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Andrew Tilley
Mrs. Thomas
It is funny really. This paper caused a great deal of stress as I began to write it. I am not going to
lie, my time management skills on this project where terrible. This paper however is such a
relevant and important topic that I want to address, and I feel I may not be able to. However I
have done the research and I think I have formed a new question from it. I have shifted my
argument to not focus on what causes stress solely, but rather what we can do to help it. I felt
that there really was no argument for my last question because it wasnt striking one. However
with this new question I can delve deeper into the subject, and deeply reflect on the matter.
What is stress, and what can be done to reduce stress in ones life?
Everyone in the world has encountered stress before in their life. Whether it was from
work, school, or at home it has impacted life in some way. Over time stress can impact an
individuals life and lead to many health risks, both physically and mentally. It can make an
individual sick and drained, or groggy, and mentally can send people into fits of depression.
Stress is a serious subject that should be addressed in a formal setting. Some say that there is
nothing that you can do in order to reduce stress in your life. Well I say that there are indeed
ways in which an individual can combat stress in his/hers life. There h been many studies
conducted on individuals, research on the neurological level, and firsthand experience to back up
the fact that it is possible to reduce the level of stress in your life. By doing only a few things a

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day that dont take much time, you can reduce the amount of stress in your life. In doing this
ones outlook on life can be quite different, and life changing.
So to begin on the topic of stress we should probably go over and identify what stress is,
so that we are all on the same page about stress. Stress is the way our body reacts to being
threatened or any action that demands a response. When the nervous system triggers the brain
than it is being acted upon the brain releases stress hormones including adrenaline, and cortisol
into the body. As our hearts steadily beat quicker, muscle began to tense, breaths quicken, and
blood pressure increases our senses begin to heighten. According to Jeanne Segal, the co-founder
of and an emotional intelligence expert, These physical changes increase your
strength, stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus. This process is known as
the flight or fight response, and is your bodys way of keeping you safe in the face of danger.
When stress is working correctly it keeps your senses sharp, and your mind focused. You are
mentally alert, and in case of emergency situations you are physically prepared. If you must
protect yourself you are able to do so with the help of the adrenaline giving your body extra
strength to do so (Segal, Smith, Segal, and Robinson).
This is what our ancestors used in the Stone Age to stay alive, almost as a trait that helped
us evolve. According to Randolph M. Neese, a graduate of the University of Michigan medical
school and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a professor
of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, The stress system is a complex,
sophisticated, and carefully regulated adaptation that has been shaped by natural selection
because it gives a selective advantage This advantage is the ability to increase our senses, and
regulate a state of high alertness/ physical exertion to protect ones body. However as we have
progressed in time we have need this ability less and less, as we have relied in technology more

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and more. We no longer worry about having to protect ourselves when we are at our most
vulnerable, because of the advancements made in technology. We live in houses, with regulating
temperature control, and a source or food/water. Not living in the wild having to hunt and forage
for food and resources. However we now live in a society today that stimulates new stresses in
our lives that our ancestors did not have in theirs. According to Randolph Nesse, Working in a
bureaucracy is tedious and political at best. Driving to work, living in a ghetto, running a
corporation, working in a factory-these all arouse the stress system. This brings me to a
paradigm shift, or conclusion. We do not need the process of stress as much as we used to need
it. Since it can be seen that we do not rely on stress as heavily as our ancestors, is it an
evolutionary trait that might be lost as we progress forward in time (Neese and Young). However
this is merely a background on how stress was developed, and not the focus of this thesis. The
real question is how we can reduce stress in our lives. In identifying this we must first address
stress. By doing this the true factors of stress can be identified, and then helped.
As previously defined stress is the way our body reacts to emergency situations. In order
to understand how one is supposed to reduce their stress level, they must be able to identify what
is causing them the stress. According to Jeanne Segal The situations and pressures that cause
stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an
exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on
you or forces you to adjust can be stressful. After looking across multiple sources it became
clear of a list of five common stressors. Not having enough time, practicing unhealthy habits,
getting more than one is able to handle, expecting too much, and depravation of rest/relaxation
are all main reasons people live stressful lifestyles. When one takes on too much to do in one day
they get disappointed when they do not finish what they had set out to do. This model shows

