What is stress?

Stress is a natural reaction humans experience in various situations in life. Stress comes in both healthy and unhealthy forms. Having a small amount of stress or anxiety can actually help prepare you for an activity or life event. However, if you face chronic stress repeatedly, it can cause problematic symptoms leading to chronic fatigue or burnout. Some areas that cause stress include: work, relationships, school, or traumatic events.

The Stress Cycle

Stress occurs in what is called a “stress cycle”. In the stress cycle, an alarm goes off signaling to the brain that you are facing a stressful situation. When this happens, the body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline to deal with the stressful event. These hormones trigger a fight or flight response within the  body to help handle the situation. Consequently, the body faces some resistance after the occurrence of this stress inducing experience. During this stage of the cycle, the body is repairing itself and trying to heal from the stress reaction leading to minor symptoms such as withdrawal or headaches. We’ve all experienced symptoms of exhaustion or fatigue after a stressful situation, at this stage the stress cycle comes to an end by allowing the body to rest.

What to do about it.

While all this talk about stress reactions within the body can seem daunting, there are various positive strategies to help cope with stress. These include: exercise, deep breathing, meditation, spending time with loved ones, or even just crying it out. Other ways to deal with stress include having a strong social support network. It is extremely helpful to have people you can talk to that will provide you with support, trust, and reassurance. Additionally, utilizing community resources to open up and speak to someone can also be an effective way to cope.  For example, going to a mental health worker, a therapist, or a peer support group can greatly benefit your well-being, and heighten your self-awareness through the support you receive. Lastly, support animals are a great and effective way to help reduce stress. Many people have a dog or cat or other furry friends that provide companionship and support. Having a pet can also encourage you to be more active or make friends within the community.

Overall, while stress is a natural part of being human, it’s important to try and minimize the risk of experiencing it long-term so you can lead a fulfilling and healthy life.