Stress is an emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive and behavioral changes that are directed either toward altering the stressful event or accommodating to its effects. Stressful events are referred to as “stressors.”
The top 5 stressors reported in the U.S. are problems with:
An event may be stressful to some people, but not others. How a potential stressor is appraised determines whether it will be experienced as stressful.
Common Responses to Stress
- Cognitive responses – Distractibility, inability to concentrate, disruptions on tasks, intrusive, repetitive or morbit thoughts
- Emotional reactions – Can include fear, anxiety, excitement, embarrassment, anger, depression or denial. Rumination can keep stress responses elevated.
- Behavioral responses – Vary greatly.
Physiological measures of stress include:
- Catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine)
- Catecholamine metabolites
- Cortisol – Amazingly, we can now measure levels of stress in ancient mummies because we have the technology to measure their cortisol levels.
Some of the common problems associated with measuring stress on a physiological level include:
- Active reuptake and regulation of systems; there is not a linear relationship.
- Variations in circadian rhythms.
- Subject variables, like sodium intake, smoking, alcohol consumption and age.
- Obtaining a sample is often a stressful process for patients.