Modern problem: Why we experience stress – and how to treat it

We all live in a constant state of stress both globally in terms of politics and in our personal lives, whether in the physical or virtual space - so how can this stress potentially harm us, and what can we do to prevent it or at least reduce its impact?

Dana Ron, Prof. Itamar Raz|
Stress is often considered the "problem of the modern era" and, undoubtedly, there are numerous reasons for us to experience stress, particularly in today's Israel. So, what are the physical and psychological effects of stress in both the short and long term, and what are effective methods to reduce stress levels?
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What is Stress? It's a very natural state that we're all supposed to spend a lot of time in. Stress is, in fact, a natural response whenever we need to prepare for something or even when something good happens to us. All these situations generate stress, and it's our body's natural response to prepare us for when something might go awry.
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Stress is a very natural state that we're all supposed to spend a lot of time in
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In reality, all our body organs gear up for the potential event that might occur We, as creatures, are constantly scanning our surroundings, looking for threats and maintaining a certain level of alertness so that we can effectively deal with these dangers. In a state of natural stress, our body produces adrenaline, which provides the stress hormones like cortisol. This happens to prepare us for any challenges that may arise.
So, does cortisol rise when our anxiety levels are high? No, when we experience very high anxiety, we become flooded with adrenaline, or epinephrine, rather than cortisol. We tend to associate cortisol more with chronic anxiety.
Does stress affect us negatively? When prolonged stress impacts our quality of life or our functioning, then we can talk about a negative influence. On the contrary, there's a certain level of stress that suits some people and is comfortable for them, while others prefer a more relaxed lifestyle. What suits each person is different.
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Prolonged stress impacts our quality of life
(Photo: Shutterstock)
What can be done to reduce stress levels? There are medications available, but beyond that the way to reduce stress is to try to understand the world and create priorities in our lives. The solution to reducing stress is for each individual to ask themselves what is important to them and what is of much lesser importance.
Self-work is indeed necessary. Of course, you don't have to do it alone; it's possible and recommended to do it with a therapist and a support group. You need to instill a motivational approach in people so that we can "pass the ball" to them, allowing them to see and examine the things they can do themselves to reduce stress.
To what extent does stress affect our bodies physically? When you experience constant stress, it can cause harm to the body. High cortisol levels are likely toxic to our brain, especially areas related to memory, and living with high levels of stress may contribute to the development of neurodegenerative disorders later in life, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Stress is also known to accelerate autoimmune diseases, so even if the body learns to live with constant stress, the brain may be damaged.
At the end of the day, it's important to understand that stress is imposed upon us, so our response to stress will determine its intensity. Therefore, if we use rationality and tell ourselves, "What is truly important?" it will help us. We need to identify the external factors that trigger us.
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