A Brief History of Stress

Dr. Purushothaman
January 17, 2014


The history of how stress evolved is both interesting and helpful in understanding how your mind deals with internal and external stresses. In fact, the key to understanding negative stress aspects was first pioneered by a physiologist from France, Claude Bernard. His studies emphasized how certain principles regarding equilibrium dynamics could remain steady and constant, both in a situation or state, thus continuing the survival of the internal part of the human body. He showed how external influences within our environment or forces beyond that could upset the fragile balance our internal systems, resulting in reactions to bring about a re-balance. External influences could include outside temperature variations, a lack of or a presence of too much oxygen, a lack of energy, and the existence of predators or other threats, diseases or simple negativity from someone close.

Interestingly, even though this is a brief history of stress, the facts that are revealed show that even science has an explanation for the causes of stress that we feel and the activity that goes on within our minds and bodies as we undergo reactions to stress as a normal part of life and as an effect of living life that in many senses is a protective measure used by our bodies naturally.

The famous neurologist, Walter Cannon, was better known as the scientist who defined the emotional and physical aspects of stress through homeostasis. He pioneered the discovery of the fight or flight response, a reactionary result of stress in both animals and humans. His work showed how the medullas adrenal gland in the brain released neurotransmitters during such responses. He isolated the 2 neurotransmitters which were being released, including adrenaline (epinephrine) and norephinephrine. His evidence showed definite stress to physiology effects on the body and mind, resulting in varied responses, including hypervigilence, nervousness, an increased heart rate and heightened alertness.

Another expert did some experiments regarding reducing stress, determining how the immune system slowly broke down, ulcers formed in the gastrointestinal system and how the adrenal gland began to enlarge. Giving it a new name, stress syndrome, the scientist concluded that how the body and mind became almost ill to adapt to the stresses was not bad, but a part of a normal and natural process. However, additional observations concluded that though the process of stress adaption was normal, continued stress adaption could cause bodily damage. Sadly, though the positive side of how the mind and body adapts to stressors was finally realized, stress overall was considered from then on as a bad rap.

Whichever way that you view stress, it has its pros and cons, helping mankind survive over the cycle of human evolution, a brief history of stress that is far more useful than you might have once realized. Ironically, though the fight or flight response that we have to stress is normal, the stress effects on us physically and emotionally are so uncomfortable to us that we too easily forget its importance in our very survival. However, even too much of this is not normal and as such as humans we spend our whole lives learning and coping with stress.

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