Definition and Meaning of Stress

Regardless of the season, regardless of the person, everyone will, at some point in time, simply feel stressed. This stress can come at any time and it can be either powerful or more moderate. When we encounter stress, we all have our own ways of dealing with it an attempting to get over it.

The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Selye had noted in numerous experiments that laboratory animals subjected to acute but different noxious physical and emotional stimuli (blaring light, deafening noise, extremes of heat or cold, perpetual frustration) all exhibited the same pathologic changes of stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlargement of the adrenals. He later demonstrated that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop various diseases similar to those seen in humans, such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, it was believed that most diseases were caused by specific but different pathogens. Tuberculosis was due to the tubercle bacillus, anthrax by the anthrax bacillus, syphilis by a spirochete, etc.

Conflicts, demands, fear, assumptions, expectations, time pressures, pain, rejection, these are only a few of the components linked to our stress.

Stress can be physical, chemical, or even an emotional influence that causes bodily or mental tension and anxious feelings. It certainly causes a sense of conflict and a buildup of physical and mental strain. Our bodies actually have a survival mechanism called stress response or startle response controlled by part of our brain which introduces chemicals to prepare us for action, especially in threatening circumstances. Many of the body’s system are impacted: digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular and immunological. Our mind also go to work in order to help us cope up with all types of issues including loss, conflict, failure, rejection, abuse and even our human limitations. So you can see our bodies are well suited and adapted for handling stress.

Most would agree that stress can be both productive and non productive. Dan McGee says productive stress is what we experience as we go through the daily demands of our lives, as we reach and attempt to achieve our goals and even what we feel as we look forward to success. But non productive stress happens when our emotions are overly burdened, our bodies are strained beyond limits, our actions or behaviors are defeating and when our relationships are highly conflicted and at risk.

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