In the twentieth century, several theories appeared that can rightly be called popular science. Not in the sense that they are primitive, understandable to everyone, liked by everyone and competently discussed by everyone. Alas, the opposite is true: only a few narrow specialists working in the respective fields really understand the essence of the problems, the formulation of questions and the proposed methods for solving them, and only a handful of people on the globe are capable, “standing on the shoulders of titans”, to develop revolutionary ideas and theories to go further. The rest of humanity does fine without understanding, even approximate. This is not at all a reproach; it has always been so and, apparently, it will be so in the next foreseeable centuries. Something else is more interesting: some terms and expressions, borrowed from various sciences, for some reason seem to be intuitive and universally explanatory, as a result of which they become so famous, popular, and commonly used all over the world that they begin to live their own lives at the level of everyday language and collective consciousness. At the same time, the volume and content of terms, as a rule, expand to infinity, far beyond the original clear framework and already spreading to any everyday situations. “Action is equal to reaction”, “everything in the world is relative”, “conditioned reflex and Pavlov’s dog”, “Schrödinger’s cat” (due to its difficult fate, this animal became the hero of jokes and memes on the Internet), “black hole”, or, let’s say, “subconscious” (did you know, by the way, that no truly literate psychologist with a university education uses the vulgarized term “subconscious”, preferring to study the “unconscious”?). The names of Wilhelm Roentgen, Albert Einstein, Ivan Pavlov, the same Erwin Schrödinger – and all these are Nobel laureates – are constantly heard, they are known, in general, to everyone. However, it’s not about the awards. For various reasons, Isaac Newton, Sigmund Freud, Stephen Hawking and many, many others, whose influence on the culture of the Earth is huge and undeniable, did not become laureates. Among them is Hans Selye, whose research determined the worldwide popularity of another meta-concept, which, in terms of frequency of use, probably occupies one of the leading, if not the first position among similar “understandable to everyone” words. This refers to the concept of “stress”. Stephen Hawking and many, many others, whose influence on the culture of the Earth is huge and undeniable. Among them is Hans Selye, whose research determined the worldwide popularity of another meta-concept, which, in terms of frequency of use, probably occupies one of the leading, if not the first position among similar “understandable to everyone” words. This refers to the concept of “stress”. Stephen Hawking and many, many others, whose influence on the culture of the Earth is huge and undeniable. Among them is Hans Selye, whose research determined the worldwide popularity of another meta-concept, which, in terms of frequency of use, probably occupies one of the leading, if not the first position among similar “understandable to everyone” words. This refers to the concept of “stress”.

As if Providence itself had prepared for Hans Selye universality and cross-culturalism: by birth, Janos Scheie, he was the son of a Hungarian and an Austrian, was born in Austria-Hungary (1907), studied in Czechoslovakia, Italy, the USA, and then lived until his death (1982) and worked in Canada. He did not receive the Nobel Prize, although he was once nominated: apparently, bad proceedings regarding the sources of funding for the main direction of his research had an effect. But all this no longer matters: the main thing is that the whole world today complains about “stress” – although Selye himself, God knows, is not at all to blame for our stresses. In general, he meant something a little different compared to the meaning that most of us put into this word. Actually, it was not Selye who came up with this term, but the American psychologist of the classical school, Walter Cannon,

