Stress has been defined in several different ways. Each definition has some kind of relevance, but we shall shortly speak about the definition that should matter to us the most.
A popular medical website defines stress as:-
“The physical and emotional strain which is caused by our response to the pressure from the outside world.”
This definition is good and seems correct. But there is something very important missing. Let’s see some other definition and the missing element will become apparent.
The definition of stress according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is as follows:-
“The physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and which may be a factor in the cause of disease.”
Another definition forwarded by the same dictionary is:-
“The state resulting from stress, i.e. the state of bodily or mental tension which is a consequence of factors which purport to alter a prevailing symmetry.”
Both of these definitions again have the same element missing, and that makes them inadequate.
Oxford Dictionary defines stress as:-
“A state of mental or emotional strain which is a result of adverse or demanding circumstances.”
Once again, this definition does not make us too happy. Let us look at some more definitions that a random search on the Internet threw up for us.
“Stress is a normal physical reaction to various events that can make people threatened or can upset their balance in some manner.”
“Any factor that brings forth a threat or a challenge to our state of wellbeing is defined as stress.”
“Stress is the condition where people feel that they have too much on their platter; when they feel overloaded and feel that they are not capable of facing the various challenges that they face.”
With all these definitions, that one element that we were looking for still remains missing and so we can just pass them by.
Now, here are the definitions that we really like:-
“Stress is the response that the human body provides when it is met with circumstances that induce it to behave, alter or modify in some manner to maintain their comfortable state of balance.”
“Stress is the body’s way of reacting to challenges and getting prepared to face tough situations with concentration, determination, and strength with a state of total alertness.”
Did you realize already why we like the last two definitions and not the ones mentioned before?
Here is what worked for some… and what should work for you as well?
With the previous definitions, the problem is that stress is defined just as the influence of outside negative factors on the body.
These definitions consider the body as a latent object, which can be easily manipulated by outside forces.
But, with the last two definitions, the big difference is that stress is called as a ‘reaction’ or a ‘response’.
These definitions consider the body as an actionable force and it considers humans as beings who can do something about negative situations that they encounter in life.
Most people have the whole idea of stress pegged on wrong. They think that stress just happens and they can do nothing about it, except complain and brood.
They think that they simply are meant to wallow in stress and do nothing about it.
That is hardly the case. The truth is that our bodies are very well capable of dealing with the negative situations that will inevitably crop up in our life. And it is these reactions that are termed as stress.
What we see here is the gross ignorance people have about stress. Maybe you have the completely wrong idea as well.
You are thinking about ‘being stressed’ as a situation where you do nothing and are simply worried about the circumstances in your life.
The truth is that ‘being stressed’ means being NOT DEFEATED from the various negative situations that present themselves in your life.
Being stressed means fighting those challenges. Being stressed means coming up a winner whenever you indulge in these fights.
Now, most people react negatively when they are faced with a stressful situation. However, you should learn how NOT to do that.
Instead of behaving negatively and succumbing to all those unappealing indications, you have to channel all your energies and try to remove the stress itself.
You have to work in such a way that your stress is removed, and you can do that by directing your stress-influenced response in the right manner.
You can do it just by making minor adjustments in your personality and in your way of thinking. Once you have this pat down, you will almost see your stress melting away.
Stress and The Way You Think
Particularly in normal working life, much of your stress is subtle and occurs without obvious threat to survival.
Most come from things like work overload, conflicting priorities, inconsistent values, over-challenging deadlines, conflict with co-workers, unpleasant environments and the like.
Not only do these reduce your performance as you divert mental effort into handling them, they can also cause a great deal of unhappiness.
What is the effect of acute stress?
The best way to envision the effect of acute stress is to imagine oneself in a primitive situation, such as being chased by a bear.
The Brain’s Response to Acute Stress
In response to seeing the bear, a part of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system is activated.
Release of Steroid Hormones
The HPA systems trigger the production and release of steroid hormones (glucocorticoids), including the primary stress hormone known as cortisol.
Cortisol is very important in marshaling systems throughout the body including the heart, lungs, circulation, metabolism, immune systems, and skin to deal quickly with the bear.
Release of Catecholamine
The HPA system also releases certain neurotransmitters or chemical messengers called catecholamine, particularly those known as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine or also called adrenaline.
Stress is a response of hormones within the body. It is hormones that create all kinds of sensations within us.
Instead of allowing these hormones to react negatively and take us into the abyss of depression, we should focus these hormones to react positively.
It is within us to build this high amount of enthusiasm and positive energy within us, an energy that can move mountains!
