Stress Management: Part 1: Understanding Your Stress

Is Stress or Tension taking a toll on you?

Understanding your Stress:

worried womanStress management is understanding and learning how to notice, avoid, reduce or cope with tension/stress. The first step in stress reduction is to gain an understanding of your worries. We will do that by…

  • Defining Stress
  • Explaining the Fight/Fight response
  • Outline chronic unhealthy stress
  • Describe the mental and physical symptoms of stress
  • Unhealthy ways of dealing with tension
  • Understanding and identifying your personal stress triggers

What is Stress?

Stress is when our central nervous system is activated and put on alert. The code red reaction is triggered by a primitive instinct called the “Fight or Flight” response. This primal predisposition was designed to prepare our bodies and mind to fend for our survival. Thus, we are at a heightened state of arousal and alertness. This is why stress often feels like we are all wound up, nervous, anxious, flushed, uneasy, clenched, tense, on guard, defensive, edgy, and uptight.

Help me understand the Fight/Fight response?

The Fight/Fight response is the label given to a primitive instinct that is set off in our brain and travels down our central nervous system to gear us up mentally and physically to fend off a perceived danger.  It does not have to be a real danger, for example, if you are afraid of dogs…a puppy may set off this reaction. But your body goes through some distinct changes to prepare to battle or flee the unsafe situation.

Why is chronic or steady stress unhealthy?

supportive-talk-couples feetThe changes the mind and body go through to gear up to fend for survival is vital in a dangerous situation. It can help us to endure. But over time, the pressure put on your body to stay in a state of alert wears you down and becomes unhealthy.  Stress on your body is like riding the brakes on your car; your brake pads would wear out very quickly. The same can be said for our body. We were only meant to be in a state of high alert for short periods of time. The premise was we would use all the extra energy to fight or flee. Once this reaction would be released, we would go back to a normal state of being. Often in the modern world, we are not supposed to battle or take flight but instead work things out in a calm and respectful manner.  But this leaves our body and mind flooded with all the chemicals and energy produced to prepare for conflict. Inside, we are still a whirling tornado with no place to blow. This steady effect becomes wearing and unhealthy. The problem lies because we need to recognize this energy and find positive ways of expelling it so we stay healthy.

What are the mental and physical symptoms of stress?

Chronic stress manifests itself in a variety of symptoms depending on the person.  For a complete list of all the symptoms, go to and look up “A list of Unhealthy Chronic Stress Symptoms” which will be posted at the end of this series.  To gear our body up, our physique goes through numerous changes. For example, digestion slows so the blood can be used to power up, breathing speeds up to give our muscles more oxygen, our heart and blood pressure rises for fast movement, perspiration kicks in to help cool the body, muscles tense, sugars are released for vigor, and a variety of chemicals are distributed like adrenaline to make us stronger. But steady stress causes long-term effects. We can have stomach complications, heart problems, the keyed up feelings keep us from sleeping; we can become angry, irritable or over anxious. If you have too much long-term stress, it is time to implement stress management tools to counteract these unhealthy reactions. I will continue my posting of Stress Management throughout the weeks of May into June 2016 at . 


If you would like to learn more about this subject from other authors like 10 Steps to Mastering Stress by David H. Barlow, Ph.D., Ronald M. Rapee, Ph.D., Sarah Perini, MA  or The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood, MD and Mayo Clinic. If you’d like to read more by this author, you can go to and read Part 2: Stress Reducing Healthy Initiatives and Part 4: Concrete Tools for Stress Prevention.