stress management

A Practical Definition of Stress

By February 3, 2016 No Comments

Stress has been defined as the specific response the body makes to all non-specific demands placed on it. What the heck does that mean?

It means that every time we feel any kind of pressure either emotionally, mentally or physically we have a stress reaction, and our body reacts in a certain way. It might be a racing heart pain in the pit of our stomachs, headache, sweating, etc.

We need some stress in our life. Hans Selye, one of the pioneers of stress research said, “The absence of stress is death.” He stated that stress was not something that necessarily had to be avoided. It is an everyday fact of life. If we had no stress in our life, it would be very dull. We might as well become couch potatoes. Not all stress is caused by negative events. Planning for vacations, new relationships, promotions, or buying a new home can be very stressful. Stress is any change we have to adjust to.

Some stress we can control, and some stress we have no control over. We can however control our reactions to stress, once we know how.

Common sources of stress:

  • Environment
  • Our physical bodies
  • Our minds, and perceptions of situations
  • Change
  • External pressure.

Environmental stresses can be a result of noise, pollution, weather, overcrowding, crime, economic uncertainty, people yelling at us to recycle, making plastic bags illegal, our guilt for taking long showers, and threats to our self-esteem.

Physical stress can come from aging, poor nutrition, illness, accidents, inadequate sleep, and over exhaustion, shortness of breath from driving too fast to get to meditation or yoga on time, and burn-out.

The way we interpret and react to events and experiences in our life can either stress us out, and cause massive fear and anxiety, or help us relax.

Anytime we have to adjust to change, we are increasing our level of stress, whether that change is positive or negative. Pressure can be very stressful too. It can be the daily pressure of work, deadlines or family, or it can be self-imposed pressure from within.

All of these sources of pressure are related. Having to adjust to the environment, dealing with change, or functioning under pressure, will put further stress on our bodies. If we are not mentally prepared to use our thoughts to deal with stress, and if we interpret events as stressful and negative, it is more difficult to adapt to our environment. This is particularly true in situations where we have no, or minimal control.

Simma Lieberman “The Inclusionist,” helps individuals and organizations create inclusive cultures where people can do their best work and increase productive and profit.