The original meaning of the English word “ stress ”, whether it is a noun or a verb, is semantically related to pressure, load, imprinting, shaking, impact (if you remember, on the first PCs running MS-DOS , “ Strike… ”, or “ Press… ” was often suggested , or “ Hit… ” or “ Stress any key“). In the late, final version of Selye’s concept, stress is understood as any external influence that threatens to bring the body out of equilibrium homeostasis (constancy of internal conditions). In another sense, stress is “a set of non-specific adaptive reactions.” Non-specific, i.e. impacts can be different (infection, trauma, an unpleasant situation, and many others), and in response to them the same, for example, the temperature rises, the heartbeat and breathing become more frequent. It is important that Selye was not a psychiatrist or psychologist, his medical specialty was endocrinology, and thus stress is not a kitchen-household concept, but a neuroendocrine and psychophysiological one. In the early stages of his research, Hans Selye did not use this term at all, he was engaged in the so-called. general adaptation syndrome developed and substantiated this concept in detail. In particular, Selye’s ideas about the three phases or stages of the adaptive reaction are widely known: mobilization-resistance-exhaustion. According to Selye, stress for the body is not just normal, it is the most important evolutionary mechanism of “fine tuning to a specific situation”, allowing us to survive without any consequences where a less flexible, nimble, dodgy, quick-reacting biological machine would simply die. And far from immediately, in his works, Selye began to differentiate physiological, normal stress, leading to the accumulation of useful experience and additional “training” of the body, from pathological stress, which leaves certain negative consequences, dysfunctions, maladaptive disorders (“adaptation diseases”, as he called their author). Selye called “good” stress eustress, and “bad” stress distress. Ideas about distress are closely related to another important medical theory of the twentieth century – the concept of psychosomatic diseases (see, for example, “Bronchial asthma ”, “ Gastroduodenitis. Peptic ulcer of the stomach and duodenum “, ” Neurosis “). What will be discussed further is, of course, not stress in general, but distress, and almost exclusively information-type distress.

And what do we mean by stress, we who are “well, almost-already doctors”, “who have read a lot on medicine” or “also some kind of specialists”, when we screw in this red word where it is necessary and where it is not necessary? Yes, whatever. It seems that any doctor who sees patients will now smile and nod his head with great knowledge of the matter: if a person complains about the stress he has experienced (especially in the wording “I had nervous stress, doctor … well, you understand …”), this phrase may hiding and psychosis , and neurosis , and depression , and a rumpled bumper, and a panic attack , and an acute reaction to stress, and a surgical operation, and a family scandal, and lack of money, and claims against the government, and our semi-final lost ineptly … in a word, anything. Everything that we do not like or makes us nervous, distracts, disturbs, excites, angers, frightens, suddenly pleases. Anything that seems stressful to us. Everything that is even remotely similar to this word or consonant with it. Soon it will be possible to consider it primordially Russian.

Such is the property of universal meta-concepts.

The material published below is translated. For the editors of the Lakhta Clinic website, it is always interesting and useful to turn to the experience of foreign colleagues – and how they supposedly cope with one of the main common problems, how they explain to their readers in simple words (ranging from housewives and schoolchildren to academicians inclusive) very, very difficult things. Obviously, any medical information resource must master this art to perfection. Healthy lifestyle portal with a simple name ealth is extremely popular, it is visited by a huge English-speaking audience. Let’s see what exactly this audience reads about stress and its main causes. Both in the modern world are hardly very different in different countries and on different continents. Word to Amanda MacMillan and Corine Miller .

And the last thing, so as not to be distracted later: the vocabulary and style are, if possible, preserved by the authors, and notes and clarifications, where they were needed, are ours.


What is stress, exactly?

As long as you remain a living and breathing human being, you will experience stress at certain points in your life. It is your body’s response to challenges or demands, as defined by MedLinePlus ( National Library of Medicine website ).

These are completely normal sensations, and they can be useful in some cases (for example, helping to avoid dangerous situations). But if they go on too long, they can put you at risk for quite serious health problems like depression or anxiety, or even become a source of chronic skin problems, for example.

You may well be aware of what exactly is your specific stress trigger – racing against a deadline or fighting with a spouse – but these factors can enter your life in other, sometimes unexpected ways. Twenty-one of the most common causes that can cause an undesirable stress state are considered here.


Significant other

Even if you are simply blissful in living together and in a relationship with a partner or spouse, you are both doomed to sometimes do something that gets on the other’s nerves. “Early in a relationship, there tend to be issues with space and habits, like whether you’re squeezing the paste from the middle or the bottom of the tube,” says Ken Yeager, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. . “Later, you may have conflicts over parenting or financial problems, and you will need to learn how to act as a united front to solve these problems together.”

