This article throws light upon the fourteen major mediators of tension. The mediators are: 1. Personality Traits 2. Environment 3. Perception 4. Diet 5. Fasting 6. Caffeine 7. Alcohol 8. Cigarette and Tobacco 9. Drug Addiction 10. Noise 11. Wrinkles 12. Behaviour Masking 13. Menopause 14. Hair Growth.
Mediator # 1. Personality Traits:
To understand the role of individual personality traits as mediators of tension, it is important to understand the traits.
Four of these are listed below:
People with more hardiness have stronger commitment to self and have a sense of meaningfulness. They feel they can manage things according to their desires. They have an ability to feel deeply involved in or committed to an activity of their life.
They perceive tension provoking situations as challenging. These people are cognitively flexible which allows them to integrate and effectively appraise the threat of new situations.
When people with higher degree of hardiness experience high degree of tension due to personality structure, chances of their falling ill are rare than those with lower level of hardiness, as the former can control/ influence the events of their experience and they very seldom undergo high tension state.
(ii) Optimism Vs. Pessimism:
The individuals who are pessimistic in life perceive a tension provoking situation as potentially damaging or threatening to survival. On the contrary, an optimistic individual will perceive the same situation as challenging.
(iii) Stress Tolerance:
The severity of a given stress depends on resources for withstanding tension in general and that stress in particular. If a person is marginally adjusted, (i.e., not easily adjusted) the slightest tension may be highly damaging. Stress tolerance refers to one’s ability to withstand stress without having integrated functioning impaired seriously.
Both biologically and psychologically, people vary to a great extent in vulnerability to tension. Sometimes, earlier traumatic experiences leave an individual particularly vulnerable to that kind of tension.
(iv) Locus of Control:
Control is generalised belief of an individual regarding the extent to which one can control the outcome of self and environment. There are two kinds of people. First are the internally controlled persons and the other are the externally controlled persons.
Internally controlled persons are confident of self in dealing with the happenings of life, whereas externally controlled persons feel the things surrounding them are controlled by other powerful persons i.e. A wife can feel most of the things which concern her, are decided by her husband.
At a work place, it can be the boss or a colleague. Locus of control has been found by Lefcourt (1984) to act as a mediator of the outcome of stressful life events. People, who have more perceived control, deal with tension provoking situations with courage and confidence, whereas the externally controlled people perceive such situations as threatening to life.
Mediator # 2. Environment:
Lacks of personal and materialistic external support makes a given tension more severe and weaken an individual’s capacity to cope with it. A divorce or a death of one’s mate is more stressful if one is s till surrounded by people who care.
So this shows that it is not only the tension provoking episode or the individual traits which decide the intensity of tension but also the environmental factors, in which the episode takes place.
Mediator # 3. Perception:
Any situation which one perceives as threatening is much more stressful than the one that is perceived as presenting a difficult but manageable problem. Tension is provoking situations, which are potentially damaging or threatening to survival carry a high degree of tension e.g., being given a diagnosis of a terminal disease or having a limb amputated.
Similarly, a situation that threatens the adequacy of desires incompatible with one’s self concept and self-ideas, that questions the worth of self, also creates a very high degree of tension.
Mediator # 4. Diet:
The type of food one takes has a great bearing on determining one’s competence to deal with situations which are tension provoking.
Basically all foods can be classified as:
(a) Energy Yielding Foods:
These are rich in carbohydrates and fats (like sugar, curds etc.).
(b) Body Building Foods:
These foods are rich in proteins (e.g. milk, pulse etc.).
(c) Protective Foods:
These foods are rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins (e.g. milk, egg. green vegetables etc.).
As metabolic or dietary deficiency can cause an anxious state viz. tension, it is necessary to understand the role of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. The requirement of these different things varies from person to person on the basis of sex and level of physical activity.
Mediator # 5. Fasting:
Fasting plays an important role in revitalising the various organs of the body. Fasting or starvation produces mental stimulation, the brain becomes more excited and is in a better position to cope with the problems in a better way.
It starts working faster and more accurately with less sense of fatigue. Fasting has been used as an important tool for purification of body and mind. The role of fasting has been duly recognised by Gandhiji in his preachings.
The basic principle behind fasting is that during the fast the body adjusts itself vigorously between a state of disease and a state of high level of health and that too in a short period of time. In fasting, energy gets diverted from external muscles to most urgent work on hand, which is to do internal cleaning of the body.
