What is Stress?

What is stress? According to science, stress is a situation where our brain is preparing our body for a “life and death situation”. Then why are we stressed almost every day? Do we have “life and death” situations every day? Good question. Let’s find answers.

First things first. All of the information on this page is based on my studies and research. This page is about a common person’s approach to understand what stress really is and how can stress harm our health. Read and see whether it makes sense.

The chatter in your mind

All of us a have a little “chatter” inside our mind. This chatter keeps talking to us, providing instructions based on previous experiences in life. These instructions are powerful enough to manufacture an artificial life and death situation, and the result of that is stress. 

Should you listen to the “chatter”? Are the instructions correct? Let’s see an example.

In this example, we are going to study two people who are going to do a public speech. One person is doing it for the first time in front of an audience of 100 people. The other person is an experienced speaker preparing to address 2000 people.

Let’s listen to the “chatter” inside the first person’s head, who is a novice in public speaking. The chatter will start:

‘Hey, you have no experience in public speaking. You will make a lot of mistakes.’

‘People will laugh.’

‘People will remember your mistakes forever.’

‘This is going to be a very embarrassing moment in your life.’

At this point this person will start sweating, even if they are in the north pole, their lips will dry out and the person is going to experience stress.

Let’s listen to the “chatter” inside the second person, who is an experienced public speaker. We will hear a different conversation:

‘Hey, the sound system did not work properly while testing. It may not work during your speech. Not good for your reputation.’

‘There may be not enough capacity for 2000 people. You will be blamed.’

‘Can you do the full speech within the given time? Maybe not.’

‘Is your dress suitable for this event? Probably not and people will talk about it’

There is a possibility that this experienced speaker is also stressed out due to different reasons provided by the “chatter”.

Can you see the difference? It’s the same situation, but there are two different messages from their “chatters”.

Which chatter is correct? Both are probably wrong. There is a high chance that both speakers will complete their speeches well. 

Why Stress is Dangerous?

This is what I have found by studying experts and their research on stress.

As I have mentioned previously, stress is preparing your body for a “life and death” situation. In this situation, your body needs a lot of energy. The brain is looking for all avenues to save energy for this “life threating” moment. Our immune system is one of the largest energy consuming processes in our body. In a stressful situation our brain shuts down the immune system to save our energy.

Can you imagine how many times a day we may be shutting down our immune system without noticing? Constant stress for a longer period can weaken the immune system and expose our body to harmful health issues. 

This article from the American Psychological Association provides you with useful information on and about the impact of stress on your immune system.

Now you know what stress is and why stress is not good for our health. But how can you manage stress?  Visit the Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Relief page for step-by-step instructions.

 There are many other good sources on the Internet that can help you. Self Help from SelfGrowth.com is a good place to start.

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