Stress has long-term repercussions on our health, which is why it is considered a very widespread global problem. We have all suffered it, but are we sure what stress really is? What are its consequences, its causes and how does it affect our health? In this article we will inform you about the repercussions that it can have on our immune system.
What is stress?
The body has the ability to adapt to a large number of stimuli of various kinds and intensity, as long as these oscillate within a range that does not alter the generation of its internal balance. If these stimuli are outside the usual range, the balance is disturbed and this equivalent reaction can be considered as stress, which is often multifactorial in origin. Stress is nothing more than a physical or psychological demand of the individual in response to the adaptation of the body to an unusual stimulus.
Among the possible causes of stress are the work environment, responsibility and administrative burden required by the work we perform, loneliness, lack of opportunities, promotion or salary improvements, job frustration, inability to provide what is necessary to the family nucleus, poverty, own chronic illnesses or those of loved ones, lack of social and family support and even the economic crisis and unemployment.
In these cases, each person is affected differently, responding equally in a particular way, according to their ability to cope with the situation that is presented to them. In addition, it will depend on your previous physical and mental health, as well as the personal support that allows you to face the different pressure and stress scenarios.
Emotional problems caused by stress are often perceived by third parties and not by ourselves. For example, excessive anxiety, feelings of guilt, and mood swings. In other cases, the physical effects may be less visible since they depend on the chronicity of the stressors, which can even be lethal.
For some time now, various medical research has shown that stress affects various organs and systems of our body, including the immune system, with serious long-term consequences. Therefore, it is important that we are clear about what the immune system is and why stress is capable of affecting its performance.
What is the immune system?
The Immune System or Immune System is in charge of alerting and protecting the body against any foreign agent (antigen) capable of making or damaging any system or tissue of the individual.
For the Immune System to exercise its function, there are cell groups and biochemical mediators capable of producing a reaction in order to detect and eliminate the antigen, or at least prevent it from doing damage by limiting its capacity for reproduction and invasion.
How does stress affect the immune system?
In this case, the nervous, endocrine (hormonal) and immune systems work together to respond effectively to any stimulus, but the problem with stress is that it generates an imbalance in hormonal and nervous regulatory mechanisms that prevent an adequate response from the point of view. immunological view.
It is worth noting that under stressful chronic alterations, the defense system is not at 100% of its capacity, so the cells responsible for the immune response cannot effectively attack an infectious process and limit it as quickly as another individual who does not are under high levels of stress.
When our brain perceives that a situation is stressful, it generates a cascade of events including the secretion of neurotransmitters and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that produce changes in the behavior of white blood cells (leukocytes), and cytokines (biochemical mediators) that constitute the main defense of the organism against the attack of an antigen, generating susceptibility or immunosuppression that makes us easy prey for a microorganism that can make us sick or leave sequelae. Stress is often not just an occasional problem because it can become chronic.
Regardless of how psychologically prepared one may be to face stress, it is essential that when faced with a state of chronicity, they can detect the generating factor or factors and isolate it, in order to prevent it from affecting our health constantly, acting according to our possibilities tools to overcome it.
Therefore, we must be aware of our abilities to define what does not work properly in our home, work or any environment, making it necessary to use basic communication tools and develop characteristics of our personality such as assertiveness, resilience, empathy, respect, discipline, organization and responsibility.
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