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The Physical Response to Stress
The Physical Impact of Stress
The stress response occurs in form of neuro-endocrine activity in which the brain acts like an orchestra conductor and directs a barrage of neural and endocrine hormones to target various organs of the body. The cardiac output increases in form of heart rate and stroke volume. The digestive system is impaired. The blood pressure rises. The pupils dilate. There is an increased activity in the metabolism, sweat glands, brain and respiratory system. The arteries and blood vessels may become thick reducing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. The result is heart attack.
The immune system becomes very weak. The subject becomes susceptible to colds, rheumatoid arthritis, head aches, irritable bowel syndrome and many other health problems.
Stress at Initial Stage
The stress initially acts in subtle manner in our normal working life without threatening our survival. The impact of stress does not manifest itself dramatically. Its intensity is so low that we do not notice it. Usually the person experiences stress when he is frustrated or interrupted, more so when he encounters new and challenging situations. The amount of stress that a person suffers from depends upon the imagined damage a person thinks a situation can do to him. The sense of threat is seldom physical. The subject perceives threat to his personal standing in the society. He feels that the adverse opinion of his superiors will impact his career prospects. Just as
Changes in Behavioral Patterns
Over stressed people take to alcoholic drinks or smoking to gain immediate chemical relief from the stress. Some persons develop insomnia while others sleep fitfully. Overstrain leads to negligence towards health problems.
The Impact on Performance
The impaired state of physical and mental health affects the subject’s efficient and productive performance of duties. The nature of the competitive work culture calls for a rational, calm, controlled and sensitive approach to deal with the difficult problems at work. An overstressed person can become over or under aggressive in the complex matrix of inter personal relationships which may adversely affect the quantity and quality his work.
A stressed person gets easily distracted from his work because of persistent anxieties, doubts and negative thoughts. These negative associations compete with the creative energy required for the efficient performance of the tasks. The attention capacity, active memory and concentration of the subjects suffer badly. The focus narrows as our brain becomes crowded with unhealthy obsessions. The stress reduces a person’s ability to deal with huge amount of data that has to be processed and analyzed. A stressed person persists on the old track and ignores the better options even
When this feeling deepens, it takes the form of inferiority complex resulting in loss of self esteem and self confidence. Stress acts like a slow poison. It affects the vitals of the person, gradually eating into his entrails, as it were. The person becomes so diffident about his abilities that he stumbles while walking on a smooth path. He fumbles for obvious words and stammers while he talks. He looks but does not see. He yearns for sympathy and understanding but gets reprimands from his superiors and ridicule from his friends. The more he exposes himself to newer situations, the more mistakes he commits resulting in further aggravation of his physical and psychological problems. He feels threatened by the challenges. This mindset is created and reinforces negative chemical pathways in the brain. Dopamine receptors are taxed and loose their receptiveness. Stress and lack of sleep also cause seratonin levels to plumit if put to extremes, making it physically harder for the brain to signal alertness and feelings of joy and attachment.
Another negative development results in the form of the brain getting sensitized. This leads to the change in the structure and function of the nervous system. The situation sometimes worsens to the extent that even small irritants may blow up into a dangerous stress and anger response. A continued state of arousal creates different breathing patterns. Muscles around the abdomen, chest, throat and jaw are affected. This results in rapid shallow breathing or hyperventilation which in turn changes the blood chemistry and makes the heart work harder. A vicious circle is created with the hyperventilation keeping the nervous system sensitized. The outcome is continued exhaustion, mental and physical health problems and loss of efficiency.
Biological Response to Long term Stress
Stress hormones that remain in elevated state in blood for long time can become toxic and affect the cells of the body. The level of fats also increases causing cardiovascular problems. The immune system is emaciated and the body becomes prone to infectious diseases and even cancer. The moods go down steeply and physical and mental exhaustion takes over.