Stress has become the new catch-phrase to highlight a set of personal,professional,inter social and family experiences like but not limited to,anxiety,panic attacks,restlessness,frustration,temper tantrum,bottled-up,overwhelmed,feeling beleaguered,easy fatiguability,worn-out,feeling inundated,etc.They are the broad or specific adaptive responses we manifest when confronted or exposed to short-term and long-term internal or external stressors.

Common Stressors:Boredom,loneliness,separation or divorce or death of loved ones,competitions,frustration,deadline tasks,conflicts,physical and mental exertion,loss of prestige,image or status,lack of freedom,relationship problems with friends,in-laws,colleagues,retirement,loan repayment.

Our Adaptive pedigree determines to what extent and depth our cascade of biological,emotional and thought processes will be,indicating the intricate hard-wired nature of our being.

A familiar everyday phenomena is confrontation with life-threatening situations like the ferocious site of an attacking bear or a relentless well-positioned,unprovoked ready-to-strike black mamba.Any of these will instinctively trigger the well-known fright,flight or fight response ushered in by an Adrenaline surge that causes our heart rate and breathing to accelerate to astonishing levels,our gastrointestinal system function decreases,blood vessels constrict to limit or a cascade of blood clotting mechanism is triggered to minimize  imminent blood loss from potential injuries,nutrients and blood surge to the muscles in readiness for the physical activity while our pupils dilate for better vision.These homeostatic mechanisms are aimed at preserving the internal milieu.

The Adrenal Gland secrets a hormone;cortisol which accentuates the vasoconstrictive effect of epinephrine and also potentiates requisite hyperglycaemia necessary for the brain and muscles during urgent energy-sapping conditions like stress.

Effects of Sustained Stress:Long-term stress results in distress which in turn triggers a cascade of negative reactions primed by an elevated level of cortisol.The consequence of this is:

  • Immunosuppression
  • muscle and cartilage degradation
  • truncal obesity
  • poor wound healing
  • insulin resistance/hyperinsulinaemia
  • fluid collection
  • high blood pressure

Psychosocial Disturbances:Unmitigated stress disturbs the body`s equilibrium resulting in headaches,sleeping problems,sexual dysfunction,stomach upsets,elevated blood pressure and chest pain.Emotional problems also eventually result: panic attacks,anxiety disorder,worry,fear,compulsive obsessive disorders,depression,hopelessness,irritability.

Cognitive Changes:memory impairment,lack of concentration,distraction,insomnia,though affects/unpleasant thoughts.

Behavioural Changes:Compulsive use of substances can occur simultaneously in any individual at any given time either singly or in combination-

  1. Food(overeating)
  2. Gambling
  3. Excessive alcohol use
  4. Drug abuse
  5. Internet
  6. Sex
  7. shopping/impusle spending
  8. tobacco use.

Because these substances and behavioural patterns are stressors themselves,the individual finds himself in a vicious circle that may potentiate the likelihood of vulnerability to:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • suicidal tendencies
  • chronic liver disease
  • accidents
  • lung diseases

Stress Relief :Mild to moderate stress can be relieved by regular exercise,deep relaxation,meditation,stress reduction techniques,effective time management,positive re-orientation and seeking new interests,friends,events and places.You must seek consultation with Doctor or clinical psychologist in cases of severe or intense stress.Stress must only be used under medical supervision.

Other stress relief measures like breathing and conscious relaxation of the respiratory muscles when combined with supportive interractive factors like warmth,gentle stretching,soothing massage,meditation and aromatherapy all hepl to activitate the parasympathetic system,a major propeller of the rest and digest response of the body.We then relax and our is mobilised into the maintainance status which include digestive functions,sexual responsiveness,tissue repair and waste elimination.

Andrew Okpetu