In the News

Are We Measuring Stress Accurately?

Lara Calus

1st March 2024

Our stress response is not completely understood and therefore we must question whether we can measure stress accurately enough.

Now more than ever, we need to understand and measure stress as we see an increase in stress-related conditions as a consequence of toxic stress.

Our stress response is a specialist system that self-regulates. Although this is a highly specialist functioning system, it is without a doubt that we are seeing evidence of dysregulation of our nervous system, which leads to illness and in the worst cases, death.

A way to better understand the stress response is to view it as a complex set of systems. For example, the stress response activates six main organs; the brain and nerves, the cardiorespiratory system, the stress hormones, the immune system, the gastrointestinal system, and lastly the musculoskeletal system. Through a complex system of feedback loops, each of these organs keeps itself within certain capable limits, and these systems are also highly organised, and coordinate seamlessly with each other. It is no wonder that when one or more of these systems is in dysregulation we see alarms such as fever, fainting, racing heartbeats, or some form of weakness, These systems function through work and rest cycles, but as stressors become more disruptive to our lives our self-regulation of these systems can lead to illness.

According to research one in five of us experience toxic stress such as trauma, poverty, abuse, discrimination, and multiple chronic illnesses, and the ever-growing mystery of how we measure stress is paramount in getting to grips with understanding, treating, and preventing it.

To read further on this topic, use the following references:

Lawson Wulsin, M. D. Professor of psychiatry and family medicine.

Lara Calus

Lara is an experienced Psychology lecturer and part of the tutor2u Psychology team.

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