Stress literally means pressure or tension exerted on a physical object. In the case of psychological stress, the physical is you.
Stress is something we have all experienced. Actually, stress is useful in some areas of your life. It is part of how we have evolved to deal with the challenges we face. For example, the stress of a changing environment can help provide motivation and adaptability we need to succeed in unstable conditions. If we did not have stress, we would not have thrived as a human race.
Positive stress helps us complete tasks at work rise to new challenges and achieve great things. When stress becomes a problem the person feels like the pressure is more than they can handle.
What we’re experiencing during times of stress is a mix of physical, biological processes and physiological reactions.
Stress is part of the fight or flight reaction. This is what keeps humans safe from predators, environmental hazards and other life-threatening things to improve chances for survival. It’s very useful when faced with a lion or bear, but so much when sitting in front of a television or computer.
The fight or flight response is the body getting ready either to fight or run for your life. When you have an anxiety attack or a panic attack the fight or flight response appears. It is something that happens s without your control (although the response can be modified consciously over time with practice.) It happens deep within us and comes in a few stages.
This is when the body gets itself ready and our brain tells our body to release powerful hormones, like adrenalin cortisol. These travel in the blood to organs like muscles and back to the brain. They cause the heart to pump faster and increase blood pressure so you have enough oxygen to increase the workload.
If this stress of fight or flight continues until the hormones are all used up and we become exhausted. This means we need to recover-we are like a car with no fuel. Our body becomes more susceptible to illness like a cold or the flu.
If this process happens for a long time without a break, or happens repeatedly there can long term effects.
Knowing what causes stress can help us to identify it when it happens. If you are going through one of these things, you can be aware that your stress levels might rise, keep an eye out for symptoms. This is an important way of managing future stress.