What is 'stress'?

'Stress' is often described by the symptoms and reactions it causes, including feelings of being overwhelmed, worried or run-down, on edge, irritable, panicky or anxious

Stress can affect people of all ages and genders. Situations, environment, genetic tendencies and some neurological conditions can affect our responses to stress.

By definition, stress is any uncomfortable "emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioural changes." (1)

The effects of stress and its relationship to a number of long term physical and mental illness are now well documented, but we still do not take it seriously enough in our lives until something goes majorly wrong for us.

The pressures that create stress can be caused by situations at home or work, be performance or academic achievement related, and both be the result of a sudden intense stressful event or ongoing chronic situations.

Along the way, the effects of stress can cause relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, poor work performance, and physical pain. At it's worst, it can be the cause of mental illness and breakdown that can take a long time to recover from.

Day to day, it can affect our ability to think clearly and objectively, reducing our problem solving skills, memory, and lead us to develop negative coping strategies such as using food or alcohol to relax. That in turn further contribute to a spiral of stress.

Stress will always exist in our lives - the key to avoiding it's negative effects is to find ways to manage it better. There are many things that can help avoid the negative outcomes of poorly managed stress however, until we can allow ourselves to acknowledge that we all need to monitor the levels of stress we are under and take action when needed we put ourselves at significant risk of developing long term health issues as a result.

The good news is- it's not too late to start!

​ References:

1) Baum, A. (1990). "Stress, Intrusive Imagery, and Chronic Distress," Health Psychology, Vol. 6, pp. 653-675.

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