We have spoken with psychologist Toni Mateo about the terms eustress and distress and the relationship of our emotional state with that of our immune system. First and foremost, we should be clear about what stress is. The expert tells us that what we call stress is a natural and a necessary response of our organism in situations which we perceive as a challenge or threat. This usually occurs when we suffer important changes in our lives that imply an imbalance of our well-being. During this period our body will have to make a very big effort to be able to adapt again and enjoy balance.
Stress: EUSTRESs vs. DISTRÉS.
In this context appear two terms somewhat unknown and unpopular within the collective imagination but very important, the so-called eustress and distress. As we have said, the word stress does not necessarily have to be negative, since it depends on the type of situation in which we find ourselves and, of course, on the character of each person.
“In reality, whether a situation is positive or negative depends on ourselves and how we evaluate it, how we face it, how we have reacted to similar situations in the past, what resources we have available (both our own and our environment), of how we react to the unexpected or how we tolerate frustration and uncertainty, “says Toni Mateo. So, we have to start from the basis that the same situation can be different for each one of us.
So, what is eustress? Neither more nor less than the process of adaptive stress, or what is also known as positive stress. Our organism is activated during the necessary time and helps us to face the situation presented to us.
Otherwise, it is known as distress. This occurs when we find ourselves in front of something which, for whatever reason, we are not able to face. The overexertion that requires us is so high that it stops being adaptive and becomes maladaptive. This lack of resources can have serious physical consequences, such as exhaustion, lack of energy, loss of appetite, irritability, difficulty resting, nervousness, anxiety, sadness … among many others.
So, is there a relationship between emotions and the immune system?
The psychologist tells us that, although it cannot be stated categorically that stress directly affects our immune system, it is undeniable that there is a relationship between health and stress. Directly, a mismanaged stress situation can cause the appearance or acceleration of certain pathologies and, indirectly, can lead to harmful behaviours such as drinking or smoking or unhealthy lifestyle habits.
” Our immune system will not be oblivious to all the overexertion that comes with a prolonged stress response over time. ” Our body will weaken little by little, lowering our defenses and facilitating the entry of pathogens. In addition, this state of generalized exhaustion will affect our entire body, facilitating certain types of ailments such as colds, flu, allergies, herpes, skin problems and even tumors.
Furthermore, and finally, emphasising that a stress response causes the endocrine system to interfere in the production of defenses, which, as we have said, has no beneficial consequences for our body.