What is Stress?
Stress is a natural, physiological response that involves a complex interaction between our mind, body, and environment. Stress is not inherently bad. In fact, we need a certain, optimal level of stress in order to remain alert and perform well.
Ideally, stress prepares us to take action by activating our sympathetic nervous system and improving mental focus. If we are too relaxed (i.e., not stressed enough), then we’re likely to be less motivated and less primed for physical action, thus inhibiting our ability to respond well to a situation. If we are under too much stress, we also suffer as our body stiffens and we lose our mental edge.
When Stress is a Problem?
The problem occurs when we experience too much stress. We overtax the natural resources of our body both physically and mentally. Chronic, high levels of stress have been associated with many serious physical and psychological difficulties, including insomnia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, depression, and anxiety disorders.
In a recent survey (American Psychological Association 2007), nearly half of all Americans believe that their level of stress has increased over the past five years. In fact, nearly one-in-three Americans report experiencing extreme levels of stress, which negatively impact health and well-being, work, and relationships.