What Is Stress?


what-is-stressTo answer the question, “What is stress?” we have to go back to a time in man’s evolution when, living as cavemen and cavewomen, we had to fight or run when we encountered dangerous animals whilst out hunting in the wild. This “fight or flight” response mechanism was built into our automatic nervous system, becoming part of our psyche. Nowadays, we are unlikely to come across dangerous animals in our midst, but there are situations today that will trigger this fight or flight response and stress arises when we feel the need to suppress it for whatever reason.

For example, you might have a demanding boss or you might have to deal with an angry customer and you suppress that fight or flight response because you feel the need to appease that person or calm them down or whatever, and this can lead to stress.

Or you may have to travel in heavy traffic on your daily commute and be on your guard the whole time in case another drive does something stupid.

Or perhaps you’ve got a sulky, recalcitrant teenager at home making your life difficult, or you may have financial problems that you are trying to deal with and all this can be very stressful.

When we supress all this in modern life, the stress level builds up and this takes its toll on our caveman or cavewoman brains.

Therefore, in this blog post, we are going to reveal the nature of stress in modern life and in later blog posts we will take a deeper look at the some of the common causes of stress, how it can affect you and your family and how to eliminate as much of it as possible from your life.

Good Stress.

Did you know that there is “Good” stress and there is “Bad” stress? It may surprise you to learn that not all stress is bad for you. If nothing in life caused us any stress or excitement, then we would soon become bored and not strive to achieve anything in life. That is where “good” stress comes in. Because some stress can be stimulating it fulfils the purpose of pushing us to realize our potential.

Take the example of someone taking part in an activity like white water rafting. This is a very dangerous and stressful activity, but the people taking part in this sport will experience an exhilaration as they negotiate the rapids and work hard to avoid falling in and being swept down the river. They will actually be having a good time and this is an example of good stress in action.

Here are some other examples of good stress, sometimes called Eustress.

  • Playing sport
  • Working to a deadline
  • Taking an exam or test
  • Working towards a challenge or a goal you have set yourself
  • Doing something new for the first time.

And good stress can be beneficial in many ways, including:

  • Being motivational
  • Enhance learning
  • Boost your brain function
  • Be good for your internal organs and the skin
  • Help you to relax when the stress is over

Bad Stress

Unfortunately, the sort of stress that most people are familiar with comes under the heading of “bad” stress and what follows are some examples of “bad” stress, sometimes called Distress.

  • A demanding or unsuitable job
  • Business worries
  • Domestic woes
  • Financial difficulties
  • Traveling…

The list goes on and on…

And there are lots of problems associated with bad stress. If not managed correctly, it can have serious health implication, both physical and mental. It can lead to relationship difficulties and it can cause poor performance at work or school. It can also be incredibly demotivating, leading to burnout where you feel that life just isn’t worth living.

This type of stress is detrimental to your well-being because you never get a chance to fully recover from the effects of “fight or flight,” because you are continually stressed out. You never actually get over it, as you do with good stress. In our example of the people that go white water rafting, once the challenging activity is over, the people will actually be able to relax and look back at their adventure with some joy, something you cannot do if you are in a constant state of heightened tension.

So what you need to do is get some balance in your life so that the amount of good stress outweighs the bad stress. You can never do away with bad stress altogether in modern life, but you want to take steps to eliminate as much of it as you can and to make sure that you have enough good stress to make your life enjoyable.

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