So what is the key to a long and happy life together? In search of balance, K. Jaeger answers: in spending the right periods of time together (not too short and not too long); in the ability to compromise, to be honest and open with each other for communication, as well as to remember and daily recognize what you love each other for.


Everyday irritants

We are constantly told to “don’t worry about the little things” and not to “bother over the little things,” but it’s often the little things that have the biggest negative impact on our mood: endless phone calls with the insurance company, a rude cashier at the grocery store, unsuccessful 20-minute searches for a free place for parking.

“We allow these things to irritate us because they trigger unconscious fears,” notes Ken Yeager, “the fear of seeming irresponsible to someone, of becoming the object of bullying or ridicule, or, say, the fear of being late somewhere. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and really appreciate the fact that you are currently doing the best you can under the circumstances.”


other people’s stress

In 2014, a study was carried out in Germany, the results of which indicate the contagiousness, contagiousness of stress. In a series of experiments, most of those participants who simply watched other people solve stressful tasks also found increased secretion of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” This phenomenon is known as empathic stress. You can also become stressed if someone you know is the victim of a traumatic situation, such as a car accident or serious illness. As Dr. Yeager says, “… you start to worry: oh my god, this could have happened to me too! Usually we try not to think about it, and we don’t think about it until the trouble is somewhere near our house.”


Social networks

Social media like Facebook or Instagram might seem like the only way to keep up with those you don’t see regularly—and during busy times, you see almost none of your friends. But the same social networks, according to numerous studies by Pew Research Center, can have the opposite effect: thanks to them, you instantly become aware of all the stressful situations and events taking place in the lives of your friends, and thereby add stress to your own life. While the Pew Research Center was unable to conclusively prove this as a general rule in 2015, earlier studies have shown that frequent social media use can lead to at least a negative body image and a significant prolongation of the “heartache” period. when relationships break.



Switching attention can be a great thing to take your mind off a stressful situation or having to make a tough decision, like taking a break from a busy job to meet a friend for lunch. However, this also works in the opposite direction, namely: it may be that you are thinking intensely about something stressful and this prevents you from fully enjoying what is happening around you “now and here”. This kind of distraction can be called one of the recipes for stress.

“Various practices to increase concentration, thoughtfulness, focus ensure your brain is refreshed ( original is “ refresh ”, this is a clear allusion to forced reloading and page refresh in web browsers ) and maximum productivity as needed,” says Richard Lenox, director Student Advisory Center at Texas Tech University. And he adds: “Full focus on the environment when you walk or drive a car is a good idea. Stress and anxiety tend to dissolve when all attention is focused on the present.”


your childhood

Traumatic events that you experienced as a child can still increase your stress levels and negatively affect your health in adulthood. A 2014 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that negative childhood experiences can actually change the functioning of those parts of the brain that process stress and emotions. The conditions in which you grew up can still affect your daily level of anxiety today ( one of the meanings of the English term “angst” is existential anxiety, which in this case is more accurate). In the same 2014, this was confirmed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. It has been shown that those children whose parents suffer from social anxiety disorder have a higher risk of developing so-called. descending, “leaking down” anxiety – not only due to genetic factors, but also due to the characteristics of parental behavior, in particular, a lack of emotions and warmth, or a high level of criticism, doubts, demands, etc.


Tea and chocolate

You probably know that you shouldn’t binge on coffee if you’re feeling “on the edge.” Dr. Ken Yeager reminds: “Caffeine always aggravates stress, this is known. But what you might not realize is that several cups of tea or a chocolate bar eaten in a row contain almost as much caffeine as a cup of strong coffee. Chocolate, for example, is a powerful source of caffeine, and I personally know some people who do not drink coffee at all, but eat six chocolates and candy bars in two hours, as they unconsciously crave an extra shake. In other words, the abuse of caffeine in any of its forms can lead to irritability and emotional instability, sleep disturbances and digestion.


Your expectations

When things don’t go the way you planned, do you tend to get frustrated, despondent, and act entirely on the defensive, or do you fight back against fate, rearranging as you go and devising a new plan?

