Find out why there isn't any real Definition of Stress!
So what is the Definition of Stress?
According to the dictionary it is: “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”
Experts further define stress as the activation of the “flight or fight response", also called the “stress response”.
The stress response is your mental and physical reaction to a threat. Whether it is a physical threat or a psychological one. Your body goes into a heightened state of awareness. Your brain releases a flood of adrenaline to your body, your blood flow is increased to your muscles, your heartbeat quickens, and your senses are more acute. All of this is in preparation to either fight or flee.
Hans Selye first introduced the concept of stress in the 1930’s. He observed through various experiments with animals that when they were exposed to physical and emotional stimuli (later called “stressors”) they experienced pathological changes. He also discovered that if these animals were exposed to these stressors long enough they developed diseases similar to the diseases of humans. This was indeed a discovery because prior to this it was thought that disease was caused only by pathogens.
Hans Selye’s original Definition of Stress was as a response to a stimulus. However, the interpretation that most of us use to describe stress today is both as a response and as a stimulus. You can feel stressed-out (response) by all of the stress in your life (stimulus).
So really what it comes down to is:
There is no real Definition of Stress because it is subjective.
What is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another.
But most of us would agree that when we hear the word stress we think of it as something negative.
Stress in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are times when being in this state can be very beneficial, like if you are competing in an athletic event or if you have to run from a predator or defend yourself from an assaulter.
Where we run into problems and why stress has a negative connotation is when our stress response is activated for prolonged periods of time.
This is when we develop continuing Symptoms of Stress. (Read the article, Symptoms of Stress, why you need to know them!)