(NaturalNews) Having some degree of stress is normal and, sometimes, actually useful. Modern life, however, has elevated stress to much higher levels and created situations of prolonged chronic stress, which can lead to exhaustion and serious diseases.
Types of stress
Sources of positive stress exist as do sources of stress that cause the body distress. Heart palpitations, a queasy stomach, clammy palms and a headache are signs of such distress.
There are four main types of stress:
• Physical: Physical stress can be caused by an injury, surgery, intense physical work, environmental pollution, pathogens, dehydration, substance abuse, nutritional deficiencies and food allergens.
• Psychological - Psychological stress consists of emotional stresses, such as fear, anger, grief, sadness, frustration; mental stresses, such as worry, the need for perfectionism, jealousy, anxiety, a sense of a loss of control; and perceptual stresses caused by beliefs, attitudes and world views.
• Psychosocial - Psychosocial stresses are caused by relationship issues with family and friends, a lack of social support and isolation.
• Psycho-spiritual - Psycho-spiritual stress occurs when one has a crisis of purpose, meaning or values, including at work.
What happens when you experience stress
Research conducted by stress researcher Hans Selye, M.D. has shown that a consistent response pattern to stress exists. This pattern is called the General Adaptation Syndrome and has three stages: alarm reaction, stage of resistance and stage of exhaustion.
At first, the body tends to react to stress in an orderly fashion. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, leading to the production of certain hormones in the endocrine glands and the constriction of blood vessels and involuntary muscles. Heart rate, glucose metabolism and oxygen use are elevated. The adrenal glands release hormones, including adrenaline, that prime the body to respond to external threats or stressors. Corticosteroids, such as cortisol and cortisone, are generated.
The parasympathetic nervous system also gets to work, helping to calm and relax the body. The pituitary gland produces hormones that affect the body's defensive and adaptive mechanisms, while releasing endorphins.
Stress can affect one's ability to sleep well, negatively impacting the body's immune system and health overall. Chronic stress suppresses the immune system, making one more prone to ailments, particularly immune-related conditions and cancer. Even emotional stress, for example grief from losing a loved one, can greatly reduce the ability of the immune system to work properly. Emotional stress can also create hormonal imbalances that further damage the immune system and a person's well-being.