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What is Stress

The Stress Management Society (2009) defines stress as ‘a situation where demands on a person exceed that person’s resources or ability to cope’.

The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS, 2009) defined stress as ‘the way that you feel when pressure is placed on you’.

The ISMA (2009), defines stress as ‘an adverse response to what an individual perceives as too much pressure. Stress is an unhealthy state of body or mind or both’.

There are many different definitions of stress, depending of the degree and severity of the stress related emotions and feelings. While some stress and pressure can assist in people’s productivity, motivation and performance, too much pressure or prolonged pressure can lead to a level of stress which is unhealthy for the mind and body. This is commonly called chronic stress.

The feeling and emotion of stress is caused by the release of certain chemicals in your body. When faced with a situation that makes you stressed, your body releases chemicals, including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline (NHS, 2009). These chemicals invoke the 'fight or flight' feelings that help us to deal with the situation, where you make the choice of how to deal with the stress. The fight or flight responses to stress are one off reactions to a perceived challenge or pressure and assist us in identifying threats and taking action to avoid potentially harmful situations (ISMA, 2009). However, continually being in this fight or flight state means that these chemicals are constantly being produced and can result in significant negative effects on your health.

If the chemicals that are released during stressful situations accumulate from not being used or constantly being produced, there can be negative effects on the body and mind. As described by the NHS (2009), a build-up of adrenaline and noradrenaline increases blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount that you sweat. Similarly cortisol prevents your immune system from functioning properly, as well as releasing fat and sugar into your blood stream. These responses alter the effective functioning of your body and can create long term impacts on your health.

Stress Fact
While a low level of stress can assist in productivity, performance and motivation, prolonged stress is unhealthy for your body and mind.
NHS, 2009

Being able to recognise the levels of stress that you are experiencing is the key to understanding whether these feelings are helpful or harmful in your every day life. Only then will you be able to effectively respond to and manage these negative emotions and feelings.

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