General adaptation syndrome (GAS) describes how the body automatically adapts to stress by changing its physiological state. Hans Selye developed GAS in 1936, and it is considered a modern biological formulation of stress.
Stress is quite frequent. While you may not be able to eliminate all sources of stress from your life but you can manage stress and keep your good health. There is essential because stress may produce mental fatigue, irritation and sleeplessness.
Even if you are aware of the physical consequences of stress, you may be not aware of the different stages of stress, referred to as general adaption syndrome (GAS). It’s simpler to spot indications of chronic stress in oneself if you understand the stages of stress and how the body reacts to them.
What is general adaptation syndrome?
General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is a three-stage process that explains the physiological responses that occur in the body when it is stressed. The idea of GAS was developed by Hans Selye, a medical professional and researcher. He noticed a sequence of physiological changes in lab rats after they were subjected to stressful situations during an experiment at McGill University in Montreal.
Selye determined after more investigation that these alterations were not an exceptional case, but rather a common stress reaction. These stages were defined by Selye as alarm, resistance and fatigue. Understanding these many reactions and how they connect to one another may be helpful with stress management.
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Stages of the general adaption syndrome
1. Alarm reaction stage
The alarm reaction stage describes the first signs and symptoms that the body exhibits when it is stressed. The “fight-or-flight” response, which is a physiological reaction to stress, maybe known to you.
In harmful situations, this natural reaction trains you to leave or defend yourself. Your heart becomes fast, your adrenal gland releases cortisol (a stress hormone), and you gain an energy boost from adrenaline. During the alarm reaction stage, the fight-or-flight response is triggered.
2: Resistance stage
The body begins to heal itself after the first shock of a stressful incident and the fight-or-flight reaction. It produces less cortisol, which causes your blood pressure and heart rate to return to normal.
Even while your body is recovering, it is still on high alert for a time. If you handle stress and the situation is no longer a problem, your body will continue to heal until your blood pressure, hormone levels and heart rate return to pre-stress levels.
Some stressful circumstances might last for months or even years. If you don’t cope with the stress and keep your body on high alert, it will ultimately adapt and learn to live with a greater level of stress. In order to cope with stress, the body undergoes changes that you are unaware of throughout this time.
The stress hormone is still being produced in your body, and your blood pressure is still high. You may believe you’re handling stress effectively, but your body’s physical response says otherwise. The fatigue stage can occur if the resistance stage is maintained for an extended amount of time without breaks to counteract the effects of stress.
The following are signs that you’re in the resistance stage:
- Inability to concentrate
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3. Exhaustion stage
This stage is caused by long-term or chronic stress. Long-term stress may reduce your emotional, physical and mental resources to the point that your body no longer has the power to combat it. You may be ready to give up or believe that your condition is hopeless. The following are signs of exhaustion:
This stage also weakens your immune system and puts you at risk of stress-related illnesses.
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When does general adaptation syndrome occur?
GAS can develop as a result of any sort of stress. The following are examples of stressful events:
- A loss of employment
- Medical issues
- Financial difficulties
- Family breakdown
While stress is awful, the good news is that GAS enhances how your body reacts to stresses, especially while you’re in the alert stage.
The fight-or-flight reaction that happens during the alarm stage is to keep you safe. You gain from a greater hormone level throughout this period. It increases your energy and enhances your concentration, allowing you to concentrate and deal with the issue. The alarm stage isn’t injurious when stress is short-term or short-lived.
This isn’t the case when you’re under a lot of pressure. The more time you spend dealing with stress, the worse it is for your health. You also don’t want to spend too much time in the resistance stage, as this will lead to fatigue.
Prolonged stress increases the risk of persistent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and depression once you’ve reached the fatigue stage. Due to a weakened immune system, you’re more susceptible to infections and cancer.
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How to manage GAS
It is crucial to understand what triggers GAS in order to control it.
Each person experiences stress differently. Stressful situations and events should be identified by a person. The best way to reduce exposure to these triggers may then be to make lifestyle changes.
It may be stressful to commute for a long time. It may be beneficial to move job roles closer to home, or to ask to work remotely if this is the case.
The impact of a stress trigger on your body and mind should be reduced if it cannot be avoided.
Stress can be reduced through physical activity, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. When you exercise, you release endorphins, which improve your sleep and make you feel more relaxed and at peace. Exercise can be as easy as walking or running briskly.
There are also a number of activities that may be helpful:
- Mediation and mindfulness are important
- Yoga and tai chi
- Friends to talk issues through
Complications associated with general adaptation syndrome
General adaptation syndrome is not a diagnosable or treatable condition, but rather describes the effects of stress on your body. The effects of stress on the body can be adverse if they last for an extended period of time. There is a possibility that you could develop a number of physical and medical conditions. Chronic levels of either physical or mental stress have been linked to a number of conditions, including:
- Mood and anxiety disorders
- Heart disease
- Immune suppression
Because it is impossible to remove all stressors, it is essential to develop strategies for dealing with stress. Knowing the symptoms and phases of stress can assist you in taking the necessary actions to manage your stress and reduce your risk of problems.
During the resistance stage, it’s essential for your body to heal and recover. If you don’t, you’ll be more likely to become exhausted. If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, regular exercise can help you manage and keep your stress levels in check. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are two more strategies for stress management.