Effects of Stress

Effects of Stress



Effects of Stress

One of the major stressful events occurring in my life at this point involves the role that I am currently assuming in public speaking. In relation to my course of study, I am required to provide speeches to my colleagues in class and other events. For some individuals, especially extroverts, public speaking is a task that they can articulate easily without necessarily it being a stressor. When it comes to engaging with groups of people, individuals that exude a tendency to extroversion are quickly capable of performing tasks and activities such as public speaking. However, based on my personality type as an introvert, I find it difficult to engage in activities that require me to be part of a cohort. In spite of attempting to be comfortable in interacting with factions of individuals, it is still difficult to articulate my speeches and responses due to the physical and mental reactions that I experience. As such, this specific act imposes significant stress on my schoolwork and social life. The main problem that I have regarding public speaking is based on the impact it imposes especially on my composure. Usually, when it is my turn to either present or make a speech in front of a crowd, I experience intense reactions that completely affect how I deliver my speech or presentation. Generally, if I am supposed to articulate myself in the midst of a cohort, most of the things that I had planned to say become difficult to utter. In addition to this, maintaining eye contact also becomes considerably difficult especially once I become unable to present. Aside from the loss of words and eye contact, I experience sweating on my forehead and beneath the palm of my hands. These reactions further correspond with shaking especially throughout my arms and an increase in heat throughout my body. Moreover, in such situations, I generally focus on completing the task hurriedly in order to avoid being in public for a long time. In spite of the efforts I inculcate in averting these reactions, it is still difficult for me to engage in these respective acts without being stressed.

Stress causes various physiological changes throughout the body. However, the stress stimulus commences within the brain. When an individual is faced with a stressful situation such as this, the ears and eyes send data to the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional processing (Roozendaal, McEwen & Chattarji, 2009). Roozendaal, McEwen and Chattarji (2009) further assert that the respective area interprets the resonations and images and after perceiving discomfort or danger, it immediately conveys a distress indicator to the brain’s command center, hypothalamus. The hypothalamus communes with the whole body via the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which manages and controls involuntary body operations such as blood pressure, breathing, heartbeat and constriction or dilation of major blood vessels and airways within the lungs termed as bronchioles. The ANS is divided into the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). The SNS responds to a stressor by initiating the Fight-or-Flight response (Roozendaal, McEwen & Chattarji, 2009). This response allows the body to gain a significant level of energy that enables the body to respond to an event perceived by the mind as dangerous. Alternately, the PNS restores composure to the body once the perceived threat has passed. However, if the brain continues to perceive the stress, the hypothalamus releases cortisol, which forces the body to be significantly alert.

Based on the way that the brain reacts to this stressful situation, it is evident that the amount of cortisol released determines emotional and cognitive performance. In common circumstances, the release of cortisol by the hypothalamus augments functions related to these two aspects. Accordingly, an optimal increase of this particular stress hormone causes a myriad of positive cognitive and emotional reactions (Schacter, Gilbert & Wegner, 2011). These comprise amplified memory functions, decreased sensitivity towards pain, increased focus and determination, and augmented decision-making capabilities, feelings of optimism and happiness as well as rapid response to situations due to energy boosts. However, in relation to the mentioned stressful situation, it is evident that the amount of cortisol released in the bloodstream affects emotions as well as cognitive facets. Concerning with the effects I experience when in front of a group of people, stress impairs cognitive performance by causing memory problems such as poor retention, difficulty in concentration, poor judgment, negative thoughts or approach, anxiety and consistent worrying. In terms of emotions, stress causes moodiness, petulance, difficulty in relaxing, agitation, feelings of isolation, depression and common despondency. These changes in cognition and emotion affect negatively on general performance and may result in major health defects.

