What is stress?

March 16th, 2012

Guest Author: Ellen Davis, NP, DNP

Stress is defined as a psychological and physiological response to events that upset our personal balance in some way. It is categorized into 2 types- good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). Examples of good stress include the birth of a child, moving into a new home, getting married. Instances of bad stress are more easily identified. Some examples include losing one’s job, a death in the family, and divorce.

What is the stress response?

The stress response is the body’s response to the stressful event. It occurs in three stages. Stage 1 is the “Fight or Flight” or alarm stage. This is the body’s initial adrenalin response. Stage 2 is the resistance stage, when the body is still alert and aware, but starting to relax. The rush of adrenalin is gone. Stage 3 is exhaustion, when the body finally returns to baseline, and needs time to recover. One may notice the need for additional sleep during this stage, to allow the body to repair itself.

What are the physical effects of stress?

Stress causes the release of many hormones into the circulatory system. These include adrenalin, cortisol (a natural steroid), and many others. These hormones act in varying ways, but lead to increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, increased development of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), and a decreased immune response.

What are some ways I can better deal with stress?

There are many techniques used to help us deal with stress. A few suggestions include:

  • Leaving work at work
  • Taking a vacation or a stay-cation
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a good book
  • Engage in some sort of physical exercise daily
  • Laugh as often as possible
  • Visit with friends
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet that is low in fat and salt
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night
  • Find a way to play daily- why do kids get to have all the fun?
  • Meditate
  • Don’t dwell on the past- look to the future
  • Think positive thoughts, and tell yourself positive things daily (Every day, in every way, I am making better food choices, and becoming healthier.)

If stress is severe, one may need to obtain counseling to work through the issues.