Life in this Modern era has come up with lots of luxuries, meanwhile, the quality of life has also improved drastically. In this competitive and selfish world, people are running behind basic amenities, they are becoming greedy and selfish.
Presently stress has become inevitable and the most unwanted companion of civilization. Advancements in science and technology have made a life for 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, etc.
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 were taking a bath, on your way to school you stepped onto a 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 bloodstream.
As these hormones are released the Liver is triggered to produce more blood sugar which gives you an energy kick, breathing becomes more rapid, heart rate and blood pressure rise.
The Stress Response
In stressful situations, the body 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 Corticotropin-releasing factor(CRF)The CRF activates the pituitary gland to release the Adrenocorticotropin 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 norepinephrine, 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, the muscle tightens, BP rises, breath quickens, senses become sharper. These physical changes increase strength and stamina, speed up reaction time, and enhance focus. Preparing to fight or flee from danger.
Physiological Systems and Stress
There is no physiological system in the body that 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 and acts on the B1 receptors of the heart. B1 receptors combine with adrenaline and other related hormones which results in the stimulation of the heart, this causes an increase in the heart rate and force of contraction of the heart.
So the heart does not beat faster but harder so there will be increased cardiac output. Stress hormones act indirectly on the lungs resulting in an increased respiratory rate, this allows more oxygen to enter into lungs which thereby allows more oxygen to enter the blood.
An increased level of cortisol suppresses the immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to infections. When you are experiencing 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. The skeletal system is also affected when muscle contraction by pulling out.
It is the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for stress and it is the parasympathetic nervous system that helps in maintaining homeostasis.
Stages of Stress
General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is the predictable way the body responds to stress. Our body undergoes different stages when we encounter a stressor;
1.Stage of Alarm
2.Stage of Resistance
3.Stage of Exhaustion
Our body goes into different stages when we encounter stress. The stage of alarm occurs first where you initially encounter 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.
The stage of exhaustion is where your body says no more you may also get sick because the body cannot withstand it. Exhaustion occurs when an organ fails to function properly.
7 Causes of Stress
- Job pressure
- Poor nutrition
- Media overload
- Sleep issues
Symptoms of Stress
- Headaches Chest pains
- Muscular aches Fear
- Increase sweating Anxiety
- Increased loss of 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
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problem
- Lack of motivation or 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; the 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
2) The Worrier
- Type A personality has an excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, abruptness, and a 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 a 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 the 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 types of gastro-intestinal symptoms are 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 the mind, which may lead to various types of mental disorders.
Vitiated Raja and Tama, enter 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 has both psychic and somatic manifestations. Charaka advises avoiding Sahasa as it adversely affects the body (Cha.Ni.6/5)
Sahasa causes Oja Kshaya to 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 lifestyle modifications, dietary intervention.
- Acharya Charaka explains three types of therapies for physical and mental disorders:
- Pranayama-Nadi Suddhi, Bhramari, Sheetali Helps in regulation of BP, keeping mind in a 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.