Most of us have wished at some time in our lives that all our stress would go away. What we may not realize is that stress is actually a normal condition. And while most of us consider all stress to be a negative thing, researchers know that some kinds of stress are “neutral” and other kinds of stress can actually be beneficial.
Stress can be defined as the normal feeling we get when something changes. The cause (stressor) could be a new requirement at work, a surprise, a sudden feeling of pain, or a sudden threat to your life. Stressors can cause you to feel angry, afraid, frustrated, or nervous. Other stressors can make you feel “pumped”, “wired”, or ready for action.
In the short-term, stress can be a positive influence that helps us respond in a necessary way. When something frightening happens, that stressor can cause our bodies to release chemicals (hormones) that get us ready to defend ourselves, either by fighting or by escaping (running away). This reaction is so common that is has been given the name “fight or flight response.”
Once the stressor goes away, the body’s systems should return to normal. This happens when the brain stops ordering extra hormone to be produced. But if the stressor does not go away, the body can become “stuck” in a stressed condition. This can also happen when multiple stressors are active at the same time.
Many people find that their lives are filled with stressors and that they constantly feel stressed. The demands of work, family, health issues, aging parents, financial worries, and other concerns can lead to a spiral of stress related symptoms.
Stress that continues for a long time and that seems unmanageable can cause serious damage to your health. We often refer to the feeling of long-term stress as being “burned out” or “stressed out”.
It is important to note that all people respond to stress in different ways. Something that is a big cause of stress for one person may not even get a reaction from someone else.