What is Stress?
The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as
The body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.
Stress can be broken down into two main categories:
The most commonly referred to kind of stress
Distress is a negative experience which can lead to feelings of anxiety.
Eustress is a form of beneficial stress which gives us the drive we need to power through high-pressure situations.
Understanding the Stress Response
So what happens to our brains when we undergo a stressful experience? The stress response begins when the brain sends out a distress signal which triggers the release of adrenaline throughout the body. Following this, the “fight or flight response” is initiated which gives rise to numerous physiological changes, including faster heartbeats that push blood to all of the vital organs and rapid breathing to take in as much oxygen as possible.
The aim of this is to “fight-or- enable you to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The brain then releases cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”) which can modify or stop certain bodily functions which it deems to hamper survival for a short time.
How Stress Affects the Body
There is still a lot this remains to be understood about how the stress response affects the body, however current research suggests that many of the physical symptoms of stress are triggered by this response which draws attention away from the usual bodily functions.
Everyone experiences stress differently, and in many cases, it can bring about specific physical symptoms such as stomach aches, heartburn or tension headaches.
The Danger of Stress
Research shows us that prolonged stress over time can take a significant toll on our health. This is due to the repeated activation of the fight or flight response which puts enormous pressure on the body. In fact, chronic stress has been linked to a wide range of serious health conditions from obesity to cardiovascular problems.
Stress Management is essential for Good Health. Stress is an inevitable part of everyday life, so it’s important to develop effective coping techniques rather than turning to destructive behaviours such as drinking alcohol or overeating.
You could argue that learning stress management is as important to good health.If you are interested in the subject of stress, then you should check out the below infographic.
This fascinating guide features some key statistics about stress and health and also provides a jargon-free overview of the many ways in which stress can negatively affect the body.