Stop Stressing Out! » Blog Archive » Stress: An Introduction

Everyone expresses stress, but to what extent? By definition, stress isn’t necessarily something bad. In fact, one of the many definitions of stress that the dictionary gives is “a specific response by the body to a stimulus that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” In other words, stress is caused by change. It can be physical, emotional, or mental, but anything that disturbs the body’s equilibrium is likely to cause stress.

We get stressed over the good as well as the bad. For example, what’s more stressful: being unemployed straight out of college or finally getting the promotion of your dreams when you’ve discovered that you’re about to become a father? Well, it depends. Both situations  invoke a different set of responsibilities, as well as a different mindset, and depending on the person, both may or may not be stressful.

The bottom line is, stress is a broad term and different people react to it in different ways. Stress can cause discomfort, but it can also cause excitement. Many people may not know it, but some stress is actually necessary for survival. When stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream, they can trigger something called the “fight or flight” response, which programs the body to react in a way that will best ensure one’s survival. For example, if you’re running away from a bear or an extremely aggressive cars salesman, stress may give you that extra boost of strength or energy to get away (or turn around and fight, if you’re feeling up to it). How does this work?

Adrenaline does miracles in extreme situations. Not only does it increase your heart and breathing rates, but it helps your blood clot faster and draws blood away from your skin. The cortisol continues to flow as long as the stress continues. As a result, you may think more quickly, react more accurate, and generally be better equipped to deal with whatever is stressing you.

It is only when this happens to you too much or for too long that it starts to become a problem. Imagine feeling as though you were being attacked by a bear every minute of every day. If you were lucky, you would probably just drop dead from the anxiety. If not, you would start to experience exhaustion, physical pain, a decrease in your ability to concentrate and remember, frustration, irritability, and insomnia. Humans aren’t designed to be under stress all the time, or even a lot of the time.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress, and 75 percent to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.

When stress starts to take over your life, it’s time to start taking it out, a little at a time. If you’re pushing yourself too hard at work or school, staying up too late, eating too much (or too little), or worrying constantly, you may a victim of a stress-filled life. Needless to say, this has an adverse effect on your mind as well as your body. It’s no fun to be constantly worrying about something, especially if you just want to relax and have a good time. It can affect your relationships with others and alter your perspective on life-changing events. In addition, many medical professionals believe that stress can contribute to heart disease, cancer, and an increased chance of accidents.

But don’t worry, you’re not the only one who might be stressed out. And there is help available – ways to manage your stress one day at a time. Let’s get started.