Now Playing: More About Stress
This is from a psychology textbook Lifespan Development (5th Edition, Turner & Helms):
"Stress can be defined as the common non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it, be it psychological or physiological. Stressors are external events or conditions that affect the equilibrium of the organism. Put another way, stressors are those situations placing the person in a stressful state. For some, stress is self-imposed; that is, some persons worry about what never happens. Some common stressors include fatigue, disease, physical injury, and emotional conflict. The latter might include tension and frustration. Day-to-day stressors might include financial worries, relationship worries, pollution, pressures at work, and so on. Obviously, stressors become very individualized, and a number of them may be working together at the same time. One person's stressor may be viewed with indifference by someone else. In this sense, one person's poison may be another's pleasure (Karasek & Theorell, 1990; Noshpitz & Coddington, 1990).
Most stress experts (e.g. Insel & Roth, 1991, Smith & Smith, 1990; S.E. Taylor, 1991) maintain that different categories of stressors can be established. For example, social stressors reflect our interaction with others and might include such conditions as crowding, noise, or social pressures to conform. Psychological stressors create mental stress and encompass, among others, frustration, conflict, and anxiety. Physical stressors create physiological demands on the body and might include hunger, thirst, heat, cold, injury, pollutants, toxicants, or poor nutrition. Finally, endemic stressors are those situations that produce 'passive stress' because they can't be controlled, such as inflation or the destructive presence of nuclear arms.
Stressors should thus be viewed as conditions producing bodily turbulence or some type of reactive change that triggers bodily reactions. But we must acknowledge, too, that both good and bad can interfere with teh body's equilibrium and create stress. Eustress, or positive stress, occurs when the body's reactive change is put to productive use. For example, athletes often use the anxiety or tension in their bodies before a game as a method of psyching themselves up for the competition. Some researchers, such as Charles Caroll and Dean Miller (1990), feel that eustress provides interest, comfort, and excitement to life. It helps us concentrate better, focus our efforts, and reach our peak of efficiency. In fact, too little stress actually contributes to what is a boring and joyless existence.
Distress, however, is harmful and unpleasant stress. It occurs when the body and mind are worn down from repeated exposure to an unpleasant situation. In this respect, stress can affect the body's overall immunity, nervous system, hormone levels, and metabolic rates. Whe one's emotional state leads to real physical illnesses, the disease is called psychosomatic (psycho=mind, soma=body). Such disorders include hypertension, headache, arthritis, rheumatism, peptic ulcers, obesity, backache, skin disorders, impotence, menstral irregularities, and possibly even some types of heart ailments (Rice, 1992; S.E. Taylor 1991)."
The concern of Buddhism, of course, is not merely with physical health. Distress (or strain) is the acute problem that medical science and clinical psychology addresses. Buddhism, rather, deals with consciousness as a whole, that which is subject to constant stressors. Even eustress, from the Buddhist point of view, while contributing to an alert state of mind that is motivated to act (a useful, and interesting, state of mind) is not necessarily the same asNirvana (unbinding, full release) or Bodhi (awakening - calm, clear, unbiased, and awake).