Without a doubt, stress is one of the greatest evils of our time. One reason is the ever-increasing speed of today’s world. Moreover, there are certain dizzying changes that require us to continually adapt. This is reflected in an increase in psychological demand.
In addition, relations have become more unstable and conflictive. We live in the kind of world where we don’t feel we have our feet firmly on the ground and are continually subject to the unforeseen. Added to this is the fact that we all work far longer than we used to. Hardly surprising then, that stress has become a trademark of today’s world.
However, there’s also a positive side. It’s the fact that the kind of world we live in activates our attention. This means our bodies are continually prepared to face the kinds of challenges and confrontations that lead to fight-or-flight responses. The problem is that we’re surrounded by a wide variety of stimuli, many of them relatively permanent, which we come to interpret as threats for no real reason. Today, we’re going to talk about stress, a phenomenon that’s both natural and dangerous.
“No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
Stress and its causes
Research conducted by the Montreal Center for Human Stress Studies led by Dr. Sonia Lupien, examined information provided by brain imaging of individuals between the ages of 18 and 80. The researchers also considered results from previous studies and experiments. Their objective was to determine the main causes of stress.
After the analysis, they concluded that the main triggers for stress are as follows:
- The unknown. A new situation, of any kind, produces stress to a greater or lesser extent in almost everyone.
- Impotence. Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by circumstances is a stressor. This is an evolutionary process.
- The unpredictable. Situations in which there’s no clear path or predictable outcome are stressful for most people.
- Threats to the ego. Interestingly, this is one of the most distressing experiences. Indeed, testing our abilities or worth, especially in public, provokes feelings of threat in many of us.
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Some curious facts about stress
We all know that stress causes emotional and physical discomfort. A study conducted by Dr. Masuma Novak, from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), found that stress increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 45 percent. In fact, the scientists concluded that this emotional factor significantly affects the individual’s lack of response to insulin.
We also know that the brains of people over 40 with chronic stress age faster than calmer individuals. This is an additional risk factor for developing dementia at a later age.
Research published in Avances en Psicología LatinoAmericana also mentions a couple of curious facts about stress. The first is that stress negatively impacts decision-making and alters our ability to process information received from the environment. The second alludes to the fact that, in stressful environments or those that exceed individual tolerance, it’s more difficult to make successful choices.
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Some more curious facts about stress
Stress has the ability to activate immune cells in the skin. For this reason, stressed people are more prone to itching and frequent scratching. Also, stressed women are more sensitive to noise than men. Consequently, they’re less likely to tolerate intense sounds. In fact, if you talk to them at more than 60 decibels, they’ll view it as almost aggressive behavior.
Along similar lines, men’s nightmares tend to be related to catastrophes, while women are more likely to have bad dreams about interpersonal conflicts, and feelings of impotence and humiliation. However, sooner or later, all men and women who are stressed have trouble sleeping peacefully.
Another curious fact about stress is that it’s a highly contagious state. Therefore, seeing a stressed person (in person or on tv) increases the observer’s cortisol levels.
Finally, all this information leads to the conclusion that it’s essential to take measures for managing stress and preventing it from becoming chronic.