Learning in Retirement – Stress & Your Body: Psychological Factors

Continuing our current Learning in Retirement topic of “Stress and Your Body,” yesterday’s lecture in the Panorama Auditorium focused on psychological factors and the effect these factors have on our nervous system.

Emotional stress causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, etc. Feeling as if we were back in the classroom, the audience eagerly listened to important connections and implications of the physical response our bodies have to emotional stressors.

The speaker outlined four factors that decrease the adverse effects of stress on our health.

1. Outlets –  As our nervous system responds to stressors, muscles tighten and build up tension. The use of outlets such as hobbies and exercise are useful in the release of tension. Outlets distract the mind from stressors and bring focus back to the present and what’s really important in our lives.

2. Social Support – Interaction and support from friends and family has a naturally calming affect. The speaker used a study on baboons to present an example of this concept. Social grooming is a common practice among baboons, especially after a stressful event. This is also why we humans tend to prefer “moral support” from a loved one when we have to go through a scary or painful experience.

3. Predictability – In studies performed on lab rats, as stressful situations became less predictable, the physical response to stressors became more intense. The presence of a predictable, albeit stressful situation allows time for us to plan an effective coping strategy. Predictability also provides a sense of relief in knowing when we’ll be safe. This is in contrast to the intensified stress we feel when there is no indication of when a situation may subside.

4. Sense of Control – Believing we have some control over a stressful situation tends to reassure us that we have the power to make things better, ultimately lowering our physical response to the stressor.

We can take away these pointers and apply them to our daily lives in order to lower the stress we feel and , ultimately, the damaging havoc it plays on our physical health.



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