Why Are You Stressed Out?

Updated: Apr 9, 2018

Stress occurs when challenges to our physical and emotional well-being exceed our perceived coping ability.

Stress may cause an overall vulnerability to disease by compromising the immune system. This is why we are more likely to get a cold when we are under stress, a disease that is not directly related to the nervous system.

The nervous system and the immune system communicate in ways that we are now beginning to understand. Evidence continues to grow supporting the fact that the brain influences the immune system and that the immune system influences the brain. For example, a physical wound healing time increases considerably when we are under stress.


What is stress?


Work, deadlines, interpersonal relationships, financial pressures, life demands, and everyday hassles, all contribute to us feeling stressed and anxious.  When challenges to our physical and emotional well-being exceed our coping abilities and resources, we experience stress.


Exposure to stress affects our physical and psychological well-being.


Many factors influence a person’s response to stressful situations. The impact of stress depends not only on its severity but also on the person’s preexisting vulnerabilities. Factors that may contribute to stress are: stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one or the birth of someone in our family, certain personality traits, coping styles, and lack of social support.


Stress can trigger mental disorders in vulnerable people- children, people with few coping skills and resources, and people with the s/s genotype. On the other hand, people who are optimistic, have higher self-esteem, better social support, and a greater sense of control or mastery in their own lives tend to handle life stress better.


Factors that make a situation stressful.

  • How severe the stressor is

  • How long it lasts

  • When it occurs

  • How much it impacts our lives

  • How expected it is, and

  • How much control we have over the situation.


Our emotions can be a source of stress.


Negative emotions are a source of stress. Because the brain affects the immune system, the way we think is important to our physical well-being. Negative emotional states such as depression, anxiety, anger, hostility, and feelings of loneliness, have all been linked to cardiovascular disease. In contrast, a positive attitude and positive emotional states such as being more forgiving, have multiple health benefits.


Stress reduction strategies.


  • Relaxation

  • Meditation

  • Positive psichology

  • Expressive writing

  • Cognitive-Behavioral therapy

  • Biofeedback


Relaxation training and meditation are some of the stress-reducing approaches that facilitate non-judgmental awareness. They are now the focus of much research and attention.

In expressive writing, people write down their innermost thoughts about their most traumatically stressful experiences, speeds up wound healing.


Positive pshichology. Bestselling author Shawn Achor, known for his research on happiness and the promotion of positive psychology, discovered through research that changing mindsets about stress alters the physical effects of stress.


Expressive writing involves writing about thoughts and feelings that arise from a traumatic or stressful life experience. According to a Harvard Medical School's research study, expressive writing may help some people cope with stress and difficult events. But it doesn't work for everyone. "Expressive writing appears to be more effective for people who are not also struggling with ongoing or severe mental health challenges, such as major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder." ~ Harvard Medical School.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people readjust their thinking about certain things thus changing the way they feel. It also provides techniques to cope with stress. It is widely used to alleviate headaches or stomach problems.


Biofeedback uses monitor equipment to provide data on a person’s hart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. This can make a person aware of stress-related problems such as headaches.


Crisis intervention is a short-term therapy method that has also proven to be effective in response to especially stressful situations, like surviving an earthquake, a tsunami, extreme violence, rape, or family situations that have become intolerable.

Many people who are exposed to traumatic stressors will experience symptoms and then gradually begin to recover on their own. Resilience, the ability to quickly bounce back from difficulties, is key to recover from stress regardless of our individual vulnerabilities and circumstances.


Sources: 

-Hooley, J. M., Butcher, J. N., Nock, M., & Mineka, S. (2017). Abnormal psychology. Boston: Pearson. 

- Achor, S. (2010). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

-American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.  

-Harvard Medical School ( 2010 ). Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma. Harvard Health Publishing.

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