MU Psych Central – STRESS

Stress affects us all, but it doesn’t have to be crippling!

by Dr. Nicolle Mayo, PhD – June 22, 2017

Stress is an inevitable, daily encounter we have as a result of work and family life. A little is healthy, but a lot can have significant impacts on our bodies, emotions, and thoughts. It is so important that we have outlets to cope best with stress. If we don’t, our body succumbs to its negative effects according to The American Institute of Stress (2017), often accounting for things like, depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances, viral disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. It can also have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives), the gastrointestinal system (ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease (Stress Effects).

Coping mechanisms should be used often when under chronic stress and should fit with how a person calms and relaxes. Reading a book, taking a walk (or other physical activity), listening to music, prayer/ meditation, cooking, baking, drawing, painting, talking to a friend or friends, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of rest are all examples of methods any one person can use to cope with stress.

As much as we prepare and take care of ourselves during stressful situations, we cannot always prevent its impacts. Especially in more traumatic, chronic events, our bodies may respond with our natural “fight or flight” response, which gears our body up for fending off the stressor, but the stressor may push this system into overdrive, which does not help us cope effectively. When these instances occur, there is a higher susceptibility for someone to show signs of or develop symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

June is PTSD awareness month, where we acknowledge, and increase awareness around those who struggle with this disorder. We often don’t pay much attention to PTSD because it is, in essence, “an invisible wound”. We can’t see it and we don’t fully understand it. Although widely misunderstood, this disorder is marked by the following symptoms according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-V) (2013), stressor: the person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, either through direct exposure, witnessing in person, indirectly through learning, or repeated or extreme indirect exposure to aversive details of the event; intrusion symptoms: the traumatic event is persistently re-experienced through recurrent and intrusive memories, traumatic nightmares, flashbacks, intense distress after trauma exposure, and/ or marked physiological reactivity after trauma exposure; avoidance: persistent effortful avoidance of distressing trauma-related stimuli after the event that may show up are trauma-related thoughts or feelings, or trauma-related external reminders (people, places, conversations, activities, objects); negative alterations in cognitions and mood: negative alterations in cognitions and mood that began or worsened after the traumatic event can include, inability to recall key features of traumatic event, persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, persistent distorted blame of self or others for causing the traumatic event, persistent negative trauma-related emotions, diminished in significant activities, feelings of alienation, and/ or inability to experience positive emotions; alterations in arousal and reactivity: trauma-related alterations in arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the traumatic event, which can include irritable or aggressive behavior, reckless behavior, exaggerated startle response, problems concentrating, and/ or sleep disturbance; duration: persistence of symptoms (in Criteria B, C, D, and E) for more than one month; functional significance: significant symptom-related distress or functional impairment in social, work, or personal functioning.

PTSD is a serious disorder that should be more widely understood. Awareness is needed to draw attention to the myriad of symptoms that can negatively affect someone’s life, due to a perceived traumatic event or events that a person struggles to overcome. Mental health professionals can provided needed support, and group therapy also tends to be of help to those who feel alone, or struggle alone, not knowing how to relate to others, or discuss their situation.

Stress can be a debilitating when it’s chronic, frequent, intense, and experienced as a threat. Furthermore, it can lead to other more serious mental and physical health issues that should not be ignored. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with any of these symptoms, it is so important to check-in with a doctor, who may be able to refer you to someone who can help.

MU Psych Central is supported by the Mansfield Psychology Department, which includes Dr. Gretchen Sechrist, Department Chair and Associate Professor, who specializes in Social Psychology, Dr. Brian Loher, Professor, our Human Resource Management specialist, Dr. Francis Craig, Professor, expert in Mind/Body Health, Dr. Karri Verno, Associate Professor, who specializes in Lifespan Development and Forensic Psychology and Nicolle Mayo, Assistant Professor, expert in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Credits:
Idea/Concept: Nicolle Mayo, PhD
Videography: Erin O’Shea
Video Editing: Erin O’Shea
Writing: Nicolle Mayo, PhD

Produced by Vogt Media
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