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how these general stressors can compound on one another, and create more and more stress in an
individuals life ("Common Stressors That You Can Encounter Every Day"). To break it down a
step further, the causation of stress can be divided into two sub-categories. The common external
causes of stress, and the common internal causes of stress. These two categories still contain the
five common stressors, however there are a couple more that may fit in other categories. Major
life changes, work/school, relationship problems, financial situations, being too busy, and family
issues are all external causes of stress. Chronic worrying, pessimism, negative thoughts,
perfectionism, and having rigidity in your thought process/attitude are all internal causes of stress
that implicate stress onto the individual (Segal, Smith, Segal, and Robinson). While being under
stress for shorts bursts of time protects the body from danger it becomes detrimental to the body
when it is under constant stress.
People out there believe that they are able to live healthy lives while carrying burdens of
stress along with them. I say that the way research shows if an individual lives with stress for
weeks, months, or even years on end it will play a significant impact on your life. When an
individual experiences stress the brain sends signals through your nervous system to your adrenal
gland releasing adrenaline. This adrenaline increases the amount of sugar in an individuals
blood, while also increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. The brain also sends signals to
your pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. This releases the stress hormone cortisol
into the body which keeps the levels of blood sugar and blood pressure up until the danger has
subsided. This is where scientist believe they have identified the problem of stress. Raised
levels of cortisol for prolonged periods can damp down your immune system and decrease the
number of brain cells so impairing your memory. It can also affect your blood pressure and the
fats in your blood making it more likely you will have a heart attack or stroke. It seems that as

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an individual undergoes an excess of time under stress not only can the body experience fits of
physical sickness, and blood circulation problems, it can also attack your mental state by creating
memory loss ("Stress and the Brain").
When an experiment was conducted in rats to see if this theory was true the conclusion
was shocking. When rats where given injections of corticosterone, cortisol for rats, it was proven
that there was a reduction in their brain cell count. When another group of rats was stressed for
the same amount of time the results were the same. Even though this experiment was only
conducted on rats its a good control as to what cortisol does to humans as well ("Stress and the
According to the researchers behind cortisol has been linked
to damaging and killing cells in the hippocampus. This is the section of your brain responsible
for an individuals episodic memory. This constant release of cortisol was due to the individual
being under chronic stress, and has also now been linked to cause premature brain aging. This is
because the brain cells are literally being stimulated to the point where they eventually die. The
cortisol binds to the receptors of the neurons in the brain. Through many different comprehensive
reactions calcium is admitted through the membranes of the neurons. This fires the neuron
receptors fast, and frequently. It does so till the point the neuron can no longer keep up, and dies.
This kills the brain cell and creates memory loss to the individual ("Stress and the Brain").
Another serious cognitive illness that stress can create is known as Post-Traumatic Stress
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short, is developed when there is a very
intense, and immediate event in someones life that permanently damages ones mind. As part of
my research I came across a video of two men living in Britain who lived with PTSD. The first

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man that appears in the film was Steve Costello, a man in his early thirties who used to be a
soldier for England. He was ambushed one evening by the terrorist organization known as the
IRA while attending a dinner for his superior officer. He was shot several times, while the man
that he was with was killed. The next man the film discussed was Treavor Hicks. Treavor was a
father of two girls, with a wife and a happy marriage. The family pastime was to go watch soccer
at their local stadium. It was a semifinals match between two teams, and the stadium was
crowded. People began to rush the field before the game started, creating chaos. In the end both
of Treavors children were crushed to death by the crowd, triggering his traumatic experience.
According to Sheena Liness, the Cognitive Therapy Director at Maudsley Hospital in England,
stated The symptoms of PTSD are obviously very distressing. The person not only has gone
through this traumatic event, they then find themselves re-experiencing the event. They begin to
cut themselves off from friends and relatives. And it can begin to affect their work, social life,
family, and financial situation. PTSD is a serious sickness that is not really addressed properly.
It is a huge problem with many of the returning veterans that fought overseas. However I feel
that the techniques, and ideas associated with relieving stress can also be applied to PTSD
victims and show results of improvement (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Now that the causes
and implications of stress have been identified, the ways in which stress can be dealt with can be
As I looked across several articles a couple of ideas became clear to me about relieving
stress. The first pattern that developed was that each individual had their own way of coping with
stress. Whether it was some type of physical activity, or mental release, everyone knew the best
way they could relieve stress. Gloria R. Deckro and her co-authors discussed a study done which
involved college students, and stress. The author analyzed the effect of a 6 week study on the

