Stress is a feeling of emotional strain and pressure. Stress is a type of psychological pain. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to bodily harm. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression and also aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
Stress can be external and related to the environment, but may also be caused by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem stressful.
Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When people think the demands being placed on them exceed their ability to cope, they then perceive stress.
In humans and most mammals, the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are the two major systems that respond to stress.
The sympathoadrenal medullary (SAM) axis may activate the fight-or-flight response through the sympathetic nervous system, which dedicates energy to more relevant bodily systems to acute adaptation to stress, while the parasympathetic nervous system returns the body to homeostasis. The second major physiological stress-response center, the HPA axis, regulates the release of cortisol, which influences many bodily functions such as metabolic, psychological and immunological functions.
Through these mechanisms, stress can alter memory functions, reward, immune function, metabolism and susceptibility to diseases.
The age at which the stress is experienced can dictate its effect on health. Research suggests chronic stress at a young age can have lifelong effects on the biological, psychological, and behavioral responses to stress later in life.
Coping with Stress –
Responses to stress include adaptation, psychological coping such as stress management, anxiety, and depression. Over the long term, distress can lead to diminished health and/or increased propensity to illness; to avoid this, stress must be managed.
Stress management encompasses techniques intended to equip a person with effective coping mechanisms for dealing with psychological stress, with stress defined as a person’s physiological response to an internal or external stimulus that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Stress management is effective when a person uses strategies to cope with or alter stressful situations.
There are several ways of coping with stress, such as controlling the source of stress or learning to set limits and to say “no” to some of the demands that bosses or family members may make.
A person’s capacity to tolerate the source of stress may be increased by thinking about another topic such as a hobby, listening to music, taking ample amount of rest, regular exercise or spending time in a wilderness.
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