Stress is the response of an individual towards an event which is beyond his/her ability to cope. When faced with a challenging or threatening situation, an individual undergoes stress. Stress is not necessarily bad, in fact term eustress is used to describe the stress that is good for an individual. This is the least level of stress which actually helps a person to achieve peak performance and managing problems. If however, this stress starts growing inside, it causes body’s wear and tear. It is called distress and it is this stress that is unhealthy for an individual.
Stress is caused by external events. These events are called stressors. Some examples of stressors are: crowding, examination pressure, bad relationships etc.
Individuals responses towards a stressor varies from one another. It largely depends on perceived events and how they are interpreted. Past experiences often help in dealing with stress. If an individual has handled a similar stressful situation well in the past, he/she is more likely to do the same in the present. The opposite also stands true. An individual who beliefs that he/she is in control of the situation, often experience less stress than those who have no such sense of personal control. Self confidence is a key in overcoming stress.
When faced with stress, our body produce a stress reaction. It can be physical, emotional or behavioural or a mixture of all. The first reaction is usually the physiological one, wherein adrenal glands release hormones responsible for fight or flight response. During stress, a hormone named cortisol is also released in our body which provides energy. Emotional reactions may include negative feelings like fear, anger, anxiety or depression. Behavioural reactions however depend on individuals that whether they choose flight response (forget everything and run) or fight response (face everything and rise).
How an individual responds to a stressor aslo depends on the nature of stress. The intensity and complexity of a stressor as well as whether it is predictable or not influences the nature of response it induces. It has been observed that stress which is intense, prolonged, complex and unpredictable have a more negative effect on people in comparison to the stress which is less intense, short lived and predictable.
There are various types of stress. Physical stress relates to the stress that is related to our body. It is much easier to deal with than the psychological stress which generates in our minds. This psychological stress is very subjective and unique to the person experiencing it. It includes frustration and internal conflicts. Social pressure, life events and daily hassles or experience of traumatic events also contribute to psychological stress.
Stress has various adverse effects on an individual. Emotional effects like mood swings, anxiety, depression, increasing tension, decreasing confidence are very common. Physiological effects include increased heart rate, slow digestion, hypertension etc. People may even suffer from mental overload and loose their ability to make sound decisions. Poor concentration, disrupted sleep patterns, reduced work performance are some other effects of stress.

Categories: Health, Learning

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