If the former, then you drive your own thinking onto a pessimistic track and develop a “victim of circumstances” psychology in yourself, which gradually weakens you – even if in reality the situation is not so bad as it may seem to you. “Your level of serenity and tranquility is inversely proportional to your expectations,” K. Jaeger succinctly formulates. This does not mean, of course, that you should not set ambitious goals for yourself or settle for less than you deserve, but being realistic in expectations and assessments of opportunities is actually very important.


Your response to stress

If you tend to try to cope with stressful situations by continuously working long hours, skipping your usual exercises and / or eating junk food in large quantities, then the bad news is for you: you are only making yourself worse. And again, we turn to a specialist for explanations: “We all know that physical activity and a healthy diet help the body cope with stress better, and yet we often neglect this method when it is most needed,” says K. Yeager . “People really need to think about this stress vortex that is so easy to get sucked into and do something meaningful to counter it.”



Think you’re super efficient when you’re trying to do four things at the same time? Rather, it is just the opposite: it only reduces your productivity, while at the same time increasing your stress level. You can refer, for example, to a 2012 study at the University of Irvine (California). Among other things, the results show that people who answer e-mails all day while trying to work at the same time are more likely to experience the problem of heart rate variability. (a sure indicator of mental stress) than those who put off texting and don’t try to reply to everyone who writes right away. Focusing on a single task can ensure that you’re doing the best you can and don’t have to worry about the result or go back to fix it. And do not worry: you will always have enough time to do everything. Actually, you yourself can easily make sure that you have much more time than you think.


Favorite sport

If you’re a fan and your favorite team is fighting hard, it can be stressful – even if “yours” are winning. “The body doesn’t always distinguish between ‘bad’ stress related to life or hard work, and ‘good’ stress and excitement on the day of a big game,” says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama’s Birmingham Cardiovascular Clinic. Enthusiastic and passionate viewing of sporting events can even activate the sympathetic nervous system ( see ” Adie Syndrome “), releasing increased amounts of adrenaline and reducing blood flow to the heart. These temporary, transient effects are not usually a cause for concern, but over time, chronic stress can lead to persistent high blood pressure and, in general, increases the risk of serious illness. And of course, drinking alcohol and overeating only exacerbate the situation, already stressful for your body. “The outcome of the match does not depend on you,” says J. Gilchrist, “but you can at least limit the adverse effects for the sake of your own body.”


Digital devices

“Whether they are used for work or play, high technology can be very bad for your mental health,” says Ken Yeager. – Using computers or e-books just before going to bed can cause various dyssomnias, i.e. sleep disorders, as well as the fascination with virtual communication can turn real human interactions into something stressful. On top of that, typing your lines on the keyboard incessantly does not activate the “feel good hormones” that are released in a face-to-face conversation.

Finally, sooner or later, a catastrophic “performance failure” occurs if employees are tied to their work through smartphones even during a break or on weekends. People say, for example, that they only need to look and check their email for a second, but in reality, the received messages fill you with new responsibilities, new tasks and dilemmas, and all this remains in your head for hours, where it is difficult to isolate or block anything. at the time of rest.


Your (good) health

It may not be as stressful as having a chronic illness or hearing bad news in the doctor’s office, but even people in great shape worry about their health, diet, fitness level, and so on. In fact, people who take their commitment to a healthy lifestyle to the extreme risk experiencing some unhealthy side effects. Thus, adherents of low-carb diets are more likely to report a state of melancholy or signs of stress, while adherents of any restrictive diets feel more tired than usual. And it is by no means unique when someone becomes obsessed with healthy eating (orthorexia) or exercise (hymorexia) in the full sense of the word. Like any other form of perfectionism, such extremes can be at least stressful,



When you roll and fold laundry, does it calm you down, or does it make your blood boil with anger?

If you are in a situation in life where you feel compelled to do unfairly much of your homework, then even the things you once enjoyed can now feel like torture. It can be difficult to equitably separate household and parental responsibilities, especially if both parents work outside the home. And on whether you consider the existing division equal or unequal, your attitude to homework depends.



