Stress – A phenomenon that exists only in your head or a disease that leads to your death?

Stressed out
Mike Dahlström
Written by Mike Dahlström

Is stress something that today’s society exaggerates or is it life threatening? Well, the answer might surprise you.

You may be able to control the stress itself and consequently your health and prosperity. How you interpret external signals can be the difference between life and death. To understand how stress affects us as human beings, we first must understand how stress affects us on a cellular level. We need to understand how stress stimuli affect us on a cellular level to be able to understand how it affects us as a whole community (human).

Cells. We all hear about cells: that we are made up of cells; that they divide; they contain our mum and dad’s genes and so on.

There is something that’s been bothering me, or rather evoked my curiosity.
Do our cells get affected by stress?
How do our cells react to this stress?
If you are affected by stress; how will this influence your life?

First some facts. We, as organisms can’t grow and be in protection mode, or “stress mode” at the same time!

Let’s do an experiment. Let’s put on our nice white lab coat and head down to the basement.
We’ll place some cells in a transparent fine round glass structure (petri dish) that researchers use and then place a stimuli in the form of some nutrition (that cells need) at the other end of the petri dish. End of the first day, let’s go upstairs again. Day 2; lab coats on, we’ll once again go down into our lab and check what’s happened to our cells. Amazingly, we notice that they have actually moved towards the nutrition.

We then repeat the experiment using poison instead of nutrition. What happens? The cells move away from the poison. What does this experiment tell us?

It tells us that our cells react to external stimuli. Depending on what the external environment offered, the cells behaved very differently. When the cells were presented with nutrition, they moved towards the stimuli with open arms and away when exposed to a potential threat (the toxic exposure).

On each separate occasion (the stimuli, external or internal) our cells must evaluate whether it is a nurturing or threatening situation (the stimuli). A nourishing situation implies a forward movement and internal growth, both on the cellular level, and on an individual level as a human being. In a threatening situation the cells shut down vital function and focus on survival. That means moving away from the potential danger; the cell goes into survival mode.