Stress Overview

The Nature of Stress and Why it Occurs

Stress is a natural response to any kind of perceived threat or demand. It is a biological and psychological reaction to a situation or event that is perceived as challenging or difficult. When facing a stressful situation, our body releases the hormone cortisol, which engages the fight or flight response, allowing us to respond quickly and efficiently.

Stress can be triggered by a wide range of situations and conditions including work and family issues, financial difficulties, health problems, chronic illnesses, and traumatic events. It can occur in both short-term and long-term situations and can have a profound impact on our physical, emotional, and cognitive wellbeing.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Stress

Stress has a significant impact on physical and psychological health. The physical effects of stress can include headaches, muscle tension, heart palpitations, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances. In the long-term, chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health problems.

Stress can also affect psychological wellbeing, leading to anxiety, depression, irritability, and cognitive difficulties. Stress can impact our ability to perform simple tasks and make it difficult to focus and concentrate.

Coping with Stress

Learning to cope with stress is essential for maintaining physical and psychological wellbeing. There are several strategies that individuals can use to manage stress. These include:

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall wellbeing. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can help to reduce stress and anxiety. These practices focus on being present in the moment and can help to calm the mind and reduce stress levels.
  • Positive thinking: Positive thinking can help to reduce stress levels and promote a more positive outlook on life. This involves identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones.
  • Support: Talking to friends and family members or seeking support from a professional can help to manage stress and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

It is important to find coping strategies that work for individual needs and personalities. What works for one person may not work for another.

When to Seek Help

While stress is a common experience, it is important to seek medical help if it causes significant distress or interferes with daily life. Symptoms of chronic or severe stress may include fatigue, chronic pain, rapid heartbeat, and frequent headaches. If these symptoms persist or get worse over time, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A healthcare provider can help to identify the underlying causes of stress and develop an individualized treatment plan.


Stress is a natural response to challenging or intimidating situations. It can have significant physical and psychological effects, and it is important to manage stress effectively to maintain good health and wellbeing. Coping strategies such as exercise, mindfulness, and positive thinking can be effective in reducing stress levels, but it is important to seek professional help if symptoms persist or worsen over time.


1. What causes stress?

Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including work or school pressure, financial difficulties, personal relationships, health problems, and major life changes such as a move or a divorce.

2. How does stress affect the body and mind?

Stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and digestive problems. It can also affect mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of chronic health conditions.

3. What are some effective ways to manage stress?

There are many ways to manage stress, including exercise, relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, talking to a therapist or counselor, and making lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet. It’s important to find what works best for you and to make stress management a priority in your daily life.


1. Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of psychosomatic research, 11(2), 213-218. Retrieved from

2. McEwen, B. S., & Sapolsky, R. M. (1995). Stress and cognitive function. Current opinion in neurobiology, 5(2), 205-216. Retrieved from

3. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. Revised ed. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from