Stress is an atypical condition or a non-specific reaction of the body to various kinds of unfavorable factors that affect it. What is this reaction of the body? In order to understand the genesis of stress, let us turn to the anatomy of the nervous system.
Last Updated: January 20, 2022 (A few hours ago…)
Anatomy of the nervous system
So, the nervous system (NS) controls the activity of organs and their systems, ensuring the unity and integrity of the organism and realizing its connection with the environment. The nervous system is the material foundation of thinking.
The nervous system is subdivided into:
|Central National Assembly, represented by:||Peripheral NS, represented by:|
|spinal cord||12 pairs of cranial nerves|
|brain||31 pairs of spinal nerves|
Depending on the functions performed, the peripheral NS is divided into:
|1) somatic NS, which perceives irritations from the external environment and regulates the work of the musculoskeletal system.||2) vegetative NS, which regulates the activity of internal organs.|
Vegetative NS is divided into:
|1) sympathetic NS (promotes stress and activity)|
|2) parasympathetic NS (PSNS, promotes a state of rest and relaxation)|
|3) metasympathetic NS (regulating the functions of the gastrointestinal tract)|
In the context of the topic of stress, we are interested in the autonomic nervous system, namely its sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. The main function of the autonomic nervous system is the regulation of the activity of internal organs and the adaptation of the body to the changing conditions of the external and internal environment.
The sympathetic NS is responsible for the inclusion of a person in active activity, if necessary, in a state of combat readiness. The sympathetic section stimulates the expansion of the bronchi; increased heart rate; promotes the expansion of the vessels of the heart and lungs against the background of narrowing of the vessels of the skin and abdominal organs; release of deposited blood from the liver and spleen; the breakdown of glycogen to glucose in the liver (to mobilize carbohydrate energy sources); enhances the activity of sweat glands and endocrine glands. Sympathetic NS slows down the activity of some internal organs: due to vasoconstriction in the kidneys, the processes of urine formation decrease, and the motor and secretory activity of the gastrointestinal tract decreases.
Sympathetic activity stimulates pupil dilation. Sympathetic nerves affect the cellular nutrition of skeletal muscles, thereby improving their metabolism and functional state, which relieve fatigue. That’s it, the body is ready for the fight and flight response.
Thus, the sympathetic part of the NS, on the one hand, increases the efficiency of the body, on the other hand, it promotes the mobilization of hidden functional reserves, activating the brain and increasing immunity. It is the sympathetic division that triggers the body’s response to stress factors.
And in order to get out of the state of stress, we need to switch to the work of the parasympathetic department of the NS (PSNS). PSNS contributes to the narrowing of the bronchi, slowing and weakening of heart contractions, narrowing of the heart vessels, the synthesis of glycogen in the liver and the enhancement of digestion processes, the strengthening of the processes of urination in the kidneys and the provision of the act of urination.
PSNS regulates the functional state – maintaining the constancy of the internal environment – homeostasis. PSNS ensures the restoration of physiological indicators changed after intense muscular work, and also contributes to the replenishment of energy resources. Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter of the PSNS, has an anti-stress effect.
How to identify signs of stress
We suggest that you take tests to determine the assessment of your mental state and stress level.
Methodology “Scale of psychological stress PSM-25”
Instructions: assess your general condition. In front of each statement, put a number from 1 to 8 that most clearly expresses your condition in the last days (4-5 days). There are no wrong or wrong answers here. Points mean: 1 – never; 2 – extremely rare; 3 – very rare; 4 – rarely; 5 – sometimes; 6 – often; 7 – very often; 8 – constantly.
- I’m tense and excited (nervous)
- I have a lump in my throat and / or I feel a dry mouth.
- I’m overworked. I really don’t have enough time.
- I swallow food or forget to eat.
- I think over my ideas over and over; I change my plans; my thoughts are constantly repeating.
- I feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood.
- I am suffering from physical ailment; I have a headache, tense neck muscles, back pain, stomach cramps.
- I am consumed with thoughts, worn out or worried.
- I suddenly feel hot and cold.
- I forget about appointments or things to do or decide.
- I can cry easily.
- I feel tired.
- I grit my teeth tightly.
- I’m not calm.
- I find it hard to breathe and / or I suddenly catch my breath.
- I have digestive and bowel problems (pain, colic, upset or constipation).
- I’m worried, worried, or confused.
