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The Psychology of Stress


Stress has gotten to be so endemic it's worn like a badge of bravery. But the effects of tension are even more profound than envisaged. It gets through to the core of our being. Stress isn't something that merely grips us and, with work lets go. It alters us in the process.

We get sensitized to stress. This sensitization leads the brain to re- circuit itself in reaction to stress. We understand that what we're coming across might be a normal, daily episode of tension, but the mind is signaling the body to react unsuitably. We might not think we're getting worked up over running late for an engagement, but our mind is treating it as if our life is on the line.

The revelation that tension itself changes our power to cope with tension has produced yet another noteworthy finding: Sensitization to stress might happen before we're old enough to forestall it ourselves. New studies advise that animals to humans could experience still undetermined developmental periods during which exposure to tension is more detrimental than in later years. What we now think is that stress happening when you're young might permanently rewire the minds circuitry, throwing the system awry and leaving it less able to cope with normal, daily stress.

The fresh blueprint of how we react to stress likewise might explain why individuals have different tolerances for tension. In the past stress tolerance might have been chalked up to mental fortitude.

Today it's clear that our ability to withstand tension has less to do with whether we're strong-minded than with how much and what sort of stress we come across in the past.

From this evidence investigators have reasoned that the stress reaction is "wired" into the mind, that we inherit the same indigenous reactions that jump-started hunter-gatherers to break away from a saber-tooth tiger without having to give their actions thought. Only this same life-or-death response is now called into play largely by non-life-threatening conditions. Studies have determined the same fight-or-flight circuits all working overtime in reaction to such variegated stressors as extreme exercise, the death of a family member, and nearing deadlines.

There's no one-size-fits-all way to bring down stress. For instance, "study upon study has demonstrated that simple relaxation doesn't work in many individuals. Telling somebody who has been sensitized to stress to simply relax is like telling an insomniac to simply nod off.
What you don't need to do is resort to quick fixes that have no stamina. Smoking, drinking alcohol, gorging on food; these are sure- fire stress losers. They might give the impression that they're relieving stress, but they will not work over time and eventually you'll be right back where you began.

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