What is Stress?

What exactly is stress? Stress is a reaction to a given situation. It?s the response to a challenge or the body?s way of preparing for a difficult situation with alertness and focus. The events that result to the situation of stress are called ?stressors?. These cover an array of situations ? from appearing for an examination to making a presentation on a topic you dislike to perilous physical hazards. 


Our body?s response to stressors is releasing certain hormones and alerting our nervous system. The hypothalamus (located in the brain) directs the adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are infused in the bloodstream which increases our heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure. The body?s metabolism rate is maximized and the blood vessels dilate and more blood is allowed to flow in the blood vessels. Pupils dilate to increase our line of sight. The reservoir of glucose stored in the liver is released and with the increase of blood sugar levels, the body is poised to face the stressor. All these activities within the body are instanteously performed and we are better prepared to handle the situation. This is the natural response of the body.


This body?s response may be to either fight or flight. It is a spontaneous reaction to a given situation where the person instantly decides whether he is going face the situation or runaway from it. In the event of an accident, the driver instantly slams the brakes or looses control altogether. A player decides in the spur of the moment to take a foul shot. These are examples of stress response. It may be of a milder form like the child who gets butterflies in his stomach before performing at the talent contest. Stress can be good as they can keep you at the edge of your seat and make you prepared for exigencies.