This shifting of energy makes the person on fast feel weak. Even energy is diverted from the brain which does intellectual work for the purpose of purification of body. When the energy is withdrawn from stomach and small intestine, digestive juices become less and as such no digestion takes place and this leads to lack of appetite.
In fasting consumption of condiments, spices and salts goes down and thus the withdrawal system makes the individual realise the factual position of the weakness of the body.
Once this internal cleaning process is done, vital energy is used for active working of different organs of the body. Fasting goes a long way in improving the health in real sense and this process raises the competence of the individual to deal with stressful situation.
Mediator # 6. Caffeine:
The effect of caffeines can be rightly observed in the conversation between two friends, “We used to sit up all night discussing nation’s problems over cigarettes and coffee. Now our problem is cigarettes and coffee.”
In modern life, use of stimulants/stimulators has increased in our food and drink items. Excessive use of stimulators in one’s day-to-day life directly taxes one’s energy. It creates situations of emergency. These stimulators only tax existing energy and have bad effects on body system even if occasionally used.
Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, certain soft drinks and in some proprietary medication. The excessive use of the products containing caffeine results in stimulation of the nervous system. Stimulation through caffeine leads to weakness of nerves.
The caffeine stimulates the flow of gastric juices. This repeated stimulation weakens the ability of the systems to secrete the digestive juices. Caffeine affects the heart by causing it to beat irregularly. Stimulation makes the heart beat rate faster.
James S.M. Closter has stated in his book Nutrition and Diet in Health and Diseases…… “It has been observed that coffee raises the blood pressure slightly, affects the heart activity and stimulation. Higher blood sugar levels have been reported more from the caffeine users than from the non- users. It affects the capability of the body and mind to cope up with tension-provoking situations. Caffeine is the most powerful of a group of stimulating alkaloid drugs known as Xanthines”.
It acts as a powerful diuretic (i.e. stimulates urination) and can interfere with sleep. A recent Dutch study shows that gallstone sufferers may experience abdominal pain after drinking coffee as black coffee sets off a squeezing movement in the gall-bladder by increased level of a hormone which causes this squeeze in the gall-bladder.
Mediator # 7. Alcohol:
Tension is nothing but an indicator of the aroused state of affairs of a person. Alcohol is considered to be a drink which can be called stimulator and has direct bearing on creating an aroused state.
Alcohol has direct bearing on the nervous system which results in shutting off of rational mind during its peak arousal and hence this leads the consumer of alcohol to feel to be away from the realities and facts of life. Consumption of excessive alcohol cannot be considered to be the solution of a problem.
Excessive consumption of alcohol in the long run has bad effect on health and may result in reducing the capacity of a person to bear stressful situations. High consumption of alcohol promotes “free radicals” in the body which are floating oxygen molecules which attack body cells sometimes triggering off cancer.
Several epidemiological and clinical studies have demonstrated that the daily alcohol consumption (more than 50 to 60 grams of ethanol) has vasopressor effect that increases blood pressure. Abstaining from alcohol normalises blood pressure.
The common illusion about alcohol is that it keeps an individual warm on a cold night but in reality alcohol by dilating blood vessels produces a false sense of warmth. Actually it impairs regulatory mechanisms and makes its consumer more prone to catching cold. Another misconception about alcohol is that it sharpens appetite.
Alcohol in fact reduces appetite and the desire for essential food stuffs and leads to malnutrition. Another myth about alcohol is that it increases sexual pleasure and performance. Whereas the fact is that alcohol decreases inhibition and increases desire. It leads to less secretion of sexual hormone which upsets delicate balance of hormones and brain chemicals which leads to decreased sexual pleasure and performance.
The stomach wall absorbs alcohol almost immediately and sends it into the blood stream through which it is carried to the liver, heart, lungs and brain. It can cause inflammation of the stomach wall, gastritis, obesity and loss of appetite leading to imbalanced diet and vitamins deficiency.
It impairs the efficiency of central nervous system, slows down thinking, making concentration difficult and impairs the ability to react quickly. It also leads to cirrhosis. Excessive alcohol consumption decreases the body’s immune mechanism. The excessive consumption of alcohol and other cortical depressants temporarily controls tension but during withdrawal stage the autonomic nervous system becomes hyperactive.
