Definition and description of stress.
Everyone has experienced stress. The causes of stress are as individual as the person experiencing the symptoms, but simply put, stress is the body’s response to emotional and physical demands made of the outside world.
The body reacts to stress in three basic ways. The fight or flight response is usually the first reaction. When the person experiencing stress has a desire to escape the cause of discomfort, the body releases chemicals as a response which results in rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and tensed muscles. Since the perceived threat isn’t usually a physical one that the person can escape, the body responds by resisting the threat and the body’s functions return to normal. Breathing slows down and muscles relax, but the person remains on guard and ready to repeat the process. Continued exposure to stressors will eventually lead to exhaustion, which is the third stage of response. If the person is exposed to the stressful conditions or situation repeatedly, then a variety of health concerns (like depression and heart conditions) can develop.
The symptoms of stress can be both mental and physical. The physical signs may include rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, digestive difficulties, trouble breathing, shaking, sweating, and frequent urination. Mental symptoms often consist of tension, anxiety, problems concentrating, irritability, insomnia, and lack of energy. If someone is continuously exposed to stressful conditions, then these symptoms can become so serious that they interfere with daily life. Performance in the workplace as well as relationships with family members and friends may begin to suffer.
There are different types of stress that are commonly experienced; surprisingly, not all stress is negative. The most commonly recognized type of stress is distress. Distress causes feelings of discomfort and can be the result of something unexpected, like a confrontation with a co-worker. Chronic distress is a reaction to a long term situation like a job change or the end of a relationship. Hyperstress occurs when someone has been pushed to his or her limit, and it is common in high stress jobs. Hypostress is the opposite of hyperstress and takes place when an individual feels bored or unmotivated. This stress is common in jobs involving repetitive tasks, like some types of factory work. Eustress is a short-term stress that can actually be helpful. It usually occurs at times when creativity and physical ability is challenged and is often experienced by athletes and other types of performers. It can provide the individual with the needed motivation to compete or perform well.
Stress is a part of daily life that is impossible to avoid. No matter what the cause, understanding stress and the way that it affects the body is key to keeping it under control and managing its effect on daily life.
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