Is Stress Really Real?
The word ‘stress” is another of the popular fuzzy words that everyone uses
but no one really understands. Stress is a noun, verb, adjective and adverb, so
versatile grammatically that it defies all reasonable definition. Hans Selye
started the “stress” fad by doing terrible things to rats in his laboratory such
as injuring them with painful electrical shocks, burns, toxins, and forcing them
to swim in a closed container until exhausted. These near-drowning experiences
were described as stressful.
While Selye called these traumatic experiences “stress;” others might call
his experiments “torture”. Sometimes the “torture-stress” was an allergic
reaction to a foreign protein that he injected. Selye’s rats would tell you that
“stress” was painful, scary and often life-threatening. The “stress response”
that Selye observed was a progression of body responses to injury that gave an
animal an opportunity to survive. Selye’s main discovery is that the adaptation
to injury involved increased fight and flight responses and secretion of
cortisol from the adrenal glands. If the injury was repeated or prolonged, the
adaptation would fail and the animal could die.
The original and specific meaning of the word "stress" has been lost in
popular usage. Emotional responses are often referred to as “stress.” Tiring or
frustrating experiences are often called “stress.” Conflict is also referred to
One problem with such a fuzzy word is that it overrides a host of
more useful concepts and words that describe human experiences in more precise
and meaningful ways. Intellectual progress can be made simply by deleting the
word, stress from your vocabulary or you could start with re-definition of
“stress” by noting that the fundamental task of living beings to find things in
the world out there that they need to survive, to avoid danger and to adapt to
changing circumstances. Since the environment changes constantly, humans are
required to adapt constantly. When the change is too great or too sudden, a
failure of adaptation occurs, with malfunctioning of mind/body as a consequence.
A meaningful use of the word stress in science refers to the activation of
the flight and fight response with increased sympathetic nervous system
activity, and the secretion of adrenalin and cortisol from the adrenal glands.
You could argue that any interaction between individual and environment that
produces dysfunction expressed as symptoms and disease could be called
"stressful." Any event, agent, or component of the environment that causes a
maladaptive response is then called a "stressor". A maladaptive response to a
changing environment might be as simple a changing jobs and the new canteen only
serves cheese burgers, French fries and coke for lunch. You get obesity, high
blood pressure and diabetes after 10 years on the job.
If you had stayed at the old company and continued to have salads and orange
juice for lunch, you would be healthy and well. Maladaptation leads to dysphoria
and disease. Successful adaptation leads to happiness and health. For most
people living ordinary lives in relatively safe environments, the most stressful
events are those changes in the environment and food supply that internal
control systems can neither control nor predict.
Events that cause unstable changes in body function require adaptive
responses. If responses work, the instability is reduced and no stress occurs.
If the responses do not work, then body systems, seeking balance, become
confused and maladaptive body-states and maladaptive behaviors appear. A healthy
person copes with a remarkable range of adversity and emerges intact, whereas a
sick person cannot cope with the ordinary transactions of daily life.
- You are viewing the Brain Mind Center at Alpha Online.
Understanding the human brain is essential to become a well-informed, modern
citizen. Stephen Gislason MD, the author of
the Human Brain, is a physician-writer who is good at making complex subjects more
understandable. This is a book with important ideas, so be prepared to read
and then keep the book as reference.
- Alpha Online is a Division of Environmed Research, founded in 1984 at
Vancouver, BC, Canada. Online Since 1995. Alpha Nutrition is a trademark
and a division of Environmed Research Inc.
Download The Human Brain as an eBook
All Alpha Education and Persona Digital books, eBooks and Starter packs are ordered online.
Prices are listed in Canadian Dollars.
Brain Rescue Starter Pack
US $ cost is lower
depending on the daily dollar exchange rate. Physical shipments by the Post
Office are available to all destinations in the USA and Canada.
We are located in Sechelt, close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. eMail:
This starter pack includes the Alpha Nutrition Program, the Human Brain in Health and Disease
and one 500 Gram jar of Alpha DMX. There are a host of clues that link the food supply to mysterious and threatening neurological
diseases. We suggest that a prudent person suffering early brain-dysfunction
symptoms would be wise to pursue vigorous, thorough diet revision at the
earliest opportunity. Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment
learning and motivation, family members, friends and professional advisor often
have to initiate diet revision and provide the right direction and support.
Order Brain Rescue Starter Pack
Order Persona Digital Books
Click the Add to Cart buttons
on the left to begin your order for printed books from Alpha Online (mail delivery to US and
Download eBooks Click the Download button to order
eBooks (PDF file) for download. Click book title (center column) to read topics
from each book.
Further reading: Neuroscience Notes, Intelligence and
Learning, Language & Thinking
Persona Digital Books
is the publisher of The Human Brain, Neuroscience Notes, Intelligence & Learning
and related books. All books are available as eBooks for download (PDF files).