What is Stress?

Stress is an expected human response to challenging or dangerous situations. Stress is often described as a feeling of being overloaded, wound uptight, tense and worried. Experiencing stress is part of being alive. It can sometimes help to motivate us to get a task finished, by increasing our alertness, energy, and productivity.

Stress for long periods of time can be harmful to both the body and mind. Becoming over-stressed can interfere with our ability to get on with our normal life.

When we face a stressful event, our bodies respond by activating the nervous system’s fight or flight response. The body does this by releasing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol and these hormones increase our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, metabolism and muscle tension.

This works well for short-term threats but if the stress response goes on for too long and becomes greater than our ability to cope, it can lead to physical and mental health issues and cause problems with relationships and work.

Stress can be caused by our circumstances or by our own attitudes and expectations. Some people seem to thrive on stress but many others report high levels of stress with negative effects on their health.

The damaging effects on the mind and body are as follows:
  • Headaches, other aches, and pains
  • Sleep disturbance, insomnia
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Anger, irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • Feeling moody, tearful
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Heart disease

Sarah talks about stress management