ACE Class Report – Stress and Your Body.
Title: Stress and Your Body
Instructor: Professor Robert Sapolsky
Why I took This class:
To find out more about stress and its effect on our body and how to control and manage stress.
What I learned from this class:
Stress is a body’s emergency response to real or imagined danger. A stress reaction prepares the body for a burst of action to fight or flee a threat. The heart races, the hands get cold and sweaty, the muscles tense, and the stomach feels jittery. Stress that lasts a long time can exhaust the body and frazzle the mind with worry. Any event, thought, or situation that causes stress is called a stressor.
Stress aids survival, especially in cases when extraordinary effort can overcome real physical dangers. Stress prepares the body to fight against or escape from danger. This so-called fight -or-flight response was particularly useful for prehistoric people who faced life-threatening predators, But as civilization developed, society became more complex, mental and emotional challenges increased and became common stressor. Stress are an unavoidable part of life. They range in severity from relatively mild forms, such as a traffic jam, a disparaging remark from one’s employer, or a family argument, to severe ones, such as a death of a spouse or fear of dying in a battle. Mild stress can provide a sense of excitement and help people perform at their peak. But severe stress can fill people with worry, disrupt sleep and interferes with efficiency. Stress that last for a long time can weaken health and undermine happiness. People’s response to stress vary widely, depending on their cultural and family background, their personal experiences, their mood at the time and on other stresses present at the same time. However, when problems escalate faster than they can be solved, a person’s adaptive capacity maybe over loaded and chronic illness, anxiety and, or depression may result.
Causes of Stress:
Modern life can be stressful because it exposes people to many stressors. Some physical stressors remain, including natural disaster, illness, and noise. Day to day problems like taking a test or driving in traffic jam may be stressful. The increasing demands on jobs, school and other activities are also stressors for children and for their overworked parents.
People need not experience even directly to fell stress. television, radio, newspapers, and the internet flood people with information about crime, disasters, terrorism and other upsetting occurrences throughout the world. People can also imagine misfortunes and regret past failures, causing stress.
How stress affect the body:
Dr. Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome to describe the body’s reaction to stressors. The first stage is called the Alarm Reaction – when a person or animal first sense danger. The Hypothalamus sends nerve signals to the Adrenal glands to release chemical messenger called hormones. One important hormone is Epinephrine or Adrenalin. It raises the heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and the amount of sugar in the blood. These effect increase alertness and deliver more blood, oxygen and food to active muscles. If danger persist, a stage called Resistance follows the Alarm Reaction. During the Resistance stage, the body attempts to return to a state of equilibrium. Breathing and heart rate decrease to normal. The Hypothalamus sends a hormone signal to the Pituitary gland then release Adrenocorticotropic hormone to the Adrenal gland, which release a hormone called Glucocorticoid. These hormones keep blood sugar high to provide extra energy. If stress continue at high level, the body enters the final stage called Exhaustion. In this stage, energy reserves are used up leading to extreme fatigue and inability to resist new stressors.
Stress Related Illness:
Stress is involved in a large number of illness. Hormones released during a stress reaction affect organs throughout the body. Stress hormones that act on the heart, blood vessels, and lungs may contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma. Prolonged elevation of blood sugar can influence development of Diabetes. Diseases of the stomach and intestines are often linked to stress because blood leaves these organs and moves to muscles during stress. Extended exposure to mental and emotional stressors can lead to difficulties in eating, sleeping and making decisions. People may feel angry, depressed and overwhelmed. Glucocorticoid hormones can suppress the body immune (Disease fighting) system. During prolonged or repeated stress, people are more likely to get colds, flu, and many other diseases.
One important way people can manage stress is to learn to question whether experiences that they fear are truly dangerous. Relaxation technique include: Deep breathing and slowly, tensing and then relaxing each muscle in the body and imagining a calm, peaceful place. Other techniques includes: hypnosis, meditation, recorded relaxation program and Yoga. healthy lifestyle choices increase the body’s ability to cope with stress. People can manage stress by exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, avoiding nicotine, and reducing use of caffeine and alcohol. Friendships, pets, and other social connections aid greatly in managing stress. Talking with others helps people sort through problems and explore possible solutions. Many people find that spiritual activities reduce stress. Religion can offer forms or mediation, traditional wisdom and the fellowship of other members. Transcendental meditation (TM) is also widely used method to manage stress. A phrase or mantra is repeated over and over for 20 minutes twice daily. This type of meditation is effective in reducing respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Other studies indicate that the secret mantra is not needed, just use any word like ‘one” and repeat it over and over for 10 to 20 minutes will work.
How will this class contribute to my success upon release:
This class teaches me about stress, causes of stress, its effect on the body, the illness associated with the stress and how to manage it. This information will help me better manage my stress while incarcerated an upon release. This information can also be taught to others when I volunteer my teaching, tutoring or mentoring services to the communities.