What is Stress?

Breathing Techniques for Stress | What is stress? | Symptoms of Stress | Causes of Stress | Personal Stress Test

Stressed male silhouetteStress is the strain others or tasks put us under. It is defined here it as it exists for people. Then it is looked at it in a new way to understand it better. Next, why it happens and why it can be useful, within reasonable limits, is explained.

Definition of Stress

Stress is the strain exerted by your environment or other people. It leaves us feeling tense and or under pressure. Too much stress can leave us feeling uptight, leave our muscles feeling tense and in the long term even feeling overwhelmed. However, there is always going to be some stress in your life and this can be beneficial.

Metaphor Explaining Stress – A Different Way of Understanding it

If you have ever undertaken any therapy before you will know therapists like using metaphors. They give people another perspective, allowing them to understand something better. So, for our purposes stress can also be explained by the following little story.

Scientific Explanation of Stress

Stressed woman with her head in her handsWhen a physical object (like a wooden stick) is put under pressure at both ends, it is under stress. Science will be able to measure how resilient the stick is by measuring the amount of stress the stick can withstand before it breaks.

Now imagine the stick is a person. That person is being pressured by any number of things in their life. I hope you can understand through this story that people too can be subjected to psychological stress. When it becomes too much, it can cause any number of issues, some of which can be damaging.

Metaphor Explaining Why Stress Exists

picture or blurred man running on a beach as a stress responceIn the beginning, there was stress and our stress reaction was good. In ancient times it had a good reason for existing and in the right circumstances even today it is a good reaction to situations.

So back to our metaphors to explain it a bit more for you. Imagine you are a primitive cave person some 6 million years ago. You are foraging around looking for berries to eat in the jungle. In a split second seemingly from nowhere you hear a noise in the undergrowth and suddenly, you are stressed!

Your body goes into what is commonly known as the fff (fight, flight, freeze) stress response. The nervous system and brain are set on high alert ready to act quickly. Your heart rate and rate of breathing rises from a burst of adrenaline and other hormones. This in turn supplies more energy to our muscles so we are ready for immediate action if required.   

This was, in cave person days and still today in the right circumstances, a good survival response to an unknown noise in the undergrowth. After all, if it were a panther stalking you, you would want to be ready to fight it off, run like the wind or freeze in fear silently, hoping it does not see you.    


No Author (2019) Stress [online] available from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/ last accessed 10/06/2022

No Author (2022) What is stress? [online] available from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/what-is-stress/ last acessed 10/06/2022

Waller, D. Their Worlds Your Words: The Hypnotherapists Guide to Effective Scripts and Sessions . Ann Jaloba Publishing.


2 Responses

  1. I suffer from stress. It is effecting my work and home life badly at the moment. This post allowed me to understand more about it and I see you can help me. I will book in for an appointment. I look forward to talking to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *