What is Stress?

What is Stress?

Ever since the term was first coined in 1936, there’s been an ongoing debate about the definition of stress. People think of it in different ways and often think that stress relief in today’s world isn’t possible. But the truth is that stress is real and can have serious effects on your health if left unmanaged.

Endocrinologist Hans Selye invented the term “stress” in 1936. He defined it as “the nonspecific response of the organism to any pressure or demand.” Later on, as he progressed in his studies, he modified the definition to: “The rate of wear and tear on the body.” While these are very general definitions, they are accurate in describing how it is seen.

Stress is basically the result of a person’s inability to cope. Whether you have an urgent project that needs to be done immediately or you’re going through an emotional crisis, the effect stress will have on you will depend on how well you can cope with that situation.

Do you feel that you can handle it? Or is it too much? Because the emotional response is such an important aspect of stress, this more modern definition may be better: Stress refers to any reaction to a physical, mental, social, or emotional stimulus that creates a response or alteration to the way we perform, think, or feel.

If the failure to adapt to a situation exists, this results in stress. In many cases, stress occurs if we are encountering something new or unknown. But stress isn’t always originated by a failure to adapt. Pushing yourself to complete a presentation or even the thrill of landing that new job you wanted can cause your body to experience stress. Finding a good strategy to achieve stress relief can significantly reduce the negative effects of stress.

Next we need to understand the different types of stress, Eustress, Distress, Acute and Chronic Stress and PTSD. To start, here are some brief definitions:

From the Greek eu, meaning good, Eustress is what Hans Selye called the good or positive side of stress. It’s the kind of pressure that pushes you without scaring or confusing you. A good example is the feeling of getting a new job. You will feel like there are now more responsibilities and demands on you.

If the stress is accompanied by an inability to cope with a situation, it’s called Distress. Distress is characterized by negative effects on the body and mind, especially in the long-term when there is no stress relief.

Acute stress is a condition that comes from fear. An acute stress response is defined by the experience of a threatening, frightening situation. Being in a serious car accident is a good example.

Chronic stress refers to a continuous state of Distress, which our autonomic nervous system ignores so it can’t trigger a relaxation response. Chronic stress feels like an endless state in which the sufferer is affected by overwhelming situations repeatedly that build on each other.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious manifestation of stress that needs psychological intervention and treatment. PTSD can be triggered at any age, and is usually a response to a major trauma, such as sexual abuse, physical assault, natural disasters, accidents, or war.

Now that you have the definitions, let’s find some stress relief!

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