Stress, in everyday terms, is the feeling that people have when they are overloaded and struggle to cope with demands. These demands can be related to finance, work, relationships, other matters and situations, but anything that poses a real or perceived challenge or threat to one's well-being can cause stress.
Stress can be a motivator. It is important for survival. A fight-or-flight mechanism can tell us when and how to respond to danger. However, if this mechanism is triggered too easily, or when there is too much stress at a time, it can damage a person's mental and physical health, thus, becoming a threat or danger to one's survival.
Here are some important points about stress:
- Stress helps the body prepare for danger.
- Symptoms of stress can be physical and psychological.
- Short-term stress can help, but long-term stress is associated with various health conditions.
- We can prepare for stress by learning a few self-management tips.
What is Stress?
Everyone responds to stress in different ways, but too much stress can cause health problems.
Stress is the body's natural defense against predators and danger. It flushes the body with hormones to prepare the system in avoiding or facing danger. This is known as a "fight-or-flight" mechanism.
When we are faced with challenges, part of our response is physical. The body activates resources for protection by preparing us to survive and fight or escape as quickly as possible.
The body produces large amounts of chemicals like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This triggers an increase in heart rate, increased muscle readiness, sweating, and alertness. All of these factors increase the ability to respond to dangerous or challenging situations.
The environmental factors that trigger this reaction are called stressors. Examples of stressors include noise, aggressive behavior, speeding cars, scary moments in movies, or even dating, especially first dates. The more stressors there are, the more stress we feel.
Changes to the body
Stress slows down normal bodily functions, such as the digestive and immune systems. All resources can then be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscle use.
The body changes that occur during stress:
- Blood pressure and pulse increase
- Breathe faster
- The digestive system slows down
- Decreased immune activity
- The muscles become tense
- High alertness before sleep
How we react to difficult situations will determine how we manage stress that will affect us and our health. Someone who feels they don't have enough resources to deal with it will tend to have stronger reactions, and that can trigger health problems. Stress affects individuals in various ways.
Some experiences that are generally considered positive can cause stress, such as having a baby, traveling and moving to a house and so on. This is because they often involve major changes, extra effort, new responsibilities, and the need for adaptation. This is somehow stepping out from the comfort zone or into an unknown environment making the person wonder if he/she can overcome it.
Continuous negative responses to challenges can have a negative impact on health and happiness. However, being aware of how you react to stress can help reduce negative feelings and the effects of stress. Moreover, you can manage stress more effectively.
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