I thought it would be fitting to take a break from studying for my ACT to talk about stress. What does it really mean when someone says they’re stressed? April is Stress Awareness Month; though I’m sure we can agree that every month feels like stress awareness month.
There are several different types of stress. Acute “motivational” stress helps us be productive. Chronic stress results from prolonged emotional pressure. Posttraumatic stress comes from any event that results in psychological trauma.
Stress manifests itself in many different ways and can be harmful if not managed properly.
But stress is not always bad. By design, stress is there to help us.
Stress, in medical terms, is the physiological response to a perceived threat. When the central nervous system senses a threat, signals are sent that release stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol. The release of these hormones into the bloodstream, in turn, triggers specific physiological responses such as accelerated heart and respiratory rates, muscle tension, perspiration and more. This is ideal when it comes down to a “fight-or-flight” moment; your body is ready to react. When this stimulation of your central nervous system is prolonged, then there can be physical problems.
When stressed, the immune system stops functioning at its full capacity. This explains how students often get sick following exam periods. However, this weakening of your immune system has deeper implications: cancer. Your immune system may not be able to fight off tumors as efficiently when under stress. New blood vessels that feed tumors may also form. A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that stress hormones, such as adrenaline, can directly fuel the growth and spread of tumors. Many experts agree that there is much ambiguity surrounding the correlation between stress and cancer. However, in many anecdotes involving cancer, the patient describes a very stressful event occurring not long before they were diagnosed.
Studies show that 75% or more of visits to a primary care physician are stress related. So instead of going to your doctor, there are many ways to relieve stress.
1. One easy way is to laugh more. Laughing releases endorphins that make you feel good and counter stress.
2. Take deep breaths. It’s not a cliché, it actually does slow your heart rate and increases oxygen intake.
3. Don't dwell on the stressful things. Think of an upcoming vacation or something that makes you happy.
4. Listen to music. This releases dopamine which results in a good relaxed feeling.
5. Lastly, workout. Physical activity and high water intake will keep you feeling renewed and stress free.
Now where did I put that practice test…