Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. As Hans Selye (who coined the term as it is currently used) noted, “Without stress, there would be no life”. However, just as distress can cause disease, it seems plausible that there are good stresses that promote wellness. Stress is not always necessarily harmful. Winning a race or election can be just stressful as losing, or more so, but may trigger very different biological responses.
Increased stress results in increased productivity, up to a point. However, this level differs for each of us. It’s very much like the stress on a violin string. Not enough produces a dull, raspy sound. Too much tension makes a shrill, annoying noise, or snaps the string. However, just the right degree can create a magnificent tone. Similarly, we all need to find the proper level of stress that allows us to perform optimally and make melodious music as we go through life.
Some early work on stress established the existence of the well-known fight-or-flight response. Researches showed that when an animal experiences a shock or perceives a threat, it quickly releases hormones that help it to survive.
These hormones help us to run faster and fight harder. They increase heart rate and blood pressure, delivering more oxygen and blood sugar to power important muscles. They increase sweating in an effort to cool these muscles and help them stay efficient. They divert blood away from the skin to the core of our bodies, reducing blood loss if we are damaged. And as well as this, these hormones focus our attention on the threat, to the exclusion of everything else. All of this significantly improves our ability to survive life-threatening events. This is Stress.
Unfortunately, this mobilization of the body for survival also has negative consequences. In this state, we are excitable, anxious, jumpy, and irritable. This reduces our ability to work effectively with other people.
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it.
It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage it.
Many organizations are now giving out free stress balls to their employees. Stress balls have been proven to relieve stress! Find out more about stress balls.