Talking about stress

“The soul feeds on what it rejoices in” said Augustine of Hippo [1], and is a quote written on the birthday card I got this year from a very good friend of mine who often reminds me to have more fun in my life: “Otherwise you dry up inside.”

What makes me write another article about stress was the opportunity to listen to Prof. Dr. J. C. Pruessner’s lecture at the University of Constance: “How stress affects your brain.”

First, with the help of a video from the SWR [2], we got a definition about stress and why people can be under stress. For our ancestors millions of years ago it was important to survive. Nowadays we don’t have to escape from mammoths anymore, but we get into situations which overstrain our nerves, for example, when we have to solve a problem but we think not to be able to cope with it. We are afraid of being a disappointment for others. We are afraid that our social status could be endangered. A threatening exclusion from a social group can be stressful, just as a judgement by other people.

A distinction must be drawn between a stressor (an event of your surroundings) and stress (the response of our body to manage the situation).

When do we detect stress? First, our mind makes an evaluation. If there are more resources available than expectations to fulfil, the situation will be faced as a challenge. But, if there are less resources than a situation requires, it will be considered as a threat and our stress system is activated.

Stress leads to an energy supply in our body. The hormones adrenalin and cortisol are distributed. The digestion works more slowly, the pulse gets faster, the blood pressure gets higher, we have a lower experience of pain.

What are the effects? Your memory can be supported or disturbed. It depends on the point of time. Stress can help to memorize information but makes it harder to retrieve them. In an overstrained situation, for example during an exam, the retrieval of the information is more difficult. But then, unpleasant and stressful situations are easier to remember.

Cortisol is not only distributed during stress but also during sport. The difference in comparison between stress and sport is, that the energy, which is supplied in our body, is mostly used, unlike during a stressful situation, like an exam, but this should just be considered as an idea.

At this point, the lecture did not come to its end yet, but I would like to finish this little excursion, to appreciate and thank the lecturer for his work. In my opinion lectures about this subject are important, even if there is somebody saying, that nothing can wind him/her up. Nevertheless, I think, many students let themselves get stressed unnecessarily. I don’t want to dry out inside, my soul shall not look like a miserable raisin. That’s why I spend more time doing activities that harmonize my body with my soul.

Emilia Mikautsch



[1] (20.11.17, 20:52)

[2] SWR (Südwestrundfunk), German radio and television channel.

Pictures: 9GAG

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