Stress 101

Lecture 13: Stress 101

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What is stress?

Stress is usually a negative emotional experience that occurs in situations where people perceive certain stimuli or stressors as threats. It triggers various physiological, psychological and behavioral changes.

There are two types of stress: acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is a short-term stress that triggers some physiological response immediately but the body returns to a resting state once the stressor has passed. Chronic stress is a long-term stress that can be hazardous to the body due to the body not being able to return to its resting state. Each person can perceive stressors in different manners so something that stresses a certain individual may not stress another. Also, not only are stressors different depending on the individual but they can also be real or imaginary. Imaginary stressors include stress from worrying about one’s future.


What happens when you are stressed?

When you are suffering from acute stress, hormones called adrenalin and noradrenaline are released to the body and the sympathetic nervous system prepares the body in order to escape from the stressors. This is why your heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and blood pressure increases. After the stressor is resolved, the parasympathetic nervous system returns to the resting state which, in turn, allows the body to enter a resting state. For chronic stress, the stressor stimulates the adrenal glands releasing a steroid hormone called cortisol, which can alter the body’s metabolism.


So, how can one deal with stress?

There are various ways that you can deal with stress:

  • Exercise: By doing this, the body copes with the production of noradrenaline which activates the parasympathetic nervous system returning the body to its resting state.
  • Social support: support from family, friends, and pets can aid in relieving stress. There are three types of support: emotional, intellectual, and practical. Emotional support is the comfort of talking to someone about your stress. Intellectual support is to support through advice about how to deal with stress and lastly, practical support is helping someone physically in order to deal with stress. This strategy is aimed to create the human sense of belonging. By having someone to talk to or support you, an individual who experience stress will have a “home” to return to feeling like they belong.
  • Stress inoculation therapy: This strategy aims to change thinking patterns and has 3 stages. The stages are conceptualization, skill acquisition and rehearsal, and application. Conceptualization is to realize what is causing the stress. Skill acquisition and rehearsal is to practice changing your mindset or outlook from pessimistic or negative to optimistic or positive. Application is the verb, or action word, to actually apply the rehearsed optimistic thinking when actually experiencing stress. This process is often completed with a counselor.

However, it is important to note that there are many other ways to deal with stress besides the previously listed such as yoga. Some of these may not work for you so you must find what works for you and it’s really important to know how you will deal with it so take five minutes and think about what works for you because that is what’s going to help you when you’re stressed!

Edited by: Ujwal Kumar