First of all, you may be surprised to learn that stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us. In fact, there has been no definition on which scientists agree. However, a great deal of studies has been conducted and most of them share the same conclusions. In addition, many people are unaware that stress is not always harmful. People tend to focus on the negative emotions it produces such as anxiety, irritability, and anger. In fact, there is a healthy type of stress called eustress, which helps us rise to meet our challenges. To be more specific, it increases our productivity, keeps us excited about life and motivates us to continue working. As an example, a job promotion, a marriage and/or a passionate kiss are sources of good stress. However, stress stops being helpful when good stress becomes too much to cope with. Then the bad type of stress (distress) comes in. Moreover, distress is the kind of stress most of people are familiar with because we usually don’t consider positive stress as stress actually. Everyone has a different tolerance to stress and it’s important to mention that it can change over the time depending, among other things, on your childhood, personality, genetics, lifestyle and duration & intensity of stressors. You can work on your internal stress tolerance- I’ll provide you with some tips in this regard in further posts. Furthermore, to fully understand how stress affects your body, let me introduce you to the concept of homeostasis.
Concept of Homeostasis
“All living organisms maintain a complex dynamic equilibrium, or homeostasis, which is constantly challenged by internal or external adverse effects, termed stressors. Thus, stress is defined as a state in which homeostasis is actually threatened or perceived to be so; homeostasis is re-established by a complex repertoire of behavioral and physiological adaptive responses of the organism. […] When any stressor exceeds a certain severity or temporal threshold, the adaptive homeostatic systems of the organism activate compensatory responses that functionally correspond to the stressor.”1
Stress activates adaptive responses to protect the body during acute stress and to co-ordinate homeostasis. To fight what the body perceives as a challenge, a potential danger or a threat, it increases oxygenation and nutrition of the brain, heart and skeletal muscles. On the other hand, it inhibits non-adaptive functions such as eating, growth and reproduction. As an example, a person who can’t deal with stress efficiently can develop digestive problems because the body constantly put the digestive system on hold to recover its dynamic equilibrium. It’s imperative to find efficient tools to deal with daily stress since it can cause specific disorders in both mind and body such as eating disorders, insomnia, fatigue, lower our resistance to other illness. Now that you’re more familiar with the concept of stress we can talk about management tips. I invite you to read the following posts if you’re interested to find positive ways dealing with stress.
Some of you may think it’s impossible to overcome being overwhelmed by stress and many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. However, I truly believe everyone can develop efficient strategies in this regard. Now it’s time to take back control on your health and well-being!
- CHROUSOS, George P. (Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital, University of Athens, Athens, Greece – 2009). Stress and Dsorders of the Stress System: Concepts of Homeostasis and Stress (Online) http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/704866_2
BROCK UNIVERSITY (2010) Eustress vs Distress (Online) http://www.brocku.ca/health-services/health-education/stress/eustress-distress BUSINESSBALLS (2006) Stress management (Online) http://www.businessballs.com/stressmanagement.htm