Did you feel your muscles tense, did you start to get a pain in your lower back, stomach pains, a racing heart, sweating palms, feeling 'butterflies' in your stomach, shortness of breath and holding your breath are all physical symptoms. Did perhaps, you also feel restless, unable to concentrate, become confused, experience negative self talk, feeling you can't cope, feel upset, find it hard to make up your mind and perhaps lack a sense of humour, these are all emotional and cognitive symptoms of stress.
Physical stress is defined as being "a specific response by the body to a stimulus", usually expressed through fear or pain, "that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism." (dictionary.com). I understand it as an outside variable, for example as a test, or even sitting your drivers license, that causes you distress and unhappiness. I got my learners license three weeks ago, and I can tell you first hand I experienced all of those symptoms I explained earlier.
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Most people in this room are teenage students. And as we are all International baccalaureate students, I'm sure you'd agree that stress plays a huge role in that of ours and all student's lives. Pressure from parents, teachers and even ourselves impacts us greatly. When I found this article online, I was researching options for my TOK presentation - you could even say that I was 'stressing' - but reading this caused me to completely re-evaluate my thinking process.
A 12 year old boy commits suicide after failing his exam- He had failed four out of 6 exams and felt necessary to end his short life. Just a quick search on any news website will show hundreds of stories like these. Stories which support the idea of stress resulting in young students feeling unbearable levels of pressure causing them to react in devastating ways. Suicide.....
From a survey I conducted I found that 78.9% of people found that work/school is the most stressful thing in their lives.
84.2% of people though that stress negatively affects their life
Furthermore, from this survey conducted with teenagers aging from 15- 19, 36.8% (the majority) of people felt that they often feel stressed in an average day. Second highest caterogry.
Time, workload and deadlines proved to be the most stressful thing at school.
When asked how they respond to stress, these were the results.
Frustration being the most common response.
Most Biologists believe stress to be real and justified, but some psychologists believe that stress is simply a figment of our imagination.
But, no matter our nationality, culture, way of life or age, we all have and will experience this feeling of 'stress' a number of times in our life. But what is stress? and Does it even exist?
There are two types of stress, the first being distress- we are most common with this type, it is the generalized form of stress. It is the negative form that causes strain, anxiety and overall suffering. The other form of stress is called, eustress. Most people won't recognise this as like I mentioned we generalize stress as being negative. Eustress is a positive and desirable emotion among humans. It is the feeling you get when engaging and being successful in a challenge, placing first in athletics day, getting a promotion, riding a roller coaster, and that feeling you get when you watch a horror movie. Personally, I am a self admitted scardy cat, however I admit I watch suspenseful movies anyway, most people enjoy the feeling of their heart racing as the innocent main character walks down a narrow dark pathway where in just seconds the killer is going to jump out. When we feel stress, as identified with the symptoms I mentioned, the body releases a hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is released when there is stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis which causes a response of the biochemical cortisol. This hormone is expressed in many different circumstances, from clinical depression, illness, fever, trauma, pain and even in extreme temperatures. The amount of cortisol hormone in our blood is never the same. Humans have the highest level of this hormone in the early morning, around 8am, and the lowest at 12-4am, usually 5 hours after you begin to sleep. Biologists argue that stress is a basic human instinct. It is in our DNA. It dates back to our ancestors and is called the "fight or flight" reaction. Basically it allowed someone in danger to respond quickly enough to a danger, allowing for a response that would ensure its survival. Biologists support the theory of stress existing by proving stress does exist through the evolution of humans we evolved this simple response system into a regulated pattern of response. Although our perceived 'dangers' may be different, examples of modern day threats are exams and school, it is essentially the same. The majority of biologists support the idea of stress existing.
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Both Biologists and Psychologists agree with the claim of - how we perceive the situation at hand, impacts on what we feel/ the type of stress we feel. While Biologists view perception as something to overcome, psychologists view perception as the root of stress.
This prompts the question. Does stress really exist? Or is it simply a mechanism we have adopted because of worldwide culture believing that what we feel and how we react to situations has to be defined by a physiological and psychological response.
