Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. It's what gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you the vitality and zest to do all sorts of things, such as sport and presentations.
Stress becomes a problem - 'distress' - when there's too much or too little. A lack of stress means your body is understimulated, leaving you feeling bored and isolated. In an effort to find stimulation, many people do things that are harmful to themselves (such as taking drugs) or society (for instance, committing a crime).