What Causes Stress?

April 20, 2010 by admin  
Filed under About Stress

Today’s world is filled with stress, which can be a two-edged sword. In some ways stress is good in that it provides a motivating factor that helps us achieve our goals and exceed our own expectations. But, often, stress can become overwhelming causing untold damage not only to one’s mental well-being, but to their physical health as well. There are many philosophies about what causes stress, but the biological factors associated with it and how much one can take, can help provide enlightenment that will ensure a healthy lifestyle.

There are so many causes of stress that it would be impossible to list them all. They all have to do, however, with the interaction of the mind and body on the living environment as well as other factors such as the food consumption, amount of exercise, job, relationships, and the social and culture pressures of our world.

During daily living the mind and body are bombarded with input. Even from the time of childhood the mind strives to interpret and evaluate the world in a way that makes sense. Much of this is stored in the subconscious and can be released when similar situations are encountered. For example, when perceiving a threat or dangerous situation one will immediately be flooded with emotions and memories that attempt to interpret the danger, anticipate the consequences, and react in a way that will preserve life.

What causes stress is the body and mind’s responce to stimulus, real or imagined, that can affect the body immediately as well as over a longer period of time. These threats may be emotional or physical and each can have a different impact on an individual. When in a stressful situation the brain releases chemicals that activate neurons in the hypothalamus. This is the core of the brain which deals with all primal functioning. This system in turn notifies the autonomic nervous system that something is wrong.

The autonomic nervous system then engages the sympathetic nervous system which changes the body’s chemistry so it can respond quickly. Several immediate reactions occur quickly: alarm which is known as the flight-or-fight response, resistance that allows one to cope and adapt if the stressor continues, and finally exhaustion which is the point at which resources are gradually depleted as the body fails to adapt quickly enough.

The result of stress varies, depending of the make-up of the individual. One can be affected cognitively, physically, behaviorally, emotionally, or in combination and intensity can vary depending on the individual and/or situation. This can have devastating long-term consequences. Stress is now part of our everyday lives, and learning about what causes stress, understanding its roots, and learning to cope can help one achieve a healthier, happier life.