- I am easily frightened; noise or rustling makes me flinch.
- It takes me more than half an hour to fall asleep.
- I am confused; my thoughts are confused; I lack focus and cannot concentrate.
- I look tired; bags or circles under the eyes.
- I feel a weight on my shoulders.
- I am alarmed. I need to constantly move; I can’t stay in one place.
- I find it difficult to control my actions, emotions, moods or gestures.
- I’m tense.
Processing of the technique and interpretation of the result. Calculate the score for all questions. The larger it is, the higher your stress level. Rating scale: less than 99 points – low stress level; 100–125 points – average stress level; more than 125 points – a high level of stress.
Diagnostics of the state of stress (A.O. Prokhorov)
Description of the technique. The technique allows us to identify the features of experiencing stress: the degree of self-control and emotional lability in stressful conditions. The technique is intended for people over 18 years old.
Instructions: circle the numbers of those questions to which you answer positively.
- I always strive to do the work to the end, but often I do not have time and have to make up for lost time.
- When I look at myself in the mirror, I notice traces of fatigue and overwork on my face.
- At work and at home, there are continuous troubles.
- I fight hard with my bad habits, but I can’t.
- I’m worried about the future.
- I often need alcohol, a cigarette or sleeping pills to relax after a busy day.
- Such changes are taking place all around that the head is spinning. It would be nice if everything did not change so rapidly.
- I love family and friends, but often with them I feel bored and empty.
- I have achieved nothing in life and often feel disappointed in myself.
Processing of results. Count the number of positive responses to all 9 questions. Each answer “yes” is assigned 1 point (the answer “no” is estimated at 0 points). The result of 0-4 points means a high level of regulation in stressful situations; 5–7 points – moderate level; 8-9 points – weak level. Interpretation of results.
High level of regulation in stressful situations: a person behaves in a stressful situation rather restrained and knows how to regulate his own emotions. As a rule, such people are not inclined to be annoyed and blame others and themselves for the events taking place. Moderate level of regulation in stressful situations: a person does not always behave correctly and adequately in a stressful situation.
Sometimes he knows how to maintain composure, but there are also cases when minor events upset the emotional balance (a person “loses his temper”). Weak level of regulation in stressful situations: such people are characterized by a high degree of overwork and exhaustion. They often lose self-control in a stressful situation and do not know how to control themselves. It is important for such people to develop self-regulation skills in stress.
How to get out of stress
In this article, we will look at the most common and effective methods of getting out of stress.
Warm bath with the addition of essential oils
Make it a rule for yourself: after any unpleasant / conflict / stressful situation, if possible, take a shower / bath. When taking a bath, add a few drops of essential oils to the water, which have a calming effect on the nervous system.
For example, essential oils such as:
- Lavender, lemon, rosemary
For the first time, it is better to choose one oil and use literally a few drops to understand whether it is right for you or not.
At night, you can put a few drops of essential oil on a handkerchief and leave it by the bed. You can learn more about the effect of essential oils on the body here.
Breathing Techniques – Pranayama for Relaxation and Stress Relief
The breathing process is directly related to our emotions: when a person is calm, his breathing is slow and deep, when anxious, his breathing becomes quick and shallow. Thus, by changing the frequency and depth of breathing, we can influence our emotional state.
Consider breathing techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Full yoga breathing. The essence of this type of breathing is to involve all parts of the lungs: the lower (due to the active participation of the diaphragm), middle (due to the expansion of the ribs) and the upper (due to the rise of the clavicles). Breathe through your nose. Inhale start from the abdomen (first fill it, inflating like a ball), while continuing to inhale, allow the sternum to rise, and the ribs to “spread” to the sides (the stomach will automatically pull inward), completing the inhalation, lift the collarbones (the shoulders are relaxed: do not pull them to your ears!). Exhaling, first lower the collarbones, then the ribs, the last to pull in the stomach. This is one breathing cycle. Breathe in this way for 5-10 minutes.
- Ujai. Breathing is carried out with a slightly compressed glottis. Breathe through your nose. Slightly lower the chin down and pull it towards the throat, tucking in the glottis. Breathe so that the sound you breathe comes from your throat, not your nose. Your breathing must be heard! After inhaling, stop breathing for a few seconds and, without relaxing your throat, exhale, also holding your breath for a few seconds. Breathe in this way for 5-10 minutes.
