Understanding Stress

Although we all talk about stress, most of us probably do not have a clear understanding of what stress is. Many people understand stress as something that happens to them - for example: a natural disaster, an injury, a job loss, or too much work. Others think that stress is what happens to our body in response to an event (e.g., heart pounding, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, or nail biting). However, while stress does involve events and our physical response to them, they are not the most important factors. It is our thoughts about difficult situations that are critical.

Stress is a normal part of life. In small quantities, stress is good; it can motivate us and help us become more productive. However, too much stress, or a strong response to stress, can be harmful. If we always respond in a negative way to stressful situations, our health and happiness may suffer. But, by understanding ourselves and our reactions to stressful situations, we can learn to handle the impacts of stress more effectively. Managing stress is not about learning how to avoid or escape the pressures and tubulance of life; it is about learning how to calmly weather the storms in life. To learn stress management is to learn about the mind-body connection and the degree to which we can manage our health in a positive way.