According to Ken Yeager, stress can be interpreted as any perceived or real threat, and any doubts that overcome you can contribute to an increase in anxiety levels on a daily basis. “When you know that at any moment something can change, you are constantly on alert, and it’s hard for you to even just relax, let alone enjoy reality.” Financial uncertainty may be the most obvious example of such a stressor: not sure whether you will keep your job during the next downsizing, or not understanding how you will be able to pay all your credit bills. Insecurity in other areas of life, such as close relationships or a place to live, can also literally eat away at you.



It doesn’t matter how much you love your furry friends, but there’s no doubt that their presence adds an extra layer of responsibility to an already overflowing cup. Even a healthy animal must be fed and walked, it must be cleaned up and given regular attention; if the pet is sick, then this is a completely different story. “Pets can be the most positive source of unconditional love, but they also require a lot of energy from you,” Yeager says. “In addition, people tend to underestimate the stress they face when losing a pet. More than once or twice in my office, people told me that they cried more about the dead dog than about the dead parents. It’s a very rich emotional connection.”


Your education

Having a college degree increases your chances of getting a well-paying job. So while there is less risk of stress and anxiety that may be associated with your financial future, your education can throw you into a different type of stress. This is stated in a study report conducted in 2014 by the team of Professor Scott Szyman at the University of Toronto. It was found that highly educated people are more prone to stress, which is caused by the pressure of functional duties and responsibilities, overload, conflicts between work and family. “A high level of power and responsibility is accompanied by a much heavier interpersonal burden, such as the need to control the work of other people or make decisions regarding their career growth,” says S. Shiman.



If you live on a busy street in a big city, you are chronically exposed to acoustic pollution.

As numerous studies show, even low levels of constant noise can cause sleep disorders, which in turn is a stress trigger. Noise can also directly cause stress if you voluntarily or involuntarily fix attention on it (hello, and who can enjoy a day lived to the accompaniment of jackhammers?). “The unpredictable high-pitched noise causes the most stress,” said Frank Ginassi, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Center for Behavioral Therapy at Rutgers University. – In general, this is any noise that you can hear in an urban environment. It can interfere with concentration and thus require increased energy costs to overcome this frustration.

Psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., and owner of the Anxiety’s a B!tch podcast , adds: “In particular, your amygdala, the brain structure that normally regulates emotions. And if the noise is detected, the amygdala activates the release of cortisol.”

Get stressed. Should you wrap?


Life during a pandemic

It is easy to give up and convince yourself that you are doing everything right during a global pandemic. However, J. Mayer believes that it is much more difficult not to become a victim of at least one of the factors of the COVID-19 crisis, whether it be irritation about the inability to lead a normal life, anxiety about the place of work, or a real fear of contracting the coronavirus. “First of all, a person’s defense mechanism of denial is triggered,” Mayer says. – And if it seems to you that the stressors are somewhere out there, far beyond the boundaries of your own life, this means that this psychological defense mechanism is already activated. You can continue to live under the anesthesia of denial until you or someone close to you suffers from the immediate consequences of the pandemic, but the stress remains with you all the time.

“The problem here is that stress accumulates over time, which makes you feel completely exhausted,” adds F. Ginassi.



On the one hand, if you whine and complain about your fate, then you get rid of the painful thoughts that have accumulated inside, as if in a corked bottle. But on the other hand, you once again double-check and repeat everything that has already become a source of constant tension, and again get upset.

Frank Ginassi recommends rethinking the way you phrase things while making the cause of your whining less scary. One example: call something “annoying” (meaning that you can live with it, in principle), instead of calling it “terrible” (which sounds on the verge of catastrophic).



Of course, sometimes a glass of wine after a long hard day can help you relax. But sometimes it can also work against you. Alcohol can actually lead to the release of the same cortisol, the stress hormone, and thus you will find yourself even more overwhelmed when you need to get out of a relaxed state. According to John Mayer, if you drink too much, you then have to deal with such phenomena as memory problems and difficulties in verbalizing judgments, which in no way contribute to reducing stress levels

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