What is the Definition of Stress?

So we all deal with stress in one way or another. Like all things, some people are better at managing it than others. And we'll get there. But first, we have to understand what stress actually is.

According to merriam-webster.com, the definition of stress is:

"A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation"

So what sticks out the most to me in this definition of stress? That stress may cause disease. That's pretty serious…and most of us know stress can be a huge factor in causing depression as well.

I always looked at stress as just an emotional thing. "I'm 'feeling' stressed out," which is true - we can feel it emotionally.

We can hear our thoughts racing around, and feel the sadness or anxiety associated with whatever is causing our stress. But stress is also very physical and can play a huge factor in both our physical and emotional well being.

Here is another definition of stress from thefreedictionary.com: "A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression."

Have you ever heard of the "fight or flight" response? In a situation where we are facing physical danger as people, or this even happens with animals, chemicals are released into our blood stream that give us a burst of energy to be able to better fight or flee from the danger. This is where the increased heart rate and rise in blood pressure can come from.

This is a wonderful defense mechanism if we are in fact in physical danger and this would be considered "Survival Stress." The problem is that most people's stress is not caused by real physical danger therefore that fight or flight response isn't actually helpful…

We worry. We worry about money, our job, our relationships, our kids, our friends, what other people think, our bills, the economy, politics… etc. etc. etc. We worry ourselves sick. We worry ourselves into stress. This is called Internal Stress. As in, its a result of something internal, meaning...we cause it. We worry about things we may have no control over or can't do anything about. Our thoughts can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

So when we worry, worry, worry all the time, our body is reacting by releasing chemicals into our blood stream to help us fight off our stressor but the problem is that we are not facing any physical danger, so we are caught in a sometimes constant state of tension. Stress can also be a result of environmental issues such as pressure from our bosses, family members, noise or crowding around us. Environmental stress is stress that is caused by external factors.

We can also become stressed because of working too hard! Working ourselves into a constant state of fatigue can play a huge part in how stressed we are. This can happen after a long period of time after putting in a lot of long hours and perhaps not getting enough sleep.

So now that we have a better understanding of the definition of stress, the most important thing we can learn is how to better manage it and reduce it! One great way to do that is by learning relaxation techniques!