One of the ways of defining stress would be: a non-specific response of the human body as a reaction to the demands which were made upon it. So bluntly put, stress is the interaction between the environment and the coping skills of the relevant individual.
How does it work?
There are two stress-causing factors; the first one is called "the stressor" and the second is "the stress-reactivity".
The stressor is a stimulus of a sort which is capable of triggering a "fight or flight" reaction from a person. Stressors were evolutionarily built into the human nature. They are situations of life-threatening circumstances and such.
This can be illustrated by a man walking down the street about to step off the curb. He does not see the car coming, but suddenly hears its horn. The man then quickly returns his extended leg back onto the curb.
This is a typical manifestation of human responses to a stressor, in this case for fear of getting hit by a car. Aside of that particular one, there are many different types of stressors. Heat, cold, toxins, threat of self-esteem, depression, to name a few. Stressors may also be of sociological origin. These would include: the death of a loved one, losing a job. They may also be philosophical. An example of a philosophical stressor would be: what is the purpose of life? This is to say that life is filled with stressors, and we encounter them nearly on a daily basis (sometimes even without ever recognizing them).
It is important to note that the "fight or flight" reaction is termed as "stress reactivity". This means that it increases muscle tension, heart rate, elevates the blood pressure, decreases the saliva in the person's mouth and so forth.
The following set of reactions is to prepare a person for the best performance required as announced by the relevant stressor. A built up amount of unused stress products is an unhealthy thing.
Furthermore, stress may either be of the natural kind (which is the sort that is a necessary part of life), while it may also be of the unnecessary kind. This means that a person with a low amount of stress also has low motivation, and doesn't really perform well. On the dark side, too much of the same disrupts the very person's performance.
A stress researcher (Hans Selye) once created the three phases of the stress process. This is otherwise known as the General Adaptation Syndrome.
- In phase one, an alarm reaction is to occur. The human body typically shows the changes characteristic of first being exposed to the particular stressor.
- Phase two involves the stage of resistance. The body signals of alarm are, at this stage, nearly nullified – while resistance rises above normal levels.
- The third phase would be the stage of exhaustion. Namely, the repeated exposure to the very same stressor has exhausted the subject's adaptation energy. The symptoms of alarm reaction are then restored, but are now irreversible. This stage could be fatal.
Stress may be the cause of a number of disorders and diseases such as: strokes, ulcer, migraine headaches, coronary heart disease, tension headaches, asthma and so forth.
Perfectionists, OCDs, and the like are more prone to stress.
Stress management may be done via one of the following five components: identifying and changing the stressors, changing the physiological responses, changing the persons behavior or perception, and lastly, changing his or her feelings (this is to say learning how to manage them in a better way).