What is Stress?

Calming ImageHistorically, the stress response has been instrumental to our survival.  Most life-threatening situations from the past do not occur in modern society. We are not required to save ourselves from dangerous predators.  Instead of nearby tribes or wild animals attacking us, we are now faced with employment, financial, relationship, family, emotional and health stressors that raise our stress levels on a chronic, daily basis.  It is this chronic stress that is the dangerous predator of modern times. Fortunately, this modern stress is within our control.

Stress affects us on a daily basis.  Stress does not only come from things we think are negative, but also from things we would think of as positive. As an example, being laid-off from your job and being promoted to a new (higher paying/more prestigious) position are both stressful. Stress is not just having to stop at every red light when you’re running late. Stress is not just having to sit in freeway traffic everyday on a long commute. Stress is not just giving a presentation to a large group of people. Stress comes from “positive” situations as well as “negative” situations. To be resilient to illness and lead a happy, healthy life, we need to know how to recognize and balance stress.

A good definition of stress is - our perceived ability to solve a challenge presented within our environment. That challenge could be physical or psychological in nature. Both involve a thought, or self-evaluation that we may not be able, or good enough. The key to understanding and decreasing stress is how we PERCIEVE the environmental challenge. Do we have confidence in our abilities and believe in ourselves? With a strong sense of self, the PERCIEVED challenge is within our abilities and therefore, stress is decreased….even if we don’t “overcome” the challenge.

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