We talk a lot about stress in our culture. Many people are feeling the effects of stress-related illnesses. Our jobs and even our families can cause stress in our lives. But stress sounds like such a nebulous concept. What is stressful for one person is not at all for another.

So what exactly is stress and how does it impact our bodies? What is the real cause?

Anything that makes us feel overwhelmed, out of control, or that things are too much to deal with can be considered stress. Not all stress is bad. As humans we are programmed to feel stress as it makes us take action. This is how our ancestors survived before civilization. It is how we can work harder to pass a difficult exam or survive a hypothetical zombie apocalypse. However, when stress becomes an enormous burden, it can have opposite results. It can cause us to shut down, turn off, and tune out.

Stress is caused by stressors. These are the individual actions, events, or stimulus that causes a “fight-or-flight” reaction. The term stress specifically refers to the feeling we get when we are faced with an overly difficult challenge that we feel we can’t handle. Our experience with stress is coded into our DNA.

When you are under stress you may feel the following things:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Slow digestion
  • Fast pulse
  • Lower immune response
  • Tense muscles
  • Insomnia

It is extremely important that we learn how to control our response to stress. Stressful situations are going to happen, but how we react to them is what really matters. The American Heart Association offers these suggestions:

  1. Practice positive self-talk
  2. Try out emergency stress stoppers
  3. Find pleasure
  4. Make time for daily relaxation

To learn more about each method we encourage you to review the article at their website.

What causes you the most stress in your life and how do you handle it?

Image by Spirit-Fire via Flickr

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