- Visamavritti – breathing in which the duration of inhalation and exhalation is not equal. In this case, we are interested in an elongated inhalation, without holding the breath. Breathe through your nose. Start with two seconds. inhalation and 4 sec. exhalation. If this range is too easy for you to play, lengthen the duration while maintaining the 1: 2 ratio. Breathe in this way for 5-10 minutes.
- Chandra Bhedana – inhalation with the left nostril. Place the index and middle fingers of your right hand on the area between the eyebrows. Close your right nostril with your thumb (but don’t squeeze too much!). Inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right, having previously opened it. Stop breathing for 1-2 seconds. Breathe in this way for 5-10 minutes.
Asanas for stress
Traditionally in yoga, the following concept is taken as a basis: bends stimulate the parasympathetic NS, and deflections stimulate the sympathetic.
- Pashchimottanasana. Sit with straight legs on a firm surface. Place a folded blanket under your basin. Then place a small pillow or blanket on your thighs. Lowering your body to your feet, place your stomach on a pillow. Stay in this position for three minutes or longer.
- Upavishta Konasana. Sit with your legs wide apart on a hard surface. Place a folded blanket under your basin. Also, place a folded blanket or pillow on the floor, between your thighs. Lowering your body down, place your stomach on a pillow. Stay in this position for three minutes or longer.
- Shashankasana. Sit on a firm surface with your pelvis on your heels. Spread your knees wider, but without feeling discomfort. Place a pillow or folded blanket between your thighs. Lowering your body down, place your belly on a pillow / blanket. Move your hands forward, place your forearm on your forearm, and your head on top. Stay in this position for three minutes or longer.
Yoga Nidra is a yogic practice of conscious total relaxation. Yoga nidra introduces you into an intermediate state between sleep and wakefulness: as in a dream, your body is absolutely relaxed, but, as during wakefulness, you are aware of everything. On the Internet, you can find many options for performance: different voices of the presenters, with or without musical accompaniment, different texts are read. You can attend a yoga nidra class in person, if there are any in your area. (To learn more about the practice, see Saraswati Swami Satyananda’s Yoga Nidra.)
Abhyanga – stress relieving massage
Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic oil treatment for the whole body. Abhyanga is performed mainly in the morning, but it is also possible in the evening. It is important to choose the oil suitable for your Ayurvedic constitution: for oily skin, use mustard, safflower or neutral olive oil; for combination skin and hot to the touch – coconut or olive; for dry – sesame, mustard or olive oil. For one procedure, from 25 to 50 g of oil is enough (depending on the constitution of the body).
The oil should be slightly warmed up and applied to dry, unclean skin with massage movements. The fact is that the application of oil to the skin has not only a cosmetic effect in the form of hydration and nutrition, but also a therapeutic one: oil literally draws out toxins from the pores and enhances lymphatic drainage. Abhyanga has a calming effect on the NA. The most effective will be the application of oil to the scalp as well.
After self-massage, it is recommended to leave the oil on the skin for 20-30 minutes. Then you need to cleanse the skin with ubtan, a gluten-free flour powder. It can be chickpea, pea, lentil and other flour. Dilute it with warm water until the consistency of thick sour cream and apply to the skin. Then wash off with water. The skin will become hydrated and velvety, and the mind will be calmer.
Before going to bed, Ayurveda strongly recommends rubbing your feet with oil (but not sleeping in socks!). This will help improve sleep and relieve anxiety.
Plants for nerves and stress
The most famous herbs that have a sedative effect are:
- St. John’s wort
You can make your own drink from these plants, or you can buy ready-made herbal teas. Plants have a sedative effect, help to cope with stress and anxiety, and improve sleep.
Ayurvedic medicines will help:
- jatamansi (from the valerian family, but unlike valerian, it does not have a dulling effect on the mind, but, on the contrary, clarifies the mind)
- brahmi – tonic to support the nervous system and brain activity
Solitude in nature
Sometimes, in order to calm down, to return to a resource state, it is enough just to be alone for a while, far from artificial stimuli. The best assistant in this will be nature. Observing her biorhythms, a person returns his biorhythms to the original healthy balance. Sounds of nature, such as the sound of trees, birdsong, and the murmur of water, can have a calming effect on the NA.
Listening to music to relieve stress
This refers to the music that will calm the agitated mind and bring the consciousness to a feeling of joy and serenity. The best option would be mantras. There are a great many of them. Choose the ones that will have the desired effect.
