What is Stress?

The term "Stress"

The term "stress" ("pressure") originates in the field of material science and describes the condition of material under tension or pressure. This corresponds to the commonplace understanding of stress as a pressure situation and a condition associated with exceptional mental and bodily tension.

Someone in a stress situation is in a condition of increased readiness for action, as can be see in different bodily reactions: the heart beats faster, blood pressure and breathing rate accelerate, the flow of blood to the brain and the skeletal muscles is increased, as is the blood-sugar level.

In addition, digestive processes, sexual function and the immune system are suppressed. As a result of these bodily reactions, a person is psychophysiologically activated and able to react to alarming stimuli from the environment (stressors) with exceptional bodily performance.

In this context one also refers to the reaction to stress as the "fight or flight reaction."

Originally, the stress reaction had a positive function. One only has to consider the heavy bodily demands placed on people long, long ago ("Stone Age stress") to realize its purpose.

A person in a stress situation in modern times, however, only seldom has the possibility of abreacting physically. If exposed to continuous strain, this can lead to negative stress (distress) and stress-induced illnesses. Stomach and intestinal disorders, cardiovascular diseases, headaches, migraines, cancer and mental illnesses are associated with stress...

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