Stress is a term commonly used to describe events in our lives that cause physical and emotional discomfort.

Typically, we categorize stress as a negative experience. However, some life stressors can be positive. Regardless of whether stress is positive or negative, it affects our bodies in the same way.

Positive stress, though, usually has a long-term benefit.

Most stress is acute and results from daily life hassles. In most cases, we have enough social and emotional support to deal with the stress. Even during a major crisis, we may find ourselves seeking support and feeling like we can work through the event or problem. When we experience chronic stress, though, it becomes more difficult to handle. This is because our nervous system never fully recovers between stressors and is in a state of alert.

he state of alert can be thought of as our body working to survive. The survival mechanism of our body is often referred to as "fight-flight-freeze" mode. This doesn't mean that we feel like we need to fight or flee when experiencing a stressor, but it means that our body is responding the same way to the stressor.

In other words, our body is going into survival mode. When we are in survival mode all the time, undesired effects can happen. If we are experiencing stress, there are several activities to counteract the stress. The activities include engaging in self-care and use of coping skills.

Positive stressors

Some examples of positive stressors include a new relationship, getting married, purchasing a home, graduation or getting a new job.

Negative stressors

Relationship problems, losing a job, moving, paying bills, sibling problems, dealing with illness or the death of a friend or family member.

Undesired effects of stress

Undesired effects include difficulty thinking, poor sleep, high blood pressure, heart disease or dementia.

Self-care

Self-care is a term that refers to taking care of ourselves before stress or problems begin to occur.

Think of self-care like maintenance on your car. Like vehicles, our bodies can function for a long time before they begin to exhibit problems. Once we begin to exhibit symptoms of a problem, like high blood pressure, then it usually means we are not taking care of ourselves. Once problems occur, then it's usually too late to prevent the problem. However, we can prevent other problems, like heart disease or dementia.

References: Griffiths B.B., Hunter R.G. Neuroepigenetics of stress; McEwen B.S. Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress. McEwen B.S., Morrison J.H. The Brain on Stress: Vulnerability and Plasticity of the Prefrontal Cortex over the Life Course.

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