What Does Stress Really Mean ?


Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. This article discusses different causes of stress, how stress affects you, the difference between ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ stress, and some common facts about how stress affects people today.

“I am feeling very stressed”.
“I do not know for how long I can go on like this”.
“I am unable to have a good night’s rest and it is affecting my work”.
“At times suddenly for no reason I feel really low and depressed”.
“I am very irritable now at home and feel very bad about it”.
“Even small things upset me”.
“I seem to have lost my appetite”.

Do statements like these seem familiar to you? Most of us would have said or felt this way at least some time in our lives.

What does “STRESS” really mean in practical terms?

Simply stated, stress implies any sort of change that we have to adapt to. Adaptation means we have to have the capacity to cope with the change and if we succeed then the stress does not harm us – in fact we feel a rush in dealing with those changes. If on the other hand we find we lack or fall short of abilities to deal adequately with those demands; then we lose our self confidence and the stress can overwhelm us and make us feel really tired and weak, and not in control of the situation.

In reality, stress is not always negative – how well we are equipped to deal with it determines whether we experience it as negative or positive. If we had no stress then we would in fact have little to motivate us to focus energy and attention on a given goal or task at hand. This sort of positive pressure can produce feelings of excitement, challenge and opportunity; it enables us to be active.

As pressure on us increases beyond an optimal point, anxiety and negative thoughts begin to creep in. We feel less confident about the situation around us and we experience negative stress.

The same situation can be negative or positive depending on the person’s resources.

Let’s take an example. You get news of your promotion, but it means an immediate shift to a new city. It is also a difficult region to handle and will mean a lot of hard work from your end. On the one hand the promotion is great because you will be rising in the company but it also brings with it changes to your life. How well you are able to deal with the shift to a new city, settling in with your family – will all affect the way you will feel about this news. Whether your wife is confident about handling the shift, settling the child into a new school and finding new friends etc., will all impact your feeling good about the promotion. 

We can see that being prepared and having adequate support systems can ease some of the tension or stress we will meet in our daily living. Life is ever changing and full of challenges where each day brings new situations, scenarios and events and we need to be able to live through it all. Learning skills to manage times when we feel overwhelmed and burdened, will help ease some of the tension and stress that comes our way, stall the negative impact, and help us lead happier and healthier lives.

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