Chapter 9 – Stress

What Is Stress and How Does It Affect Wellness?

In today’s fast-paced society, most people complain about being stressed. However, when they use the term stress, they rarely know it’s true meaning. The word carries many negative connotations and is associated with an unpleasant or traumatic event. As such, people mistakenly believe that stress is simply the nervousness and tension experienced prior to, during, or after a negative event. In fact, the effects of stress are physiological, emotional, and psychological.

Additionally, not all levels of stress are detrimental. The stress athletes experience right before a big game or college students feel right before an exam can enhance focus and increase their ability to concentrate. Stress is either good or bad depending on how long it persists and how it is perceived by the individual.

This chapter will provide a deeper understanding of what stress is and provide effective strategies for managing stress.

Stress is defined as the body’s physical, mental, and emotional response to a particular stimulus, called a stressor. This adaption/coping-response helps the body prepare for challenging situations. It is the level of a person’s response to a stressor that determines whether the experience is positive or negative. As a hardworking college student, you may feel as if you know the meaning of stress all too well. You may dream of a future where the demands on your time are diminished, so you can escape the high levels of stress you are feeling now. Unfortunately, regardless of their situation, everyone experiences stress on a regular basis. The good news is, not all stress is bad! Small levels of stress can enhance cognitive brain function. Stress may provide the motivation and concentration you need to write an essay, practice a speech, or prepare for a job interview. For most people, these types of stressors are manageable and not harmful. Stressors that have the potential for harm include the sudden loss of a loved one, the unexpected ending of a romantic relationship, or the unfair demands of an unreasonable boss.

Defining Stress

Stress, then, is more than simply the tension and apprehension generated by problems, obstacles, or traumatic events. Stress is the body’s automatic response (physical, mental, and emotional) to any stressor. It is a natural and unavoidable part of life, and it can be empowering and motivating, or harmful and potentially dangerous.

For more information on stress click on the links below:

What is Stress?

What is stress and what causes it?

Effects of Stress on Wellness

As stated previously, not all stress is bad. In fact, the stress associated with riding a roller coaster, watching a scary movie, or scaling a cliff can enhance these experiences. Regardless of whether the stress experienced is negative or positive, the effects on the body are identical.

When a person senses that a situation demands action, the body responds by releasing chemicals into the blood. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones that include adrenaline and cortisol. The physiological effects of those chemicals—enhanced focus, quicker reaction time, and increased heart rate, energy, and strength—are quite beneficial when faced with a potentially dangerous situation that is temporary.

Unfortunately, most of the stressors people face—work, school, finances, relationships—are a part of everyday life, and thus, inescapable. Experiencing ongoing, unavoidable stress can result in some very unpleasant and harmful effects, both mental and physical. Chronic stress can cause upset stomach, headaches, sleep problems, and heart disease. It can also cause depression, anxiety, and even memory loss.

To watch a video that describes the effects of stress in detail, click on the link below:

How Stress Affects Your Body and Mind


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Health and Fitness for Life Copyright © 2019 by Dawn Markell and Diane Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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