Against above, the findings of researchers on post-menopausal women, reported in the Journal of Alcoholism, reiterate that moderate consumer of alcohol showed higher level of estrogen levels than other women of their age. Estrogen helps in prevention of bone loss and heart disease.
Mediator # 8. Cigarette and Tobacco:
It has been observed that when one is in an arousal position one starts smoking cigarettes excessively. Scientific studies have revealed that excessive consumption of cigarettes during stress is more on account of psychological reasons.
Excess consumption of cigarettes may have a bad effect on health which reduces one’s capability to deal effectively with stressful situations. Keeping in view the bad effects of cigarettes on health, a cigarette has also been defined as a roll of tobacco which has a flame at one end and a fool on the other. It can be said: life is yours; it is for you to live it or smoke it.
The human lungs need clean fresh air in order to oxygenate the blood. Polluting that air with tar and nicotine of tobacco smoke starves the blood of life giving oxygen. Smoke particles remain in the lungs forever gradually filling the tiny air tubes and clogging them thereby reducing the total capacity of the lungs. Cigarette smoking accelerates the formation of blockages in the heart’s arteries.
It is a major factor in erectile dysfunction and thereby affects sexual life. In terms of findings of the researchers of Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA, damaged bones of smokers may take as much as five months longer to heal because nicotine and carbon monoxide hinder oxygen delivery and blood vessel development essential for repair.
The effects of smoking can be summarised as follows:
(a) It increases adrenaline flow.
(b) It speeds up heart beating rate.
(c) It constricts blood vessels.
(d) It makes blood more likely to clot.
(e) It increases the blood levels of fat and cholesterol.
(f) Tobacco smoke irritates the lining of stomach and makes it vulnerable to any attack by acid.
As per British Medical Journal, research studies show that nicotine addicts are more likely to develop premature cataract. John Hopkins University researchers have concluded that if one quits smoking, chances of prematurely developing cataract may be cut by as much as 50 per cent.
Research studies by American Academy of Actuaries indicate that men who never smoke live longer than life long smokers by an average of 16 years. Research shows that many persons’ minds and lives are messed up with fatal illusions that smoking makes one powerful, beautiful, attractive or sexy, ignoring that it may cause cancer, heart disease and other fatal diseases.
Mediator # 9. Drug Addiction:
“When you take an addictive drug you are signing your death warrant”.
With an easy availability of drugs in the market and indiscriminate prescription of drugs in general has led people to believe that a small capsule containing a drug is a panacea which contains in itself solution to all problems.
In general one stretches one’s hand to swallow a small pill to get rid of symptoms that a disease produces in a body as a warning signal. Naturopathy experts believe that drug is a tax on vitality. Drug removes symptoms of disease and creates an illusion of temporary relief.
The various bad effects of in-discriminatory use of drugs can be broadly classified as follows:
i. Drugs adversely affect vitamin metabolism.
ii. They cause several biochemical and electro-physical changes in the brain tissue that result in memory impairment, failing mental powers’ leading to confusion and severe disorientation.
iii. There is no drug or chemical that is entirely free from the risk of causing liver damage. Barbiturates may cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and Cholestross (stoppage or suppression of the flow of bile).
iv. Skin diseases.
v. Cardiovascular diseases.
vi. Can folate deficiency.
vii. Withdrawal symptoms.
Induced sleep by use of sleeping pill can give temporary relief but continuous use over a long period of time creates adverse psychological side effects.
The latest research studies of the “The Citizen Health Research Group of USA” have confirmed the viewpoint and have concluded that the most widely prescribed pill in the U.S. market (i.e. Halcion) maybe causing more anxiety, restlessness, amnesia, aggression and paranoia to its regular users over a long period of time.
Mediator # 10. Noise:
Scientific studies have indicated that noise level in atmosphere directly affects one’s capability in dealing with stressful situations. Exposure to noise over 90 decibels (measurement of intensity of sound) continuously for 10 minutes can produce damaging effects on hearing system.
Sound louder than 100 decibels can even produce permanent damage to the hearing system. According to international Standard 65 db (decibels) is considered tolerable.
Sounds arrive at inner hair, called cochlea. This spiral passage is lined with tens of thousands of cells with micro scopic hair on them. These are called cilia which vibrate in response to the sounds and transform the vibrations into electric signals that are pulsed to the area of the brain responsible for hearing.
