Stress and Sickness
As an executive constantly on the go, you probably know when you're feeling stressed. Hopefully, some of the exercises thus far in this book have helped you identify what causes stress in your life and some of the things you can do to alleviate it. But have you ever wondered where stress comes from? It's the result of many complex chemical reactions going on inside your body.
Hans Selye, M.D., the father of stress management, was initially doing research on reproductive hormones. As is the case with most great discoveries, he found something he wasn't looking for. He discovered and successfully reproduced physiological responses that always occurred before there was any diagnosable, recognizable disease.
Through his many experiments, Selye observed that patients who did not exhibit the characteristics of a specific disease entity all exhibited nonspecific features of the disease process. These features included fever, enlargement of the spleen or liver, inflamed tonsils, skin rash, aches and pains in the joints and so on. Selye coined the term "syndrome of just being sick." This seemed to be the syndrome that characterized diseases.
Later Selye did research with animals put under various types of stress situations:
· Living in overcrowded social conditions
· Complete body immobilization
· Exposure to temperature extremes
· Living in their own excrement
· Adverse dietary conditions
· Being chased around the lab by Selye and his students
· Being dropped from the laboratory examination table.
Each time he found the following three things would happen:
1. Enlargement of the adrenal cortex.
2. Atrophy of thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and all other lymphatic structures.
3. Deep-bleeding ulcers in stomach and duodenum.
In the diagram below (used from "StressedOut Headed For Burnout" with permission) you see the various stages that our body goes through a result of stress. Again this can be multiple kinds of stress as you can see from the left side of the diagram.