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intervention of anxiety, and perception of stress in college students. 128 students were divided up
into two separate groups. 63 students were assigned to the experimental group, while the other
65 were assigned to a control group so that the researchers who conducted the experiment would
have a constant to base their outcomes on. The experimental group sat through 6 group sessions
which discussed the relaxation response, and cognitive behavioral skills. To measure their
progression as the experiment ran its course, the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, Spielberger
State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Perceived Stress Scale were implemented to test the
psychological state of each student before, and after the experiment. After the experiment was
conducted there were significant reductions in both anxiety level, and stress level were
determined. From the initial experiment the authors felt that the mind and body training was
successful, and wanted to run the experiment again over a longer test period (Deckro, Wilcher,
Dusek, Myers, Greenburg, Benson, Rosenthal, Ballinger, and Hoyt). However the American
Heart Association released a list of four common ways that stress can be dealt with. The first on
the list was positive self-talk. Self-talk is just the action of talking in ones head. Negative selftalk can lead to stress, while positive self-talk gets stress under control. The goal of this exercise
is to be able to turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk, and stay calm in stressful situations.
Repeating phrases such as Ive got this, and Ill do the best I can are good sayings to
implement in ones day to stay calm. The next on the list was emergency stress stoppers. This
range from taking deep breaths when you felt anxiety coming on, all the way to staying out of
the busy lane so that you avoid the stress of driving on a crowded road. These are the small
things that are almost done mindlessly, however they can get us through the day. The third idea
off the list was doing something you take pleasure in to get your mind off stress. For myself, I
like to hunt, fish, and go workout in the weight room to reduce my stress level. These are the

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things that we typically do when we are really stressed out. They can take the most time,
however after they have been completed the feeling of stress has been drastically reduced. Lastly
on the list is the relaxation time we spend. Whether it is spent watching television, or meditating
in your room, these are usually performed as we are winding down for the day. For this idea the
American Heart Association focused on meditation or deep breathing as a helpful way to relieve
stress. Deep breathing is a form of relaxation you can learn and practice at home using the
following steps. It's a good skill to practice as you start or end your day. With daily practice, you
will soon be able to use this skill whenever you feel stress.
1. Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap or lie
down. Close your eyes.
2. Picture yourself in a peaceful place. Perhaps you're lying on the beach, walking in the
mountains or floating in the clouds. Hold this scene in your mind.
3. Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply.
4. Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more.
5. Try to take at least five to 10 minutes every day for deep breathing or another form of
By following these steps, and the other ideas discussed by the American Heart Association,
stress can be reduced effectively in ones life (Four Ways to Deal with Stress).
In conclusion several key points about stress can be made. Stress developed as a survival
instinct in our ancestors, and is a huge factor of why the human evolved to such an advanced
level. This has caused us to rely on it less, and our problems which create stress have also

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evolved. These stressors have evolved from fending off the attacks of wild animals, to
rushing to do a project at the last second. Our body has also began to act differently. These
raised stress levels releases more cortisol into the body for long periods of time. These
heightened levels of cortisol cause health problems that can create major issues in someones
life. However this can be helped through several easy exercises, and sometimes mindless
techniques. All in all stress is a mysterious yet life protecting factor that our body is capable
of. Once an individual is able to control their degree of stress they can live a healthy, and
fulfilling life.

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Work Cited
"Common Stressors That You Can Encounter Every Day." The Stress Management Society.
N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
. Deckro, Gloria R., Marilyn Wilcher, Jeffery Dusek, Patricia Myers, Beth Greenburg, Herbert
Benson, David S. Rosenthal, Keli M. Ballinger, and Michael Hoyt. "Journal of American
College Health." The Evaluation of a Mind/Body Intervention to Reduce Psychological
Distress and Perceived Stress in College Students. PubMed, 24 Mar. 2010. Web.
9 Nov. 2015.
"Four Ways to Deal with Stress." American Heart Association - Building Healthier Lives, Free
of Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke. American Heart Association, June 2014. Web.
6 Dec. 2015.
Nesse, Randolph M., and Elizabeth A. Young. "Evolutionary Origins and Functions of the Stress
Response." U-M Personal World Wide Web Server. University of Michigan Department
of Psychiatry, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." Films on Demand Digital Educational Video. Films Media
Group, 3 May 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Segal, Jeanne, Melinda Smith, Robert Segal, and Lawrence Robinson. "Stress Symptoms, Signs,
& Causes." N.p., Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Snyder, Bill. "Discovery sheds new light on marijuanas anxiety relief effects." Research News
at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt University, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

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"Stress and the Brain." Your Amazing Brain. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.