May 30, 2020

How to fight stress | Science

Let's not be fooled. When someone, even the doctor, tells us "what happens to you is stress", he is not telling us anything new, but only what we already know, that is, we are distressed, tired, dismembered, moody, intolerant and even is Possibly sick. That is stress, the set of alterations of the body and mind that result from an intense and sustained activity of our nervous and endocrine systems. It is like a state of anxiety, or even fear, that far from being a passenger to respond to a specific situation, it is permanently installed in us causing us to have an accelerated heart, high blood pressure, mobilized energy reserves of the liver and muscles and activated the endocrine glands producing abnormal amounts of hormones, such as adrenaline or glucocorticoids such as cortisol. All this damages the cardiovascular system, and causes the defenses in the immune system to decrease and more neurons die than usual in our brain. It is as if a car instead of accelerating it only when it is necessary to overtake another car, has been accelerated all the time. The engine and many of its components would eventually be damaged and, in addition, the vehicle would be subject to unnecessary risks due to its own behavior.

The absence of stress is therefore an important component of people's well-being and to reduce or eliminate stress we need first of all to identify its causes, to know what produces it. If we did a survey asking people on the street why we are stressed, they would surely tell us about the rush, overwork, urban overcrowding, excessive traffic, interpersonal conflicts, competitiveness, lack of adaptation to new technologies, personal dissatisfactions, pollution, noise and much more in such a way. Sonia Lupien, a famous Canadian specialist, believes that the main source of stress in modern life is the half, that is, the amount of information about accidents, catastrophes and negative social and environmental events with which newspapers, radios, TV networks and now the Internet also bombard us. The latter, due to its particularly addictive nature, can even establish itself as an important and special source of stress. Consider, for example, the person who, with little medical knowledge, scrutinizes the network and is often frightened when false clinical diagnoses are attributed to ignorance. The good, what does not produce stress, is rarely news.

But just making the list of what causes stress doesn't help us to fight it. What it can do is analyze what is special and in common each and every one of those circumstances that are capable of excessively activating our body. Let's see examples. Why do excessive work or traffic jams cause stress? What is special and / or in common that could explain it? They do not seem to be the mere excess of any of them, because when something motivates us the excesses to achieve it can be even more rewarding than stressful. Think of the reader in how well we feel when after making a great effort we successfully finish an important job or win a competition, or at least stressful that the same traffic is when we are in no hurry to get anywhere. Perhaps physical fatigue always contributes to some extent to stress, but there is something else that we should detect as a critical and relevant cause of it. That something, in my opinion, is nothing other than the conflict that often takes place between our desires and our possibilities, that is, between our emotions and our reasoning.

All this damages the cardiovascular system, and causes the defenses in the immune system to decrease and more neurons die than usual in our brain

If we think carefully, in almost all the recognized causes of stress we find that conflict and there is a part of our brain, the anterior cingulate cortex, which is activated especially in those cases functioning as a kind of alarm or sneak of the imbalance related perhaps with the induction of the changes that occur then in our body. If the excess of work stresses us it is because we do not see meaning or because despite having made the effort we have not achieved all that we intended with it. What really causes stress is wanting (emotion) more than is possible (reason), that is, continually proposing more than we can and often experiencing the frustration of not getting it. Because we know ourselves little, we often adopt the wrong strategy of proposing ten to get five. Then it turns out that we don't get two. Frustration takes hold of us and the repeated exercise of that bad strategy creates stress in our body.

What should we do to avoid it? Very simple, but not always easy: we must adjust emotion and reason, that is, or propose less (change our emotion) or work more and / or better (change our reasoning). Another example is infidelity. The lover who cheats on their partner can be the victim of a cohabitation when facing the imbalance between their new love (emotion) and their misconduct (reason). In this case there are also only two possible solutions, or the new love is abandoned or rational causes are found to maintain it, that is, causes that justify infidelity. Let us observe then that in both cases and in many others that we could analyze there is an emotion-reason imbalance that, if not corrected by modifying one of the two parameters, constitutes a source of intense and permanent negative emotional response, that is, of stress. That stress disappears immediately when the aforementioned balance is recovered.

Well-being, in short, has a lot to do with achieving the link between logic and feelings, between emotion and reason. How to get it? The key is to use reason because we have a much more direct control over it than over our emotions. So to speak, the ability to reason is largely within our reach, it is ours, while emotion is imposed on us, without being able to avoid or control it easily. Reasoning we can manage our emotions to adjust them to our reasoning, or vice versa, manage our reasoning to adjust them to our emotions. The so-called emotional intelligence consists precisely in the ability of each person to manage their emotions using reason with the aim of coupling them.

What really causes stress is wanting (emotion) more than is possible (reason), that is, continually proposing more than we can and often experiencing the frustration of not getting it

Let's face it, everyday well-being can only be based on the daily state and what intelligence and the emotional brain tell us is that to improve that state the solution is not to live better certain days, but to adjust our daily aspirations and rhythms to the measure of our possibilities so that the result of our work and behavior, far from producing frustration, gives us the feeling that we control the situations we live in. The reason emotion balance allows us to live with the feeling that, as far as possible, we control our health, our time, our economy, the relationships we have, work, leisure, etc. That emotional feeling of self-control is the antithesis of stress and a powerful generator of well-being. The objective is to repair this because it is important, it is not to do less than we do, which could be a reason for added frustration, but quite the opposite, because by adjusting our claims to our possibilities in all areas of the life the satisfaction we feel in achieving our purposes contributes powerfully to also improve our motivation and our performance. Well-being, in a word, does not depend so much on the status that people have, as on the organic state and the feelings generated by being or not adjusted to the level at which they operate. Paraphrasing the great Baltasar Gracian we could say: How do you sleep when you do not err in the state, in the occupation, or in the neighborhood, or in friends!

Ignacio Morgado Bernal is cProfessor of Psychobiology at the Institute of Neuroscience and the Faculty of Psychology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He is the author of Emotions and social intelligence: The keys to an alliance between feelings and reason. Barcelona: Ariel

. (tagsToTranslate) combat (t) stress (t) tension (t) be (t) cause (t) pass (t) consequence

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