So, the most important thing for you to keep in mind at this juncture is that stress is something quite transient. Do not make it a mainstay in your life.
Target your stress-induced responses towards the removal of the factors that caused stress. And, keep your hopes switched on at all times.
Be optimistic. That works like a shot in the arm when the going gets tough!
Good Stress and Bad Stress
The stress response of the body is somewhat like an airplane getting ready for take-off.
Virtually all systems like the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the lungs, the digestive system, the sensory organs, and brain are modified to meet the perceived danger.
The stress response, also called the fight or flight response is critical during emergency situations, such as when a driver has to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
It can also be activated in a milder form at a time when the pressure’s on but there’s no actual danger – like stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the game, getting ready to go to a big dance, or sitting down for a final exam.
A little of this stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge. And the nervous system quickly returns to its normal state, standing by to respond again when needed.
Here are some things that you have to pay attention to.
1. All kinds of stress can be worked out.
2. You need to have the determination to do it.
3. The way you begin is to first come out of the denial.
4. Then, think about the factor that has caused you the stress in the first place.
5. Sit down and think some more. What can you do in order to resolve that factor?
6. How will eliminating the stress-causing factor help you? This anticipation is often a great tequila shot for your efforts in eliminating your stress.
7. Work towards it. You cannot remove stress without putting in some effort.
5 Things You Should Know About Stress
It’s important to remember a few things about stress that are rarely discussed—if known at all!
1) Stress won’t hurt you.
Hans Selye, the “father of stress” was a polylinguist, whose first language was not English.
Before he died, he said that had his command of English been more precise, he would have been known as the “Father of Strain” rather than stress.
What’s the difference? It’s enormous, from an engineering standpoint.
Stress is pressure divided by unit area, whereas strain is measured in deformation per unit length.
In other words, while strain speaks of the load you are carrying, strain deals with the degree to which that load distorts you out.
Therefore, it is NOT stressed that hurts you. It is a strain.
2) Stress is necessary for life and growth.
Far from being something you avoid, when healthy, the body and mind respond to environmental stress by becoming stronger.
Look at this in the area of physical fitness. Imagine a triangle with each of the three corners having a different designation: stress, nutrition, and rest.
Stress equals exercise. Nutrition equals the foods taken in before and after the exercise, and rest equals…well, rest.
If you have either too much or too little of any of these, the body breaks down.
Note that astronaut in orbit must be very careful to stress their bodies daily with stationary bicycles and other apparatus.
Zero gravity decreases stress to the point that the bones literally begin to lose calcium.
The truth is that, in life, you are rewarded largely for how much stress you can take without breaking.
The intelligent approach is to both reduce unnecessary stress and to increase your ability to handle healthy stress without straining.
3) Russian research about the body-mind dynamic has produced valuable results.
They figure that any physical technique has three aspects – Breath, Motion, and Structure, and these three are dependent upon one another.
Stress “dis-integrates” this structure as it morphs into the strain. The first to be disturbed is almost always breathing.
This is the reason for martial arts, yoga, Sufi Dancing and so many other disciplines can use the physical body as a vehicle for spiritual transformation.
As you learn to handle greater and greater amount of stress with grace, you naturally evolve to higher levels of integration and performance. It is your birthright.
4) It doesn’t take years to learn proper breathing techniques.
Seek out a Qi Gong, Yoga, or Tai Chi teacher to learn proper belly breathing.
A good teacher can convey the basics of this critical skill in an hour or less.
5) You don’t have to meditate for an hour a day to get the benefits.
While it’s fabulous to spend two twenty minute sessions a day, massive benefits can be gained with just five minutes a day.
Here’s the trick: it’s not five minutes all at one time, it’s five one minute sessions spaced through the day. At every hour divisible by 3: 9, 12, 3, 6, and 9, simply stop and breathe properly for sixty seconds.
You can do this while walking down the street or sitting in a business meeting. The important thing is to learn a proper technique, and to practice it briefly, and correctly.
This single act will improve posture, energy, digestion, and turn stress into high performance.
Five minutes a day…it will seem a pain at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s the best 300-second investment you’ll ever make!
I hope this article provides you information on a different perspective on how stress is defined and more understanding of the nature of stress in general.
Sometimes, shifting an angle put you in a better position on how to handle things properly once you are in a sounder perspective.
Take the stress constructively and then react positively in order to remove the stress. This is the approach that works.
And, the one thing that you have to keep in mind is that it is always possible to eliminate the stressful condition.