Some psychologists believe that anxiety, pressure, clinical depression and hormone imbalances can cause stress to occur. Yet the other psychologists believe that lack of preparation, poor training, unreasonable expectations, lousy focus and mindless management of energy all add up to prove that stress is not truly real.
This prompts us to question the relevance of stress. One of my best friends, who I have known for over 6 years suffers from high anxiety levels therefore she doesn't feel as the stressed as me, someone with lower anxiety. Another way to look at this, is by looking at this colour.
Would you describe this colour as beige, dull yellow, pale brown, a pale orangey red, skin colour, autumn, or caramel, perhaps you don't agree with any of these descriptions? When I asked a variety of people this question, the previous colour names were their answers.
The first use of the word brown was in the year 1000, (Maerz and PaulÂ A Dictionary of ColorÂ New York:1930 McGraw-Hill Page 191). So for all the years previous, they had a completely different word and meaning for this colour. Because their use of language use was entirely different to ours, can we assume that their perception was also different? It is impossible to entirely feel the same emotion and even see the same colour; we are all different due to factors such as age, gender, culture and specifically personality all of which affect us in every aspect of our lives. Lost in translation
I recognise that personality is a vast thing that cannot be completely characterized. However it is my belief that there are three main stems that build up our personality. Think of thee stems as the three primary colours, red, green and blue. These colours are the basis of all other colours just like these stems are the basis for all personalities. Psychologists have split up the dimensions of our personality into three main types.
Emotion based (water = fluidity, liquid)
Reason Based (solid = things are exactly what they seem)
Will Based (gas = not afraid to charge ahead, regardless of other variables eg other peoples thoughts will change along with )
Each of the three obviously interact with each other, essentially they are all made up from the same thing - water. However, one will be predominantly expressed. Individuals that fit into each category will each react stress differently.
In this example, imagine salt is stress. Placed into water it will disperse and although make a change - making it more salty, eventually will become invisible. The liquid form stands to symbolise the fluidity of their personality, they will simply adapt and carry on regardless, often not noticing the potential damage something such as stress can cause.
Placing salt over ice melts the ice, completely changing its form. Reason based individuals tend to ignore emotion and work solely off pure certified fact. By doing so they neglect their intuition and face the possibility of being worn down by stress as it, according to physiologists, isn't reasonable.
Emotion and reason based personalities are the direct opposite of each other. Emotion disregarding fact and going off intuition, whilst reason base disregards intuition and goes off fact.
The final personality base is will based, if I place the salt into the gas- it will make no difference. Just simply sitting at the bottom of the jar. This personality encourages a mix of emotional experience and reasonable experimentation.
The salt proves how we all react to stress differently. And both psychologists and biologists would agree with this claim.
Never the less we all will have different opinions on this knowledge issue. But I believe that both are true. I know that they contradict each other, but our generation in particular is plagued by the existence of stress, whether or not it exists, personally and collectively we believe that we can and more importantly should multitask. But the truth is, is that none of us can do everything perfect all the time.
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Just ask your parents and I'm sure that they'd agree that education has increased in difficulty profoundly. I believe that we struggle to agree or disagree with the existence of stress because levels, forms and the very nature of 'stress' is always changing. Much like the struggle in finding the cures to viruses, because nothing is clear, we do not have solid evidentiary support for either claims. But, what I know with 100% certainty is that we suffer from an Imbalanced perspective. Our opinions and reactions are based on the lens with which we see life with; sometimes that lens may just be out of focus.
For arguments sake, I believe stress in human nature is more similar to the stress in mechanics than to the debated stress in biology and pschycology. In mechanics it is the force per unit on a surface; it measures the intensity of the forces. So in other words, the amount of pressure you put on yourself or feel from others equates to the feeling of stress. So, make sure you manage your life and keep everything in perspective, because there is much more to life than having to stand in front of your peers and sing a couple lines of a song - there is always something worse - and will always be something better to look forward to.