Life in this Modern era has come up with lots of luxuries, meanwhile the quality of the life has also improved drastically. In this competitive and selfish World people are running behind basic amenities, they are becoming greedier and selfish. Presently stress has become an inevitable and the most unwanted companion of civilization. Advancements in the science and technology has made life of the humans accelerated and we need to keep up with these technologies.
Imagine the situation where you are going to attend an interview tomorrow in a company with the officials. There will be slight stress in your mind when you are having food, sleeping,taking bath etc. You will be very anxious about the final outcome, what will happen, will that go nicely.
Let us take one more situation where you need to submit three assignment works on a day you wake up early even though you slept late in the night,the water was cut off when you are taking bath, on your way to school you stepped onto garbage pile, and you missed the bus to the school.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand and threat. In other words, stress is defined as anything constituting a threat, real or apparent, which would adversely affect the individual. When the body feels stressed your Hypothalamus a tiny region in the brain signals your Adrenal glands situated on the top of the kidneys to release a surge of hormones which include Adrenaline and Cortisol into the blood stream. As these hormones are released the Liver is triggered to produce more blood sugar which gives you energy kick, breathing becomes more rapid, heart rate and blood pressure rise.
The Stress Response
In stressful situations the body which is on its Autonomic nervous system and neurobiological processes in an attempt to maintain Homeostasis the body is prepared for its reaction to stress. In the Brain the Hypothalamus is connected to the Pituitary gland. The hypothalamus stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system releases the hormone Corticotrophin releasing factor(CRF)The CRF activates the pituitary gland to release the Adreno corticotrophin releasing hormone(ACTH). This in turn the adrenal glands. The ACTH from the pituitary gland stimulates the adrenal cortex to release cortisol at the same time neurons in the hypothalamus signal the Medulla to release Epinephrine and nor epinephrine, these hormones push the body to hyper alertness.
Fight or Flight Response
When you feel threatened, your nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones for emergency action. Heart pounds faster, muscle tighten, BP rises, breath quickens, senses become sharper. These physical changes increases strength and stamina, speed up reaction time and enhances focus. Preparing to fight or flee from danger.
Physiological Systems and Stress
There is no physiological system in the body which is not affected by stress. During a stressful situation blood flow increases 300-400%, this increased blood flow primes muscles lungs and brain for added demands. Adrenaline is also released when you are stressed acts on the B1 receptors of the heart. B1 receptors combine with adrenaline and other related hormones which results in the stimulation of heart, this causes the increase in the heart rate and force of contraction of heart. So the heart does not beat faster but harder so there will increased cardiac output. Stress hormones acts indirectly on the lungs resulting in the increased respiratory rate, this allows more oxygen to enter into lungs which thereby allows more oxygen to enter into blood. Increased level of cortisol suppresses the immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to infections. When you are experiencing an emotional stress you subconsciously contract the muscles. Muscle tension can be found in muscles all throughout the body including your face, most people feel the effect of stress on the shoulder and neck muscles because that is where more contraction of muscles occurs. Skeletal system is also effected when muscle contraction by pulling out. It is the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for stress and it is the parasympathetic nervous system which helps in maintaining homeostasis.
Stages of Stress
General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is the predictable way the body responds to stress. Our body undergoes into different stages when we encounter with a stressor;
1.Stage of Alarm
2.Stage of Resistance
3.Stage of Exhaustion
Our body goes into different stages when we encounter a stress.Stage of alaram occurs first where you initially encounter a stress,this stage can be related to acute stress.In the stage of resistance your body tries to go back to the calmness of reverse back or to homeostasis,this stage can be related to chronic stress.Stage of exhaustion is where your body says no more you may also get sick because the body cannot withstand.Exhaustion occurs when an organ fails to function properly.
7 Causes of Stress
- Job pressure
- Poor nutrition
- Media overload
- Sleep issues
Symptoms of Stress
- Head aches Chest pains
- Muscular aches Fear
- Increase sweating Anxiety
- Increased loss off appetite Panic
- Insomnia Poor concentration
- Nightmares Rapid heart rate
- Fatigue Irritation
- Loss of sex drives Anger
- High BP Grinding teeth
- Dry mouth
Symptoms of Prolonged Stress
- Emotional outbursts
- Communication difficulties
- Frequent crying
- Lashing out at others
- Isolation and withdrawal
- Substance abuse
Effects of Stress
- Head ache
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problem
- Lack of motivation of focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outburst
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Social withdrawal
Types of Stress
- Acute stress
- Episodic acute stress
- Chronic stress
- Which is short- lived
- Caused by Adrenaline or Epinephrine
- Can be beneficial and create motivation
Eg; Deadline given for a homework
Episodic acute stress
- People who frequently experience acute stress
- These individuals live a life of chaos and crisis
- Always in a rush or feel pressured
- 2 main personality types associated with episodic acute stress
1)Type A personality
2) The Worrier
- Type A personality have an excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, abrupt and as sense of time urgency.