Nevertheless, if the same stress were to be experienced by a person of the opposite sex, the physiological changes within the brain will not change. However, the emotional and cognitive performance of the individual will differ. Accordingly, the retort to stress will differentiate among women, when compared to men. Studies have indicated that disparate areas of a person’s brain react with dissimilar temporal and spatial profiles across genders especially when experiencing stress (Nauert, 2007). As such, stress responses can be essentially different in both genders. In women, the response may be more Tend-and-Befriend rather than Fight-or-Flight, which is evident in men (Nauert, 2007). Therefore, in this context, a woman faced with this particular situation will incur problems related specifically to emotional performance. This is because the limbic system, which associates largely with emotion, activates when the person is under stress (Nauert, 2007). Simply, women react to stress by amplifying activity within the regions of the brain specifically or considerably involved with sentiment and emotion. Moreover, when compared to men, the response to stress within a woman’s brain lasts longer. As such, the changes experienced within these regions are more long-term. Concerning men, the stress response corresponds significantly to considerable degrees of cortisol (Nauert, 2007). However, among women, the association between the activation of the brain and changes in cortisol is minimal in contrast to men.

If the stressful situation progresses, it may pose a despondent effect on my physical health. Usually, optimal levels of cortisol are beneficial since they assist in augmenting a person’s physical wellbeing. One of the threats to health comprises the buildup of fat (de Kloet, Joëls & Holsboer, 2005). Increased cortisol levels influence changes that assist in replenishing the energy stores of the body that were depleted at the time of response. However, such levels of the respective stress hormone can lead to weight gain. This is because cortisol influences an increase in appetite. The sole purpose of this is to attain extra energy via consumption of food. Additionally, amplified cortisol levels also boost the storage of unexploited nutrients such as fat. Long time storage can lead to obesity and thickening of the artery walls due to the increase in fat. Additionally, stress can also lead to the destruction of arteries and blood vessels. This is due to the consistent production of epinephrine (adrenaline) (de Kloet, Joëls & Holsboer, 2005). Consistent production of this hormone can lead to an increase in blood pressure. In addition to this, elevated adrenaline levels can also cause brain strokes and cardiac attacks.

However, it is possible to counter the impact that the stressor can impose on my health. In essence, behavioral strategies can be applied in order to manage stress and decrease its effects on my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. According to Dattilio and Freeman (2010), one of these strategies involves deep breathing. In this respective situation, which normally influences stress, this tactic can assist in warding off negative impacts of the stimulus. This is because it initiates the release of dopamine (Dattilio & Freeman, 2010). Usually, an organism in stress will consistently be within the Fight-or-Flight response. As such, it is imperative to ensure that the body remains calm even during stressful situations. Hence, through deep breathing, the body will transit from a considerable point of physiological stimulation to a relaxed condition comprised of normal blood pressure, digestive operational and hormonal levels. Another strategy involves exercising. Exercise is important since it relieves the muscles of tension and relaxes affected physical functions such as temperature regulation and breathing through increase in the levels of serotonin (Dattilio & Freeman, 2010). Social support is also considerably important in decreasing the negative effects of stress. Seeking out the support of family and friends can aid in management of this problem. This is because it causes the reduction of cortisol levels, especially in stressful situations.

Encouraging an adult client to adapt to these behavioral strategies will be instrumental, especially in the management of stress. This is because such tactics will enable them to avoid potential risks to the overall wellness. In spite of this, it is important to ponder over certain ethical considerations while advocating for such strategies. First, it is vital to ensure that the client is well aware of the benefits and shortcomings that the suggested strategy will impose. Usually, an informed consent is required before embarking on activities such as these, which possess a considerable impact on a person’s health (Dattilio & Freeman, 2010). Therefore, ensuring that the client possesses full knowledge of the strategy is vital. Another ethical consideration involves taking into account the different personalities and situations of the clients. Advocating for a strategy such as social support cannot blend in positively for some clients. This is due to the nature of the relationships that they possess. In some contexts, the stressor can be a traumatic situation caused by a family member or a friend. In other settings, the stressor can be the loss of a relative or a colleague. To this end, before proposing such a strategy, one should exercise empathy by being aware of the client’s situation prior to the treatment.  


Dattilio, F. M., & Freeman, A. (2010). Cognitive-behavioral strategies in crisis intervention. New York, NY: Guilford.

de Kloet, E. R., Joëls, M., & Holsboer, F. (2005). Stress and the brain: From adaptation to disease. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 6(6): 463-475.

Nauert, R. (2007, November 20). Response to stress is gender specific. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/11/20/response-to-stress-is-gender-specific/1559.html

Roozendaal, B., McEwen, B. S., & Chattarji, S. (2009). Stress, memory and the amygdala. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6): 423-433.

Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D. T., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

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