What is Stress?

Stress is a reaction to changes that place a demand on the body. Everyone experiences stress at one point or another, whether it’s long term stress caused by a difficult boss, or short term stress caused by an important presentation. The human body is hardwired to experience stress and to react to that stress in either a mentally, physically or emotional way.

Now, stress isn’t all bad. Good stress, or ‘eustress’ is the type of stress that motivates or inspires a person, and causes them to feel excited or nervous.  The pulse quickens, and hormones surge as the body prepares for a challenge. On the other hand, negative stress or ‘distress’ is caused when a person feels unprepared or unable to cope with a situation or change.  These feelings can be either short term or long term and can cause anxiety and worry that may lead to illness and depression.

A person’s stress response, whether positive or negative, is meant to be occasional or episodal, not constant and unremitting. Historically, when the body experienced stress it was immediate, in preparation for ‘fight or flight’. In that case, the blood in the body rushes from the organs to the muscles for optimal performance, agility and speed.  The heart rate and blood pressure increased, digestion slowed, and blood sugar increased as energy was pulled from all corners of the body to respond to the immediate and imminent stress or danger.

Once the danger has passed, the body is supposed to relax.  That enables the heart rate to decrease, the blood pressure to lower, the adrenals relax and the body has time to rest and replenish. Or, at least that is what SHOULD happen. Life today however, seems to be unrelenting, and people are constantly on ‘The Go’. Many of us don’t have the opportunity for our body to relax and replenish. We go from one stressor to another, whether it be a demanding boss, a second job, an overwhelming schedule, or financial concerns, the stressors can pile up and ultimately affect a person’s health and well being.

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