What is stress

Despite the increases in technology, life style changes and the promise of more free time, it is becoming apparent that stress is becoming one of the greatest health concerns of the Western World. Recent statistics indicate that between 70 ‑ 80 percent of all health related problems are either precipitated or aggravated by stress. Although the way we live, and the situations we face everyday have changed over thousands of years, our modern brain still has the ability (as it has had for thousands of years) to give us the same feelings and responses to stress. This is because these are deeply instinctive responses of protection and survival.

‘Distress’ is stress that arises from a negative situation such having an argument, being under too much pressure at work, or being called into the bosses office. ‘Eustress’ on the other hand, is stress that results from a positive situation, such as getting married or receiving an award . A mild amount of pressure can be beneficial; making a person more motivated to increase performance. However, the major difference between the positive eustress and the negative distress is how you perceive them. To one person public speaking creates eustress but to another it creates distress and high pressure for one individual in the work environment may not be experienced by another, being instead seen as more of a personal challenge. They both place the same physiological demands on the body, but are processed mentally and emotionally in different manners.

However, too much pressure or pressure for a long period of time can lead to excessive stress, a state of distress, which is unhealthy for both the mind and body. Stress can also be looked at from being acute and chronic stress.

The evolutionary explanation behind stress is that ancestor’s perceived reaction to threats and dangers has survival value. When hunter-gathers would risk their lives in hunting for food or defending their community they would experience dangers that would trigger the bodies stress response, preparing them for action, to either fight or flee from the threat. In today’s society, stress experienced is not usually life threatening but still triggers the same stress response.