When loud noises bombard the ear, cilia flatten out and may take hours before they straighten out again. Repeated bombardment makes cilia die and a little bit of hearing also dies.
The Federal Health Agency of Germany has recently issued a report stating “The risk of a heart attack as a result of long-term exposure to traffic noise is substantially higher than that of contracting cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos dust. Two percent of heart attack cases are a direct result of traffic noise.”
Constant exposure to loud noise can cause – dizziness, lack of concentration and possibility of mental imbalance. Noise can aggravate problem of the aged and the sick, hypertension, heart disease and vertigo.
Symptoms that appear in the persons who are living in noise polluted area are as follows:
(d) High blood pressure.
(f) Diseases of circulatory disorders, nervousness.
Experiments have shown that increase in the noise levels has an inhibiting effect on alpha activity. Studies conducted in U.S.A. and Japan on school children show that children from noisy areas work more slowly, tire more quickly and also take longer to master tasks that require thought because of the damage done by noise to their power of concentration.
In short it can be said that noise affects the ear’s hair cells which are called stereo-cilia lined up inside a small, snail-shaped organ called the chochlea. These hair cells have very important role to play as these participate in the process stage of the complicated mechanism of hearing. In tension, less oxygen goes to these hair cells, if such tension continues for a long period of time, hearing gets affected.
Mediator # 11. Wrinkles:
In tension, body goes into a survival mode, the blood supply that nourishes the skin diverts to vital organs, and less supply of blood goes to the skin over a long period of time which leads to development of wrinkles. Tension lowers sex hormone production which produces natural skin oil. This has an important role to play to keep natural plasticity. This compels elastic fibres to break down and increases wrinkles.
Though tension is one of the factors which damages skin, other factors which damage skin include the exposure to ultraviolet rays of sun, diet, oxygen and blood circulation.
Mediator # 12. Behaviour Masking:
The World has enough of slaves of impurity but perhaps more dangerous are the slaves of purity concealing their weakness under the name of morality”.
Thus said, Swami Ram Tirath, a great saint and seer of modern India.
Through the child rearing practices, social norms are taught to an individual. The enriched Indian culture which is known for its family ties, teaches children from the inception to mask their behaviour in the name of cultural practices, moral values and character which lead them to suppress their emotions.
The practice of not allowing the younger ones to argue with elders on rational ground leads to high level of tension which normally bursts out in the form of emotional imbalance or in destructive behaviour.
Mediator # 13. Menopause:
Menopause is only a milestone in a woman’s path and it normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 years. In this stage fewer follicles are stimulated and less amount of estrogen is released during each menstrual cycle.
For this reason the lining of the uterus is less satisfactorily stimulated and menstrual flow becomes less regular and less predictable. The quantity of blood gets less and the interval between two menstrual periods is usually increased. The co-ordinated control of menstruation which has been so effective since adolescence gets out of gear, as the controlling gland unwinds into a quieter phase of life.
The reduction in secretion of estrogen affects the tissues which make up the female genital tract and breasts. It has been observed that it is difficult for women to adjust in the start of puberty and adolescence; similarly many women find reducing tides of such hormones difficult to adjust to. This leads them to depression, fatigue and insomnia.
The peculiar irregularity of the period may subconsciously increase her tension with the realisation that her physical and sexual attraction is waning. The feeling of old age is induced. This results in change in emotional balance leading to tension.
It must be understood that it is a temporary phase which every woman undergoes. This change in life should not be taken as the end of the life, as such. A healthy outlook may check tension arousal.
Mediator # 14. Hair Growth:
Hair health is a reflection of one’s health. Tension contributes a lot to early grey hair and baldness, though the other factors on which the colour, length and texture of hair depends include hereditary factors and the diet that one takes.
The role of hair is to protect. It is immaterial whether the hairs are at brows, eyelashes or the public place. Facial hair gives warmth as compared to pubic and armpit hair which lessen chaffing in winter. Hair on scalp protects the head from sun’s heat, infra-red rays and other rays in the atmosphere.
The part of hair which lies below the epidermis is called corium. Sebacious glands are attached to the follicle which Eire scattered throughout the body and these glands provide lubrication and keep the follicles moist. During tension the working of hormones and glands gets affected.
When this working gets upset, the follicles stop moist producing material. This leads to fall of hair and the colour of hair also gets affected making it grey. Greying of hair and baldness often contribute to tension which can be controlled if the person maintains cool and poise.