- The Worrier presents with negative thoughts.
- Thoughts are frequently filled with “What if…….” statements that are with projected negative outcomes.
- Episodic acute stress leads to high BP and heart disease, Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Caused by Cortisol
- Harmful for the body
- Chronic stress can be caused by an aversive experience in childhood or traumatic experiences later in life.
- Chronic stress can result in physical and mental breakdown that leads to suicide, violent actions, homicide, psychosis, strokes etc.
Ayurveda and Stress
Ayurveda has mentioned the management of stress beautifully. Chittodvega – “Anxious state of mind”. A person having Satvika Prakriti/Pravara Sattva is affected by minimal stress, overcome by short duration. Quality opposite to the Satvika Prakriti i.e. Hina Satva or Rajasa Prakriti and Tamasa Prakriti are more prone to mental disorders. Acharya Charaka states that Icha and Dvesha are common factors of happiness and sorrow. At the biological level Vayu is the Niyanta i.e. controller and Praneta i.e. motivator of the mind. Vitiated Vata is responsible for dysfunction of Indriyas and Manas. Vata has an important role in the manifestation of Chittodvega.Charaka states that Chinta, Shoka, Kroda, Dukha, Shayya and Prajagara vitiate Agni, which leads to many somatic disorders related to Ama.
In Chittodvega, various type of gastro-intestinal symptoms is found, which may be attributed to vitiated Agni.Chandogya Upanishad states one-third part of food is utilized by the mind. The bad quality food may also vitiate mind, which may lead to the various types of mental disorders.
Vitiated Raja and Tama, enters Hridaya and due to Ashraya Ashrayibhava vitiates the Hridaya. Vitiated Manas by involving Manovaha Srotas produces Manasika Lakshanas of Chittodvega. Vatadi Doshas vitiate Jatharagni and after Rasadi Dhatu vitiation their respective Srotas are also vitiated leading to the production of various somatic symptoms found in Chittodvega. Hence, Chittodvega have both psychic and somatic manifestations. Charaka advises to avoid Sahasa as it adversely affects the body (Cha.Ni.6/5)
Sahasa causes Oja Kshaya increase the susceptibility of the body to various infectious diseases. (Cha.Su. 17/76-77) Unhealthy food, irregular and improper routine, Bhaya, Krodha, Shoka, Loba, Moha, Ayasa etc. cause all types of morbidities. (Cha.Chi.1/2/3) Vata is the main dosha vitiated by excessive physical stress. Psychological stress, like Udvega, Shoka also leads to disequilibrium of Vata Dosha, whereas, Pitta is the main Dosha vitiated by Krodha.
Indriyopaghata due to
- Prana Vata-Mano Bhramsha
- Udana Vata –Utsaha Bhramsha
- Vyana Vata- Chittotplava
- Sadhaka Pitta -Buddhi, Medhanasha
- Tarpaka Kapha -malnourishment of Indriyas causing Indriyanasha or Indriyavikriti.
Management of Stress
- To prevent stress there are two approaches.
- Avoid factors inducing stress and vitiating doshas.
- Increase the coping capacity of the body.
- The coping capacity of the body can be increased by life style modifications, dietary intervention.
- Acharya Charaka explains three types of therapies for physical and mental disorders:
- Pranayama-Nadishudhi, Bhramari, Sheetali Helps in regulation of BP, keeping mind in stress free state. Balancing of ANS, homeostasis effect.
- Asanas-Shirsasana, Marjarasana, Paschimottasana, Janu shirsasana,Shavasana
- Panchakaram –Shirodhara,Thalam,Thalapothichal
- Dinacharya palana
If you are strong enough then you can overcome each and every problem in life. Happiness improves overall health.Start dealing with stress now, not later.
By Dr Rakesh G.H.