Managing Stress

Phases of Stress

There are four distinct phases in development of stress disorders

  1. Psychic Phase
  2. Psychosomatic Phase
  3. Somatic Phase
  4. Organic Phase

1. Psychic Phase

In the psychic phase the person gets most of the psychological changes as a result of excessive psychic trauma making his central nervous system overactive. He becomes irritable, hyperactive, may develop mild tremors in his limbs, his sleep is disturbed. He looks worried, tense, and anxious. Human body is a wonderful gift of nature and is a super computer. All actions of man are performed at three levels of thought (speech and physical action are in effect actual feeding to this super computer), which gives favorable or unfavorable results to his actions in the form of peace and happiness or pain and miseries.

2. Psychosomatic Phase

Just as electrical energy flows / manifests through wires, our mind flows and functions through the medium of nerves, cells and muscles. The body is not a mere frozen sculpture. It is a river of information – it is a flowing organism empowered by millions of years of intelligence. Our body is miniature model of the universe.

There are very efficient systems which work around the clock to keep our body healthy, like blood circulation, respiratory, digestive, excretory, bones, joints, muscles, nervous, glandular (endocrine) along with it are senses of sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing to be in contact with external world. Irrespective of cause of stress (physical, psychological, emotional) there is something unique that results in our body physiology called “STRESS REACTION” Whenever there is stress of any form, the hypothalamus is excited, which, in turn sends electrical impulses through the sympathetic nerves, which in turn, activate the functioning of the various organs like the heart, blood vessels, sweat glands, etc.

Whenever man is subjected to stress, the entire physiology tries to help him to cope up in best possible way by making the required internal adjustments. All these bodily changes are restored to normalcy once the person is out of danger.

These changes are under control of two major systems:

  1. Autonomic Nervous System
  2. Endocrine System

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

It is that portion of the central nervous system which controls all of the involuntary function of the body. This has two sub-divisions – the sympathetic nervous system has its center in the “Hypothalamus” situated inside the brain almost in the center covered by the large folds of the cerebral cortex. Thus the sympathetic nervous system (true to its name) sympathizes and helps an individual by activating necessary physiological changes to enable him to cope up with situation of stress.

The Endocrine System

The adrenal gland is chiefly involved in adaptation to stress as endocrine gland, situated at the caps of the two kidneys. The secretion of thyroid gland is also in the picture, which is situated in the neck, secreting thyroxin. These glands secrete very small highly potent chemicals called hormones into the blood, which can bring about very widespread bodily changes similar to Sympathetic Stimulation.

Increase in the level of these hormones in the blood stream brings about all of the changes required for adapting to the stress as mentioned above, hence they are called “Stress Hormones”

3. Somatic Phase

Somatic stress exhibits the body’s internal response by understanding the following:

Ques: What happens in your body due to stress or, how does your body react to situation of stress?


  • Stored sugar pour into the blood stream
  •  To provide fuel for quick energy
  • Breath rate shoots up to provide more oxygen
  • Red blood cells flood the blood stream to carry more oxygen to the muscles of the limbs and the brain

In the third, or, somatic phase, increased functioning of all the organs, especially the target organs is noticed, i.e. Features of hyperthyroid state (if thyroid gland is affected) similarly one can know which of the organ is being hit adversely. The stress disease usually gets settled in an organ depending upon the person’s hereditary background, and, also environmental factors. The Hypothalamus is the “Main Switch” which controls both autonomous nervous system (electrical) and the endocrine (chemical) activity to tackle situations of stress.

4. Organic Phase

At the fourth phase i.e. Organic Phase, gradually the lesion settles down in the target organ, with full fledged changes. Many times the physiological and psychosomatic phenomena subside as the disease is fully settled down in the target organ. Normally, such a phase remains in the body for a short while. However, if it becomes recurrent, some perceptible changes in the behaviour and personality take place.

  • The heart beats faster and blood pressure soars up, ensuring sufficient blood supply to the needed organs / areas.
  • Blood clotting mechanism is activated to protect against injury, tensing of muscles for carrying out strenuous action (Fight or Flight)
  • Digestion ceases, so that the blood may get diverted to muscles and the brain
  • Perspiration and saliva increases
  • Triggered by the pituitary gland, the endocrine systems steps up production of required harmones
  • Bowel and bladder muscles loosen
  • Cortison pours into the system, as does the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrin
  • The pupils dilate, allowing more light to enter.

However, the pathogenesis and pathology of these diseases are completely missed out. And one is likely to think that it is purely an organic disease and not a stress related one. Coronary insufficiency, bronchial asthma, peptic ulcers are some of glaring examples.