What is Stress?
Updated: 4 days ago
Author: Ludovica Rinaldi
Date of Publication: 23/01/2023
Have you ever thought that maybe you suffer from stress? Does it take you time to sleep at night or perhaps you have tachycardia and tension all the time? Well, if so, it’s not only because of the high quantity of coffee you consume. Welcome to a large group of people who feel the same as you. But what exactly is stress? Stress is the psychological and physiological response that the body enacts to tasks, difficulties, or life events that are excessive or dangerous. Sometimes people say “I have stress” because this is what they feel. However, there is also the possibility you have stress without noticing it. This is called endogenous stress and can bring a lot of negative consequences to a person’s life.
Types and Benefits
We all think that stress brings only negative effects in our lives. Yet stress can also
have a beneficial result when associated with stimulating, intense and creative
activity. In fact, there are two main forms of stress:
Eustress (good stress)
This type includes rapid biological and behavioral responses that lead a person to perform well in terms of concentration, cognitive performance and problem solving. Imagine playing a football match. Of course before the match you feel stressed and worried about the outcome. However, while playing this gives you motivation and more passion to achieve your goal.
Distress (negative stress)
The other type of stress is the continuous accumulation of stimulus-stressors, which lead the body to exaggerated and unnatural exertion, generally resulting in anxiety, distress and sadness. So, the perception of a potentially stressful event differs from person to person. However, what causes stress depends on how an event is evaluated, and this is influenced by genetic and traumatic factors.
Acute Stress and Chronic Stress
Acute stress is the body’s immediate reaction to a threat, challenge, scare, or strong emotion. It generally occurs only once and in a limited period of time. Sometimes, acute stress can be stimulating and motivating, for example, when facing an exam. Don’t worry though, because a single episode of acute stress usually doesn’t cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress, for example experiencing or witnessing an act of violence, can cause serious mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, long-term exposure to stressors, lead to a continuous (chronic) increase in stress hormones causing an overload that damages organs and tissues.
Causes of Stress
The tasks, difficulties or events that cause stress are called stressful events (stressors). So, here are some things that bring stress and you should definitely take into account:
Life events, both pleasant and unpleasant, for example marriage (just kidding)
Environmental factors such as natural disasters.
Unexpected events like the arrival of an unexpected guest.
Work situations for example excessive responsibility or bad treatment (labor mobbing). Therefore, working long hours or taking on too much load isn’t good for your health especially when it isn’t paid well either.
Social situations for example meeting new people.
Biological factors such as an illness.
Fears, like the fear of failing a task.
Situations that cannot be controlled like the result of a clinical examination.
One’s way of thinking, life expectations, personal opinions, past traumas or unpleasant memories.
Bear in mind that it’s important to seek medical advice if the complaints (symptoms) caused by stress are particularly intense or have lasted for a long time. Also, you need to do so in case you are not sure whether the complaints are due to stress. In fact, the complaints (symptoms) associated with stress are many and vary from person to person. So, being able to recognize the most common ones can help manage them. Take a look at the main four symptom categories:
Physical complaints: such as headaches, muscle tension or pain, sleep problems fatigue, and tachycardia.
Behavioral disorders: such as eating disorders, increased use of alcohol and smoking, and withdrawal from social relationships.
Emotional disorders: such as anxiety, depression, irritability or anger.
Cognitive disorders: such as constant worry, difficulty concentrating, an difficulty making decisions.
It isn’t always possible to prevent stress, but there are many steps you can take to manage it more effectively. Some useful methods for reducing the effects of stress are:
Perform deep or controlled breathing exercises.
Practicing visualization or meditation exercises.
Practicing relaxation techniques (Yoga, Thay Chi).
Practicing regular physical activity.
Follow a healthy diet.
Setting priorities, organizing day, avoiding task overload.
Take time for yourself every day.
Surround yourself with friends.