can now better understand and defuse its appearance in its negative form.