An Overview of Stress

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In the course of your daily life, it is normal to experience one or more demands that place mental, physical, and emotional pressure on you. Stress is how the brain responds to danger, obstacles, or demands, and the circumstances that lead to stress are many and varied. Stress is common and impacts each person differently. Although all stress is not bad, long-term stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. 

Stages of Stress Reaction

Your body responds to stress in several stages. The first stage is called the alarm reaction stage. During this stage, the nervous system is activated, digestion slows, blood sugar rises, and heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing rate increase. In essence, the body begins to pulsate with energy. 

The second stage of stress reaction is called the stage of resistance. The body mobilizes its resources to overcome stress, causing the heart and breathing rates to return to normal. However, the appearance of normality in the second stage is superficial because the hormone in the pituitary called adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) remains at high levels. 

At that point, if some measure of equilibrium is not restored, the final stage referred to as the stage of exhaustion, is reached. 

Side Effects of Stress

Stress has been linked to a number of physical and emotional disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, asthma, and headaches. Chronic stress puts a significant strain on the cardiovascular, digestion, reproductive, and immune systems. The emotional toll that stress may have on you can lead to the development of a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, mood disorders, depression, or cognitive impairments. Stress can also lead to bouts of insomnia, irritability, insomnia, and substance abuse disorders. 

Gender Differences 

There are significant differences in how men and women handle stress. Several studies consistently confirm that women tend to be more distressed over family events, as well as financial and work-related problems. Both men and women produce oxytocin, which is a hormone that is largely associated with bonding and attachment during childbirth and child-rearing. Along with bonding and attachment, studies have found that oxytocin can reduce stress. However, men also produce hormones that can actually decrease the effects of oxytocin. This is in contrast to women who produce estrogen, which amplifies the effects of oxytocin.  

Because women have high levels of oxytocin, they are more likely to be driven to maintain social relationships and interactions that serve as a protective function that reduces both physical and psychological stress. This is commonly referred to as the tend-and-befriend response. In contrast, men are more prone to the fight-or-flight model of coping with stress. Because of this, men are more likely to develop stress-related disorders such as hypertension, aggressive behaviors, or substance abuse disorders.

Can Stress Be Good for You?

Stress has acquired a bad name, yet it is a factor in everyone’s life. Many psychologists have concluded that all stress is not necessarily bad. The intensity and severity of stress depends on the knowledge or experience a person has to cope with various stresses/problems in day-to-day life. 

Stress resides neither in the individual nor the situation alone, but in how the person perceives a particular event. Psychologists have found that stress can be associated with being receptive to change, good self-esteem, a feeling of involvement, and a sense of self-control as important buffers against the harmful effects of stress. 

Sometimes avoiding or overcoming stress is just a matter of a person’s attitude towards change. For example, a person might lose their job, which is usually viewed as an intensely stressful, even catastrophic, event. However, losing a job could also be looked at as an opportunity to begin a new career or business venture. 

Individuals who choose to get involved in finding solutions or work to actively influence the events in their lives are likely to develop stress resistance. Individuals that are stress-resistant tend to immerse themselves in meaningful activities. They believe that they can actively influence many of the events in their lives and have an impact on their surroundings. 

Overcoming Stress

There are a number of ways a person can overcome or, at least reduce, the amount of stress that they experience. One of the most effective coping mechanisms is to seek professional help via a counselor, therapist, or treatment program. Social support alleviates stress in a number of ways. Solid support systems can be instrumental in defining, understanding, and resolving circumstances that cause stress. They can also provide resources such as financial aid or goods and services. 

Engaging in recreational activities with others can meet social needs while simultaneously providing a healthy distraction from worry. Other stress-coping activities include relaxation techniques and journaling. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise routine, and consistent sleep schedule can also help relieve stress. Over time, it will become easier to overcome stress no matter how severe it may be. 

Stress is a seemingly inevitable component of our lives. However, it does not have to consume or control your everyday decisions and actions. In fact, some forms of stress have actually been found to be a positive and helpful aspect of life. The outpatient programs at Valiant Living aim to reduce stress by helping you resolve and cope with substance use and mental health disorders. We also provide you with numerous effective tools that can be utilized to reduce the potential stress in your life. Our all-male facility equips you with many effective tools and strategies to help you to build the confidence you need to conquer or control stress. Moreover, we are here to support you as you take those first steps into recovery from addiction and alcoholism. No matter where you are in recovery, we are here to help. If you or someone you love has a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact us at (303) 952-5035.