Navigating the road 'stress' travelled

A new medical study has confirmed that stress can make us become more greedy, selfish, less affectionate, and distracted, all at once.

Published: 19th June 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2022 07:43 PM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purposes only(Photo | Pexels)

Image used for representational purposes only(Photo | Pexels)

Express News Service

Stressed spelt backwards is desserts. And if you are in no mood to share your dessert with anyone, blame it on the stress. A new medical study has confirmed that stress can make us become more greedy, selfish, less affectionate, and distracted, all at once. Stress can alter altruistic behaviour.

The study, published in April by the Psychology Department of  Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, suggests that stress enhances our egoistic actions. The research, conducted on Canadians and Americans in 2021, found that all the participants were willing to donate to a cause, but when they were exposed to social stress, their altruistic behaviour declined.

“There are brain circuits in neurohormones which get triggered, activated at the time of stress and hence affect the conduct of the person,” explains Dr Anjali Chhabria, psychiatrist and the Director of Mind Temple Institute in Mumbai. The study suggests that cortisol, a stress hormone, altered the brain circuits responsible for altruism.

When one is stressed, there is a disconnect between different brain functions. “When you feel unsafe, insecure or lonely, your body releases more stress hormones. Your responses alternate between ‘flight or the fight’ mode. This suppresses thoughtful, kind and prosocial behaviour of the person,” says Dr Gitanjali Natarajan, Clinical Psychology Professor at Amrita Hospital, Kochi.

During a crisis or a stressful situation, the mind invests its energy predominantly in survival strategies that are often not guided by morality, rules and propriety. “During such times, we tend to become self-centred, and protective. For example, when the pandemic hit us and we were on a lockdown mode, many people hoarded things to safeguard themselves and families,” says Dr Akanksha Pandey, a clinical psychologist at Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru.  

The good news, however, is that we can overcome stress by simply modifying our lifestyle and thinking. Begin with focussing on factors that seem to be in your control. Get adequate sleep, eat fresh, nutritious food, exercise and get exposed to sunlight. These are time-tested instant lift-me-ups. “Avoid isolation during stressful times and keep yourselves connected with loved ones. Also avoid being judgmental and passing critical comments as you may not be in your best frame of mind at such times. Staying calm and walking away from the stressful situation can prevent conflict,” advises Dr Pandey. However, despite trying the obvious solutions, if you find a significant change in your demeanour, treat that as a red flag and see a mental health specialist.

The Signs
Anxiety, nervousness, repetitive negative thoughts, panic attacks, sleep disturbances, excessive worry, aggressive behaviour, and craving for alcohol or resorting to substance abuse

The Easy Solutions
Occupational therapy activities such as painting, carving, sculpting and gardening help in grounding and providing counter-stimulation which further helps in reducing the physical and psychological symptoms of stress.


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