On an experiential level we know the stress through its “symptoms” which – if they occur in abundance and for a period of at least a month – give rise to a real “stress disorder”. When this happens the person experiences:
- Chronic fatigue,
- Muscle tension,
- Difficulty in maintaining attention and concentration
- Irritability, hyper vigilance
- Appetite reduction
- Changes in sleep / wake rhythms
- As already mentioned in the previous article there will be an acute stress disorder if the above symptoms occur for a period of 2 days up to 1 month; if, on the other hand, these symptoms remain up to three months starting from a traumatic trigger event, there will be an acute post-traumatic stress disorder; beyond three months there will be chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.
Moreover, stress has compromising effects also on our functioning; in particular, if we observe the short-term affects it seems that the activation of the organism guarantees a better functioning; in the long term, on the other hand, there is a compromise of the additional supplementary functions assigned to the reception and processing of information and, ultimately, there is a deterioration in the quality of our services.
So what is the relationship between stress and health?
Stress basically is an adaptive reaction of the organism to an extraordinary environmental request; therefore it can be said that acute stress has proved to be very unhealthy as long as there is a possibility of recovery.
In fact, it is not really correct to say that stress causes the onset of diseases; however, several scientific studies have now established that when the sources of stress are persistent and stress is chronic , for the subject the risk of developing states of illness and therefore of pathologies increases.
Chronic stresses are in fact among the most relevant factors in the genesis of the most common pathological manifestations in industrialized countries; many pathologies are in fact stress-related. Some of these:
- ulcers, gastritis and other digestive disorders,
- sleep disorder,
- some dermatological diseases,
- amenorrhea, impaired fertility,
- musculoskeletal pains,
- type 2 diabetes,
- cardiovascular diseases,
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
- chronic diseases of the digestive system such as liver cirrhosis,
- chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases.
From these data, it is clear how important it is to prevent stress from becoming chronic by activating strategies that prevent it thereby reducing the risk of potential physical weakening.
So what does chronic stress come from?
Chronic stress can derive from various personal and situational variables; the interdependence of these two orders of factors determines the structuring of the “chronic stress” phenomenon.
In particular, subjective variables relating to personal style affect obstacles, difficulties and commitments; it has in fact been observed that what most contributes to generating a state of chronic stress is given by a style of coping or dysfunctional coping and a tendency to have a high emotionality.
Situational factors on the other hand are external or environmental variables related to the type of characteristics of certain family, social and work contexts. They concern the nature of a given job, the rhythms and modalities that are ‘imposed’, often lacking communication or lack of information with respect to one’s work, the strong fragmentation of one’s work and living in highly urbanized contexts.
Prevention is better than cure: how can we defend ourselves from stress?
- knowing how to relax : providing spaces and moments dedicated to physical and mental relaxation;
- learning to give proportion to the problems or give a positive formulation, break them down, implement new solutions; doing this increases the perception of “controllability of events”;
- learn to economize on their resources in relationships , for example in the face of a wrong immediately examine the problem and decide on an effective course of action or decide to assert their reasons; in other words, to assess – depending on the stakes and your own resources – whether to proceed to an assertive confrontation or “drop” by optimizing your energies; restoring equilibrium in fact compared to stressful relational misunderstandings is important and affects the time used rather than the intensity of the event;
- seek support or accept the help of others; for some it may mean learning to ask;
- do not overlap the activities avoiding to “fill” the days, which prevents recovery times and causes a loss of benefits;
- take care of sleep , fighting disorder in sleep hygiene,
- take care of food avoiding the imbalances that usually arise in this circumstance (hyper-feeding / hypo-feeding).
Reserving these attentions to our person and educating ourselves to lead lifestyles that nourish our health and counteract the chronic stress is the best service we can do to ourselves, to our well-being … without forgetting that we have the possibility to enjoy and feel experiences that – otherwise – they would remain tacit!
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