Stress is the body’s natural response to the changes and hostilities which occur in life. Immediate and temporary responses to stress are the short term effects, while persistent stress resulting from recurring and sustained factors in life produces long term effects. Stress can be a positive inducement resulting in an alertness that keeps people in tune with their surroundings and circumstances. However, it can become critical if a person doesn’t experience relief because if prolonged, stress can initiate or contribute to some of the more serious ailments such as high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and depression.
The Short Term Effects
Examples of the short term effects of stress are seen in the common aspects of dealing with life on a daily basis. For instance, when moving, people are faced with the stress of relocating all furniture and a multitude of packed boxes and rearranging the same in the new location. Then there’s the added necessity of everyone having to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. The confusion, nervousness and tension resulting from this are common reactions to stress that usually dissipate over time. This is an example of emotional stress which is immediate and short lived.
On the other hand, when a more severe event occurs such as an assault of some kind, the stress is experienced on a physical level resulting in functional adjustments that allow the person to think and act more quickly in an attempt to avert the danger. In this case, there will be physiological responses such as diversion of blood to the more vital organs (i.e., brain, heart), an increase in the respiratory rate to extract more oxygen from the atmosphere and increase in the heart rate to supply more blood, thereby increasing mental and physical mobility.
In both of these cases, the stressful effects are short term because once the situation no longer exists, the stress will disintegrate. Going to a new school, a dental appointment, an upcoming family reunion, are more examples of circumstances that can incite stress on a short term basis. When handled properly, this type of stress will have little to no effect on the body.
The Long Term Effects
Stress of any kind causes physical reactions in the body which are meant to occur infrequently and for short periods of time. Depending on the circumstances, these reactions can manifest themselves in either trivial or vital ways. Some minor reactions are:
• cold and clammy skin
• feeling flushed with warm feeling
• dry mouth along with difficulty speaking and swallowing
• problems concentrating
• loss of appetite
• headache, backache and neck ache
• hyperventilation and excessive sweating
Some major reactions are:
• heart palpitations
• onset of depression and anxiety
• loss of energy
• trouble sleeping progressing to insomnia
• onset of or contribution to the development of debilitating diseases
• gastrointestinal disorders
• high blood pressure
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 instance, anyone living with financial insecurities as a result of loss of employment or a person with a job which imposes a constant burden on them are both scenarios which will cause sustained stress, relegating the body to a state of distress. Unless relief is experienced, the body is driven to its limits and the physiological responses may even become life threatening. Living constantly with stress also compromises the immune system and this introduces an inability to fight off illness and disease. This, in turn, will increase the risk of contracting the more serious illnesses and diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer.
Chronic or acute stress can wreak havoc on a person’s life. Some believe that stress has become a natural part of life and given the condition of the world today, this conclusion may be true. However, this doesn’t change the fact that if steps aren’t taken to relieve or eliminate stress, people will be subjected to a host of illnesses and diseases, and are likely to experience mental and emotional disorders. Therefore, no matter what the condition of the surroundings, maintaining stress will only be harmful, not helpful, when it comes to dealing with life.