Added 26 September 2022

How to deal with stress?

Researchers from Yale University, in the journal Translational Psychiatry 2021, described the results of a study conducted on a group of 444 people aged 19-50 based on the Horvath epigenetic clock (GrimAge). Blood and levels of perceived stress and mental toughness were tested.


  • People experiencing chronic stress had more markers associated with faster aging.
  • They had a higher prevalence of insulin resistance.
  • Those who were least vulnerable to stress were those who were highly able to manage their emotions and control negative thoughts.
  • These 2 aspects of mental resilience seem to protect against accelerated aging and insulin resistance, so working on them can help minimize the harmful effects of stress.
  • The more mentally resilient we are, the more likely we are to lead longer and healthier lives.

Mental resilience is one of the personality traits that is largely responsible for how we cope with challenges, stress and pressure, regardless of the circumstances we face. These are the skills that account for our emotional stability, perseverance, and openness to challenges. Building mental resilience affects how we deal with stress – in the long and short term.

When talking about stress, one of the pillars is to distinguish between a stress and a stressor. These are two terms, sometimes used interchangeably or the stressor is overlooked. This is crucial, because to see and understand this distinction.

  • Stressors activate stress and the stress response in the body. They can be external (inflation, political situation, team relations, pandemic) or internal (illness, narrative about myself and the world – what I think about myself, internal critic). Interestingly, factors can be positive and still cause stress. Examples of positive stress are going on vacation, getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion.
  • Stress – is a reaction to the discrepancy between the desired state and the actual state. The reaction at the behavioral level can vary, depending on the resources at our disposal. One day someone gets in our way and we calmly let the driver join the traffic. But if it happens after a hard week at work – we may react aggressively, use the horn, swear under our breath.

Stressor triggers reactions in our body, secretes hormones. You can observe this by taking a blood test and checking your cortisol levels. When we experience prolonged stress and don’t react, don’t do anything to neutralize its effect on the body – over time we can experience stress desensitization. And this is risky.

Researcher Hans Selye described the stages of a stress response:

A stressor appears – our body reacts.

  • Phase A – alarm. Initial reaction of surprise and anxiety due to inexperience and confrontation with a new situation. We make defensive efforts.
  • Phase B – adaptation (resilience). The body learns to cope with the stressor effectively and without excessive disruption. If the body can cope with a difficult situation everything returns to normal. Otherwise, the third phase takes place.

If we are exposed to stress, we may not notice when it is prolonged stress. When we go from mobilization in the face of a stimulus (A) to a stage where high levels of stress seem natural (B) – we then think to ourselves, “Ha! I can handle it!”

It is important to be able to recognize oneself in this B phase. What can accompany it? What are the symptoms? What are the signals of overload? Maybe you happened to wait for a vacation, go on it and get sick?

  • This could be a signal that your body has entered phase C – depletion of immune resources, which can lead to psychosomatic diseases. In special cases, it even leads to death.
    The course of the various phases of the reaction depends on the intensity of the stress, the body’s immunity, techniques for relieving tension and the systematic closing of the stress reaction cycle. Closing the stress cycle is nothing more than systematic, daily ways to bring the body into balance.

Consider how animals behave after a sudden, threatening or exciting event? Before they return to eating, drinking, etc.-they shake. This is to close the cycle of the stress response, to get rid of hormones. We don’t work that way. One stressor disappears, another appears. One meeting ends, we close the window on the computer, open another. And stress in the body accumulates.


  • Think about what techniques you have for shutting down the stress response?
  • What helps you regulate yourself after a day full of overload and tension?

Working on the level of emotions (naming emotions accurately), the mind (our thoughts that cause autostress), the body (how to make the tension go away from us to return to balance) and behavior – that is, relationships with others – can help reduce vulnerability to stress and increase mental resilience.

Author: Lena Czernecka – psychologist, trainer, expert at the Mental Health Center

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