Stress, the Silent Killer

Read this section carefully. It will give you insight into why it is so important to reduce stress.


A theoretical approach that helps explain psychosomatic symptoms is the concept of the general adaptation syndrome, developed in 1953 by the prominent endocrinologist Hans Selye and still accepted by most behaviorists. According to Selye’s theory, the body’s reaction under stress occurs in three major phases: the alarm reaction, the stage of resistance and the stage of exhaustion.
The alarm reaction is the organism’s first response to the application of any stress-provoking agent or stressor. A stressor is anything injurious to the organism, whether physical (such as inadequate food, loss of sleep, bodily injury), or psychological (such as loss of love or personal security). The alarm reaction consists of various complicated bodily and bio-chemical changes such as those associated with emotion. These physiological changes usually have the same general characteristics regardless of the exact nature of the stressor. In other words, the overt symptom would be similar regardless of the nature of the cause.

If exposure to the stress-producing situation continues, the alarm reaction is followed by the stage of resistance. Here the organism seems to develop a resistance to the particular stressor that provoked the alarm reaction, and the symptoms that occurred during the first stage of stress disappear, even though the disturbing stimulation continues. Resistance to the stressor seems to be accomplished in large part through increased activity of the anterior pituitary and the adrenal cortex, whose secretions (ACTH and cortin) help the organism adjust to stress. The physiological processes disturbed during the alarm reaction now appear to resume normal function.

If exposure to the injurious stressor continues too long, a point is reached where the organism can no longer maintain its resistance. It thereupon enters the final phase of changes related to stress — the stage of exhaustion. The anterior pituitary and adrenal cortex are unable to continue secreting their hormones at the increased rate, with the result that the organism can no longer adapt to the continuing stress. Many of the physiological dysfunctions, which originally appeared during the alarm reaction, begin to reappear. If the stressor continues to act upon the organism, a nervous breakdown or death soon occurs. Severe stress is usually relieved, however, before the state of exhaustion is reached. Another interesting finding, in connection with studies of the general adaptation syndrome, is that in building up resistance in one area, it suffers reduced ability in others.


Everyday, you experience frustrating situations that are beyond your control. These stress-provoking incidences act to erode your patience as well as frustrate and anger you. Not only do you experience emotional stress, but physical as well. You are responsible for this conflict, because you allowed these events to get the better of you. Be realistic. If some person wants to cut in front of you on the freeway, or the grocery clerk is as slow as a snail, what can you really do about it? Nothing. So why get uptight and kill your happy cells. Use each negative situation to make yourself a better person. When the idiot driver cuts in front of you, back off and give him room. If you feel anger begin to build, relax; then forget it and let your mind drift to pleasant thoughts. How about being in morning or evening traffic, this causes a lot of stress, but how much more stress do you add by thinking about the expected traffic? Whenever you run across a slow grocery clerk or bank teller, make a mental note to avoid that person in the future, and then turn your attention to more important matters. Unless absolutely beyond control, never get mad, upset or uptight at someone else’s stupidity or incompetence or a situation that is real, like traffic problems.

Another area in which we commit emotional suicide is our imagination. How often have we allowed ourselves to get angry, resentful or uptight because of an imagined insult that turned out not to be true. Over 80% of our fears are falsely based, and another 10% are real, but exaggerated, or blown out of proportion. When you get angry, stop and see if is real, or whether you are just letting your emotions get the best of you.

A common frustration, in communicating, is when two people try and convince each other of a thought or belief. In order to reduce the chance of unnecessary stress, a good rule to follow, is to determine if the information is extensional or intentional.

  • Extensional. That which exists in our external world and can be proven.
  • Intentional. That which is intangible (a belief) and cannot be proven… religion, politics.
    This clarification can help you draw the line in the futility of pursing a discussion, once you know there is conflict in your conversation.
  • One of the most common areas of unnecessary stress, is watching the news, especially in the morning. Most news reports are based on bad events, not happy events. If any of it upsets you, then you walk out the door, uptight. If you are not going to do anything about it, and it has nothing really to do with you, then why turn happy cells into stressed cells. Watch the news later. Try and start your day with positve thoughts. Deal with problems in your own life, rather then waste energy on things out of your control. Your life will get a lot bettter, when you can start to whittle away at those lessons in futility
    Here is a graph to illustrate how normal is not always normal.
  • General Graph Five GIF

Lets move on to the Immune System Overview</a>