The Basics of Understanding Stress

by Andy Machin

Stress comes to us all in different ways at different times in different degrees and any number of causes can trigger it. When stressed we feel that we care not in control. We feel overwhelmed.

When that happens, something needs to be done about it. You must do what you can to manage your stress and regain control. But just what is stress? That’s what we look at here so you may understand what stress is and how we react to it.

When we feel stressed our nervous system pushes signals to the brain that things are not quite right. It senses danger or a threat. The brain then reacts – often known as “fight or flight” – and hormones go crazy often causing the classic stress symptoms of increased heart rate, faster breathing (gasping for breath), increased blood pressure and more.

Basically this is how the body automatically reacts to anything causing you to feel stressed. It’s a signal to do something about it. Unless you do, the stress can spiral and quickly get more serious in turn affecting your health – you may well end up depressed or feeling down for example. And that’s never good.

Now we have a basic understanding of what stress is, let’s take a look at some of the ways we respond when stressed.

We mostly feel on edge, uncomfortable, perhaps even desperate if the stress is particularly bad. You may feel emotional, frustrated and irritable too because you do not know how to get things back in order again.

This can spill over in to your relationships – partner, family, friends, and colleagues – as they will pick up on how you are feeling and that could affect them in different ways too. Some may offer help, some might simply keep out of your way.

Some people respond to stress by withdrawing in to themselves and distancing themselves from others in an attempt to cope. This can often make things worse and the stress and whatever is causing it remains bottled up inside you. Whereas talking things out with a close friend often is a huge help. A problem shared is a problem halves as the saying goes.

Some people may appear to be cool, calm and collected when stressed in an attempt to hide it. A bit like a duck in water. The duck looks serene going about its business, but underneath it’s paddling away. So it may be with a person who reacts to stress by trying to hide it.

The story here is that by having and understanding of what stress is, what causes it and how we react to it differently may help you to deal with it next time you feel stressed and take action to reduce your stress.