What is Stress?

Have you experienced stress? How would you describe it?

It is so interesting that when you ask people if they have ever experienced stress, most people will say yes. They can even tell you the situation or event that caused them to feel stressed. But everyone does not feel stressed or get stressed for the same reasons.

Today I thought I would answer the questions, what is stress, and why do we need stress to survive?

What is stress? According to the Medical Dictionary, stress has been defined as an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures.

The response can be measured in one of two ways:

1) by the organism's internal interpretation of a stimulus or situation or 2) by the organism's external response to stimulus measured by physical functions including release of stress hormones

People generally feel stressed because they feel threatened in a situation or in their environment. When we feel a loss of control in our physical, social or working environments it brings on the feeling of stress.

There are certain emotions that also bring on the feelings of being stressed including feeling helpless or hopeless, intense fear or anger, cynicism or lack of trust.

Feeling stressed is generally accompanied by physical symptoms that make us aware that we are feeling stress. Our blood pressure rises and our heart starts beating faster, our breathing becomes more rapid, our muscles tense and our mind becomes more alert.

More long-term symptoms might include digestive upset or changes in bowel movements, decrease in our immune function, or inability to sleep.

Since each person identifies, handles and manages stress differently there are different combinations of these symptoms that can occur related to feeling stressed.

Why do we need stress to survive? From a basic survival standpoint, stress is a necessary component for life. If we as humans are being threatened by a lion we need to feel stress. In that instant we need to release our stress hormones to help us run away to safety or fight off the lion.

However when we feel stressed about things that are not life-threatening, the quality of our health can be damaged. We become more susceptible to chronic diseases like insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure.

It is important to be aware of when you are feeling stressed especially if you feel it often in your daily or weekly life. Knowing that you feel it is the first step to finding tools to help you manage it and reduce it in your life.

For stress-management ideas, check out my previous posts about stress busting foods, Antioxidants are Stress-Busting Foods: Do You Have Them in Your Diet? and More of Dr. Dae's Top Stress-Busting Foods.

Or purchase my ebook Stress Relieving Recipes: Using Food to Keep you Calm.

Live Vibrantly, Dr. Dae Dr. Daemon Jones