Most people do not need a history of psychiatric disorders to be prone to stress as it is a natural reaction within the mental state of an individual. Stress can be triggered through a range of various stimuli or “stressors” such as: a response to a threat; financial instability; conflict; frustration; physical injury; rejection; deadlines or disappointments. The positive effects of stress is called Eustress. Distress is a threat to the quality of life and is when a demand vastly exceeds a person’s capabilities. Hans Selye defines stress as the nonspecific response of the body to any demand upon it. He termed the body’s response to stressors as the “General Adaptation Syndrome”. This consists of 3 stages, namely: alarm reaction, which is the initial response to stress; resistance, this is when the body tries to cope with stress; exhaustion, this is when the body is unable to cope.
The perception of stress or how an individual views stress is unique from person to person. Notwithstanding, a dangerous amount of stress can have severe health consequences and prove to be detrimental against one’s immune system. However, despite the common notion of viewing stress as an entirely counter-productive and negative state of mind, it can have positive implications on one’s life. The aim of this essay will be to examine the causes and effects of stress and how it can positively affect the lives of people.
Stressors can be physiologically or emotionally processed. They can be events, situations, people or any aspect of life which is viewed as a calamity by a certain individual. Some of the most common stressors include adapting to change resulting from being fired from a job, life-changing injury, the loss of a loved one, and drug rehabilitation or changes in lifestyle. Daily hassles such as noise, being stuck in traffic, financial issues, misplacing personal belongings, and conflicts in interpersonal relationships are all examples of the “micro-stressors” that add up over the course of a day or week. These micro-stressors, when they accumulate can be proven to have a longer-lasting impact.
The effects of internal stress include lack of concentration, forgetfulness, lowered academic performance, carelessness, and even memory loss. Stress can also adversely affect one’s emotional state, high levels of which can lead to boredom, outbursts of anger, nightmares and negative self-talk.
The physical symptoms of stress include dilated pupils; increased palpitation and perspiration; dryness in the mouth; trembling and spasms; increased heart rate and blood pressure which induce a harder pumping sensation in the chest.
Disregarding every day micro-stressors, which tend to dissipate over a short period of time, chronic stress can result in severe health conditions namely: anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the growth of major illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and obesity.
Chronic stress can occur in response to everyday stressors that are ignored or poorly managed, as well as through exposure to traumatic events. The consequences of chronic stress can be severe, particularly as they contribute to anxiety and depression. Additionally, research has shown that there is an association between both acute and chronic stress and a person’s abuse of addictive substances. It’s easy to see how the reactions mentioned above could turn into chronic and pathological dilemmas if stress were to become persistent in someone’s life. For example, anyone who goes through financial burdens from the result of being unemployed or even being employed to an undesirable or stressful job, are both scenarios which can cause long-term side effects, demoting the body to a state of distress. Unless relief is experienced, the body will be driven to meet demands that are more than its capability to deal with, thus leading to life-threatening consequences.
Despite the detrimental effect that high amounts of stress can cause, controlled amounts may actually be beneficial. Stress can motivate an individual to meet their deadlines by instigating an over-amplified fear of the consequences within the mind. In addition, increased heart-rate and blood circulation resulting from stress can boost physical and mental performance. The extra energy triggers a “fight or flight” response in the nervous system which allows an individual to boost the speed of their functioning towards whatever it is they wish to accomplish. For example, students often finish their assignments on the last day as the pressure that results from the stress of not wanting to fail motivates them to work twice as hard with limited time.
A person’s problem-solving skills can arguably be enhanced resulting from stress, in other words, improve cognitive functioning. Stress might actually improve some aspects of an individual’s intelligence. It can boost several aspects of mental prowess and so assist an individual in professional and academic capacities by allowing them to be entirely absorbed into an activity. This is because stress assists the mind to maintain focus at the task-at-hand. Instinctively, stress stimulates the body to react to potentially dangerous situations and this might mean, for instance, trying to escape from being assaulted. Controlled levels of stress can be beneficial in that it may increase alertness, which in turn, may lead to an individual to acquire information at a faster rate. For example, students who study the night before an exam are able to retain a lot of information in a short period of time. Another positive effect resulting from going through stress is when an individual chooses to deal with the negative symptoms in a constructive manner; this allows them to be more resilient and apt to convert stress into a positive aspect in their lives.
To conclude, examples of the short-term effects of stress are seen in the common aspects of dealing with life on a daily basis. The confusion, nervousness, and tension resulting from this are common reactions to stress that usually dissipate over time. That being said, chronic or acute stress can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Stress has become a natural part of life, however, this does not change the fact that if measures are not taken to relieve or eliminate stress, people will be subjected to a host of illnesses and will be more likely to experience mental, physiological and emotional disorders which can prove to be life-threatening.
On the other hand, stress can have a positive effect resulting in functional adjustments that allow the person to think and act more quickly in an attempt to avert a particular danger. Enhanced cognitive functioning can help sharpen the mind to improve decision-making skills under pressure. A short burst of stress also aids in memory function. Lastly, the fight or flight response stimulates the brain by diverting blood to the more vital organs, which increases mental and physical mobility.
Although stress is rightfully viewed as a negative dilemma which is sought to be avoided, a person’s life may and can actually be enhanced through small amounts of stress. Whereas it is true that different people are affected by stress in entirely varying degrees, there is an undeniable harm around the effects of stress and the positive aspects can only truly help someone if they choose to handle it positively. If this is not the case, it is dangerously easy to fall into a vicious cycle of stress which can continue to become chronic.