What is stress?

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Stress is your body’s reaction to any sort of change, positive or negative, that requires a physical, mental, or emotional adjustment or response.

In stressful situations that could be harmful, your body reacts with its in-built “fight-or-flight” response. The response alerts you to danger and is designed to keep you safe. In the same way that a rabbit’s physiology will change when it sees a fox, our physiology changes in the face of danger, too. Our heart rate goes up, we breathe faster, more blood goes to the brain and muscles and less blood goes to the digestive tract, and our muscles become tense and ready for action.

However, in the modern world we no longer have to battle with cave lions or run from mammoths, so we only rarely confront a genuine fight-or-flight situation. Unfortunately, the response is still triggered as a result of much more familiar worldly demands.

Stress can be divided into two types:

  • Chronic Stresses: These are prolonged and can be things like divorce or a bad family relationship, hating your job, or a death or illness in the family. Chronic stresses are difficult to alleviate—caring for a dying parent, for instance, can last for a long time and usually only gets more stressful as time goes by.
  • Acute Stresses: These are short-acting, such as being late to work because you were caught in traffic. Even isolated, everyday acute stresses, however, can act like chronic stress on the body if they are part of the way you relate to the world.
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