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What are the biological consequences of stress and how your body reacts to it?

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There are many life situations which lead to stress. In trading, it is the market conditions the cause of stress. Whatever the reason might be for stress, it has a certain impact on body and mind. Your body reacts differently when you feel stressed. The body acts in the following ways to fight stress:

  • Your muscle contracts to get ready for any action.
  • You breathe faster and deeper. Your lungs expand to allow more oxygen to come in. So more oxygen is available to your body. Oxygen is important for your body to release energy from stored food.
  • As your heart beats faster, more blood is pumped in and out of organs.
  • Your body releases hormones, which increase heart, lung and muscle activity. The body muscles use stored energy from the liver. This blood sugar is present in the liver, which is released by hormones. The hormone also breaks down tissues if additional energy is needed.
  • Blood vessels also expand to make space for energy cells. This energy is directly given to the brain.
  • The eye pupils also increase in size to increase visual sensitivity. Hearing capability is also said to increase.

All these activities make the body capable and strong to fight stress. More energy is demanded by muscles and the brain. These are automatic reactions of the body in response to stress.

The Autonomic Nervous System

The above mentioned automatic reactions of the body and muscles due to stress are a part of the Autonomic Nervous System. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts. The first one is the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the movement of energy all over the body. This nervous system activates the body when feelings are awakened. The second one is called the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s functioning is exactly opposite to that of the sympathetic nervous system. It decreases blood pressure and respiration. It also increases the rate of digestion since energy is required every minute.

The parasympathetic part of the nervous system is important for general well being also. It also manages the body maintenance section. Otherwise, the body would find it difficult to digest food and store energy. Blood pressure wouldn’t be under control. And you would face difficulty in sleeping. The two systems maintain coordination within each other and maintain balance. The parasympathetic system takes care of body maintenance while sympathetic takes over in case of an emergency.

Popular Stress Models

The stress as we know has various types; also they been categorized into certain models whose functions are more specific in nature. They reflect different ideas about stress. Some of the known theories are Arousal theory, the general adaptation syndrome theory and Jacobson’s muscle tension model. The first two models consider stress as a response to external events. While other theories talk about the role of the mind in producing unnecessary stress, without considering external events.

Arousal theory

Famous psychologist, Walter B. canon, believed that stress was a response to the threat which came from the sympathetic nervous system. Cannon assumed that the stress is higher when the threat is high. Sometimes if the energy produced is not efficiently used up, it can result in exploitation. When talking about market stresses, it does not require extreme muscular exertion. There is only continuous pressure of being present in the market or not. Another stress factor is the stream of losses. If this stress exists long enough, it will be destructive to the body and mind in some form. Cannon assumed it to be a unified biological response. If not responded appropriately, then you cannot use up the liberated energy. So stress is a kind of special problem for investors.

The General Adaptation Syndrome

Hans Selye describes this model and explains how the body responses to stress. He says the demand made by our body generates two responses. One response being demand specific and other constitutes the basic response of the body to stress. Demand from the body itself is stressful. Stress can be beneficial to the body, which Selye calls it as eustress. Distress, on the other hand, is very harmful to your body.

When distress levels are higher than the maximum level, it produces what Selye calls the alarm reaction. This response is similar to the response of general stress mentioned earlier. If the alarm reaction is very high due to high stress, it can even cause death.

If the reaction is well within the normal range, the body learns to adapt to it. The body unknowingly is combating this stress. Selye calls this stage of resistance.

After the body battles stress by its own, if the distress still persists, the body reaches an exhaustion stage. During the exhaustion stage, the body reacts as if stress has occurred for the first time. There is a massive discharge of hormones, destruction of the thymus gland and bleeding ulcers also occurs during the stage of exhaustion. The result may be death.

We can draw certain conclusions based on the first two models:

  • Each person has a threshold point, beyond which powerful reactions occur in the body. This initiates action in our body.
  • Stress is harmful to the body if it is more than normal or if it lasts for a long time.

Jacobson’s Muscle Tension Model

Jacobson’s believed that the problem does not lie with the stressor in the environment, but what the individual thinks about the stressor. For example; the problem for an investor is not the loss, but what the investor thinks about that loss. When one thinks about an anxiety-related situation, the person makes subconscious images of the situation in his mind which activates the muscles. As a result, he becomes tense and tries to strengthen himself to protect from personal attack of stress.

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