Book Extract: Please, Mom! It’s My Life
Author: Dr. Jaideep Singh Chadha
Publisher: Pustak Mahal (www.pustakmahal.com)
I have gone through a whole lot of definitions of stress and I feel that this one is the best of them all.
STRESS IS THE DEMAND MADE UPON THE ADAPTIVE CAPACITIES OF OUR MIND AND BODY.
In the olden days, life was very simple, as you can imagine. The only mode of transport was walking till they discovered that animals could be tamed. The daily chores were limited. There were no wives and no husbands. Everyone belonged to everyone and no one belonged to any one. They did not have to make houses. They lived in ready made ones, the caves. The only competition was from bears and other animals already living in them.
The only stress they had was from carnivorous animals, which included dinosaurs. The stress lasted till they were under attack and then it was all over. Agreed, some of them must have died, but for the ones who survived, it was over very quickly. Then, as man got organized into races and countries and the institution of marriage was brought in, stress became a little more serious, but it was manageable. They even had wars, but the wars were short lasting though very intense.
The body had begun to get used to that kind of stress. You would know about the ‘fight and flight reflex’. When some one is attacked very suddenly, the body has a reflex which acts at the spinal cord level. The information about the attack doesn’t even go to the brain. The spinal cord decides if the person has to fight back or run away. In either case, there are changes which take place in a split second. Some of the changes that take place are:
* The heart rate goes up, so that more blood is pumped into the muscles.
* The blood pressure goes up, roughly for the same purpose.
* The blood circulation to the skin and the stomach reduce, so that there is more blood available for the muscles.
* The gastric juices are reduced so that there is no chance of vomiting.
* The thyroid gland, which is the band master of the body gets activated and releases certain hormones, cholesterol (for energy) and sugar.
* The liver releases glycogen and cholesterol so there is more energy available.
Many more changes take place, all for the sole purpose of gearing up for the fight or flight. You will be surprised to know that these changes take place in an instant, without the brain coming to know. Now, when the dinosaur or the attacker has gone, the body immediately retracts the changes that took place, and there is no harmful residual effects in the body.
But, these days, stress is all levels. The home, office and every other place. Stress is omnipresent and the changes of the fight and flight reflex stay on and on, for days, weeks, months and years.Hence the following changes will become permanent:
* The pulse will always be high.
* The blood pressure will always be elevated, producing Hypertension.
* The blood sugar will be high causing Diabetes mellitis.
* The cholesterol levels will be high causing dyslipidaemia.
* The skin will be cold and dry producing skin diseases.
* The stomach will be prone to acidity and peptic ulcers.
* Oxygen free radicals will be released producing heart diseases, asthama. arthritis and cancer, to name a few.
* The brain will always be tense.
* All these changes will cause heart attacks and brain strokes.
The result is that stress produces a very sick man. Hence young boys and girls suffer heart attacks and wonder why!
There is a catch here. Not every one will suffer the bad effects of stress equally. Some will suffer more and some will suffer less because the end result will depend upon the person’s reaction to the particular stressor.
It depends upon how well we adapt. For example, there is a group of boys who, in the middle of the afternoon ring your bell and run away and you are not able to fathom who or why anyone is doing that. There could be one person who is successful in nabbing the culprit, gives him a warning and lets him go. There could be another person, who nabs the kid, gives him a sound thrashing and then drags him over to his father. Now the father sees his son howling and is equally angry. Things could get very ugly here. Take a guess. Who has more stress. The person who had let the child go off with a warning or the second one?
At the other end of the spectrum, the reaction could come differently in different people if they were told that at precisely 5p.m., a nuclear attack from a hostile neighbouring country would destroy the city of Chandigarh. The person who thinks that he would rather do his favourite thing than sit around crying bucketful of tears, would definitely have lesser amount of stress.
So it is understood that it is our reaction to a situation that determines if we will have stress or not.
Stress is not a bad thing at all. If I tell you that henceforth, you shall be getting everything in bed and you are not to move a muscle for your wants, it will be great fun for a few days, but later you will turn into a vegetable.
The following experiment gives great insight to the value of adversity. An enclosure was created where special trees were planted. They noticed that after growing to a particular height, the trees just toppled over. The organisers realised that they had failed to put in the wind factor. The lack of wind prevented the trees from swaying. This inhibited the trees from growing deeper roots. Thus, when the trees reached a particular height, they just toppled over because of their own weight, for the trees had failed to grow roots deep enough to support the tree.
Thus we know that man will also be like those trees in the experiment, if there was no adversity or stress.
I repeat here:
WHATEVER THE LEVEL OF STRESS, IT IS OUR REACTION TO IT THAT WILL DETERMINE THE OUTCOME. SO NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU DO, OR WHAT SITUATION YOU ARE IN, YOU HAVE TO ALTER YOUR REACTION IF YOU HAVE TO AVOID HARMFUL EFFECTS OF STRESS.