Each of us has at some time suffered deep feelings of fatigue due to excessive exertion and work hours.
In Japan, each year approx. 30,000 people become victims of “Karoshi”- death from overwork.
American economist, J. B. Schor, calculated that the average American has reduced the number of hours of free time by 47 hours a month, in one generation.
Already in 1986, scientists have come to an important conclusion that stress is not what happens to a man, but that it is how the man internally responds to various external situations.
The concept of stress was introduced by Hans Hugo Selye who study this phenomenon and has devoted 50 years of scientific work. For this reason, he was nicknamed Dr. Stress. Selye has published more than 1,400 articles and 30 books on this issue.
Selye was the first to hypothesize that a number of somatic diseases are the result of man's inability to cope with stress. This phenomenon is called as called non-performance. Selye conceptualized the physiology of stress as having two components: a set of responses which he called the "general adaptation syndrome", and the development of a pathological state from ongoing, unrelieved stress. He described them in his first book on the subject "The Stress of Life" (1956).
Walter Cannon recognized as the father of the philosophy of stress developed the thought of the French physiologist from the mid-nineteenth century, Claude Bernard, who wrote about the “ milieu interieur”, or internal environment of the body, knowledge of which leads to the understanding of human disease.
Cannon introduced the concept of “homeostasis”, which he described in his book, "The Wisdom of the Body". Homeostasis is the body's attempt to permanently reinstate balance in response to external changes and destabilizers.
He introduced the concept of the fight or flight response, which is an internal adaptive response to external threats to the organism. In ancient times man had to cope with physical stress of survival, e.g. Escaping from a wild animal or attacker. Currently we are dealing with a different set of stressors, psychological and social, e.g. Problems at work, problems in the family.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated when something frightens us. The body secretes hormones called catecholamines, stimulating the entire body’s organ systems. Adrenaline and noradrenaline start acting in just a few seconds, causing changes in the body, in order to take corrective or protective action. The heart beats at an accelerated rate, breathing accelerates, blood pressure increases, and the blood sugar level rises. The perception is sharpened, and sensitivity to pain, suppressed. The stomach and small intestine slow digestion, and all processes responsible for growth and reproduction are suppressed.
Based on Canon’s research, Selye first proved that emotional upsets can lead via chemical messengers, to linking of the body’s psyche to physical illness. But it was also Selye that found that not all stress is detrimental. Mild, short-term and controlled stress – the so called "salt of life" - stimulates the development of emotional and intellectual development and improvement. Only the strong and long-lasting uncontrolled stressors generally lead to disease. Over time changes in the cardiovascular system accompanying this stress leads to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure. Muscle tension, body pains, headaches. Frequently stress induced changes in the gastrointestinal tract are the cause of diseases of the stomach and intestines.
In medicine stress is a condition which is characterized by non-specific broad changes induced in the entire biological system, animal or human by a stressful factor. For example, psychological stressors can be situational stimuli, conflicts and frustrations. Stressors can be any agent (biological, chemical, thermal, physical activity), which allows to a greater or lesser extent non-specific but extensive deleterious changes.
Stress has 3 specific stages: alarm, adaptation and exhaustion. Stress leads to disorders of homeostasis. In cases where the stressor is very strong or prolonged, there is then the possibility of exhaustion. Then follows the increased risk of the development of many pathologies e.g. cardiovascular disease, rheumatic fever, digestive disorders, metabolic or allergic reactions. The main regulators and effectors of this stress syndrome are: brain, nerves, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, liver, blood vessels, connective tissue, and white blood cells.
When physiological processes rather than the recovery of the body, are kept constantly on alert, defense functions are dulled, followed by disruption of the processes of tissue regeneration and growth inhibition. The way in which stress affects a specific person, may depend on one’s inherent vulnerability. An example is asthma. Tendency to asthma may be suddenly provoked during physical or emotional stress.
Another consequence of serious, long-term stress is growth stunting in children due to extreme emotional deprivation. Growth process draws heavily on the resources of the body, and in times of stress to satisfy these needs these growth processes are pushed into the background.
In the colloquial meaning of relaxation we are talking about releasing the psychophysical stress , reducing tensions arising from psychosomatic issues (mind-body issues) or sustained rest and inactivity, which is what we call relaxing. The first time the term relaxation was used by a medical doctor was by a Harvard professor Herbert Benson, during research on people who were meditating.
Relaxation is the opposite of the attack-escape i.e the flight or fight mechanism. It consists in reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which in practice means mainly:
* Reduction in body oxygen consumption by about 10 to 20%
* Reduction in heart rate of about 3 beats or more per minute.
* Release of the rhythm of breathing,
* Reduction in the level of lactic acid,
* Increase alpha waves in the cerebral cortex
During the day there exists a state in which the predominant brain waves are Beta waves. When we enter the relaxation state, brain wave frequency changes due to release of body tension and alpha waves start to predominate, and a state of consciousness conducive to the healthy functioning - thanks to, amongst other things a lowering of the level of stress hormones (e.g.adrenaline, norephinephrine ). This change in brain wave profile induces the susceptibility of subconscious suggestions (affirmations), feelings and images (visualizations). This Alpha state also occurs naturally before sleep and upon waking.
In addition to these features, the relaxation syndrome also consists of:
* A reduction in muscle tone,
* Slowing of metabolism,
* Expansion (dilation) of blood vessels,
* An increase in temperature of some parts of the body.
Remember that during relaxation, we are freed from the tension within the muscles, which also mutes the emotions and calms the mind.
According to Benson, the state of relaxation can be invoked using a variety of techniques. Their selection is just an individual choice. However, regardless of which one of them a patient chooses, he should apply it for 10-20 minutes, once or twice a day, preferably seated in a quiet environment, free from distractions. Since the dawn of society, each generation has taught its members how to enter a state of relaxation, usually through religious ceremony or reflection through prayer. To achieve this state – Benson says any of the following are necessary: the repetition of a word, return, sound or prayer. Benson recommends repeating as we exhale the universal primordial sound "Om".
It should also be noted here that various studies have been conducted to determine if prayer can function as a treatment for people addicted to various substances of abuse. Benson found that recitation of a Christian prayer, the so-called "Jesus Prayer," in which it was necessary to sit down in a quiet setting and repeat with each exhalation "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." Was successful.
In applying this technique of relaxation the following is recommended:
- Systematic practice by setting aside undisturbed time
- Site selection in seclusion, maintaining quiet, in the dark, or before an icon
-In addition one is totally free, to summon the Name at any time and any setting - in church, home, on the street, in the office, in the workshop, etc..
It helps to achieve peace and focus in all these situations and locations.
In psychology and medicine physicians have used relaxation exercises as a precursor for a wide range of activities. This means that it is recommended for almost all known diseases, in order to reduce the negative effects of mental illness on all these conditions.
These exercises may also be used in a targeted manner, for example, to stimulate the immune system or, in the case of allergic asthma, in order to restore the equilibrium of the system towards health. Allergic individuals have a highly reactive immune system. Initiation of relaxation exercises based on the activation of the parasympathetic system, which is responsible for relaxation and regeneration is very effective. When the body relaxes, muscle tension dramatically diminishes, the skin sweats less, which is considered a sign of reduction in bodily manifestation of stress. Decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood, increase the temperature of the skin, which becomes better supplied with blood, and thus breathing becomes normalized.
Mental training not only affects our body. It also allows you to change the states of psychical health. With the relaxation exercises, comes reduction in fearfulness, depressive, nervousness. It greatly improves our ability to concentrate.