Where Stress Comes From

Basic Information, Facts.

Usually stress has a negative stigma attached to it. Often when the topic comes up, people think of coffee, poor sleep, overwhelm, too much to do, and even pulling out our hair. Too much stress for too long can even lead to physical, mental, and emotional illness.


The American Institute of Stress explains that “The term “stress”, as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as ‘the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change’.”


In a simpler way, the National Institute of Mental Health states that stress is the brain and body’s response to any demand. Stressors come in many forms, from many sources. Sources can be from continual demands of our time and resources, short term circumstances, or one time experiences. Though it is a universal response, each person experiences stress differently.


Stress can affect us both physically and psychologically. Physically stress may present as headaches, shortness of breath, muscle tension, digestive issues, back pain. If left unchecked, chronic stress can result in heart disease, compromised immunity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even death. 


Psychologically it can show up as overwhelm, irritability, frustration, anger, depression, anxiety. It can also lead to conditions such as addiction, stress-eating, inability to sleep, and even mental health challenges.


Referring to Selye’s definition, stress is a ‘non-specific response’. This means that it is neither negative nor positive. Stress can actually be very beneficial to us. The National Institute of Mental Health explains, “In a dangerous situation, stress signals the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival and in response to stress.” 


When we are not in danger, stress can still be helpful to us. It can motivate us to meet deadlines, give us new perspectives, and empower us to reach greater heights than we thought possible. The difference in how stress affects us depends on our reaction to the body's response to a demand for change. 


Throughout this course you will learn when stress is harmful and when it can actually be beneficial. We'll also discuss how stress shows up in our lives and how it presents for us, both physically and psychologogically. Finally we'll explore ways to manage our stress before it turns into burnout. There will be videos and activities along the way to help you cement what you're learning from the text. Introspective questions are included to guide your self-reflection and personalize the lessons.

Lee's Story

Brenda’s Insight

Ava’s Experience

Reflection Questions:

What are the top 3 sources of stress in your life?

How do these stressors affect you psychologically?

Where do they show up in your body?

When is Stress a problem?

How is stress beneficial for you?

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