Nutrition for stress
Ayurveda teaches us that food can bring a person a) into a state of bliss; b) in a state of vigorous activity / passion; c) in a state of some dullness and inertia. Of course, in this case, we are interested in such food, which will bring consciousness closer to the state of sattva – goodness. By consuming the following foods, you will not only help improve your mental health, but also your physical health.
Sattvic foods include grains, sweet fruits, steamed vegetables, milk and ghee. It is hardly worth considering dairy products from a store in the mainstream of goodness: there is no sattvicity in the extraction of dairy raw materials in industrial conditions.
List of foods / drinks that should be excluded from your diet for the period of restoration of mental stability.
- Alcohol. No, it does not relax the body and the NS, but spasms the blood vessels after their expansion and disrupts the patency of nerve impulses. After a while after consumption, it causes a feeling of emptiness. So it is: after “positive” emotional outbursts, a reverse emotional rollback begins.
- Hot herbs and spices, salt, garlic and raw onions. Since they excite the NA.
- Sweets based on white sugar. The initial endorphin effect ends with a rollback in the opposite direction – to a feeling of even greater sadness and sadness. The sweet taste is sattvic in nature, but it is best consumed in its natural form: in the form of sweet fruits / dried fruits, syrups from them.
- Chocolate. Despite all the benefits of cocoa beans, this product is not sattvic, as it has an exciting effect on the NS.
- Meat. Even in religions there is a concept of fasting to purify the mind and body. In difficult periods, give rest to your digestive tract, refusing to eat meat. Perhaps, having cleared of the cadaveric poisons that are produced in the body after consuming animal protein, your body and mind will come to a more harmonious state.
Service as helping others. Often thinking about our difficult situation – stress, anxiety, etc. – plunges us into an even greater state of stress. Try to feel sorry for yourself when you look, for example, at a person with no arms, no legs, who nevertheless somehow survives in this world.
Start helping someone else and your life will be filled with even more meaning. Words of gratitude from the outside or just understanding that you were able to help someone inspire us not to dwell on one person, but to help more and more. This is how altruism is born. If a person helps others with something, people also appear in his environment who are ready to help him. But outside support is a lifeline in a stressful situation.
Stress Prevention Techniques
Short stressful situations are necessary for every person, as they play an important role in further positive changes in his life. The fact is that at the time of a stressful situation, adrenaline appears in a person’s blood, plus other biochemical reactions occur that stimulate a person to solve certain problems. That is, stress as an engine of progress also takes place.
But only if he does not completely knock the earth out from under your feet, while worsening the state of physical health. Indeed, in the human body, everything is interconnected: the emotional background affects physical indicators, and vice versa, changes in breathing, disruption of the cardiovascular system, etc. can cause negative consequences that will affect the emotional state of a person.
And in order for a person to have a high level of adaptation to sudden changes in both the external and internal environment, the body needs to be trained.
- We can train our nervous system by hardening the body. Every day undergoing austerity, the body will produce less and less stress hormones. So, in fact, the adaptation process looks like.
- Arranging for ourselves fasting days, we will contribute not only to cleansing the body, but also training the work of the psyche, and therefore the nervous system.
- By practicing pranayama with breath holding, you will improve the absorption of oxygen by the body and increase the intensity of gas exchange processes, as well as increase the level of stimulation of the vagus nerve, which will facilitate the relaxation process.
Thus, by training our willpower, we increase our adaptability. This method is called the adaptive homeostasis training method. The key point of such training is that the level of stress in them should be minimal and short-lived, so that the body’s adaptive mechanisms can cope with it without causing negative consequences, but, on the contrary, improving the work of the body’s defense mechanisms.
Yet one of the most productive ways to prevent ANS disorders will be meditation. Anapanasati Hinayana as the development of awareness through observation of the breath can help you with this. Sit on a hard surface with a straight back and crossed legs, put a folded blanket or pillow under the pelvis (you can do the practice while sitting on a chair). Cover your eyes.
Concentrate your attention on the tip of the nose, watching as cool air enters through the nostrils and warmer air exits. Try not to lose concentration. If you find that your mind has “drifted away”, bring it back to the point of concentration. Over time, you will notice that the “flights” of the mind become less and less frequent. And overall the mind becomes more controlled. And if you can control your mind, accordingly, learn to control your emotions.
Be healthy and live in harmony with your psyche. Yoga is a great helper for you!