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Stress 101

A little stress can stimulate you to accomplish your goals. Too often, though, stress becomes overwhelming.

A stressed-out woman

What is stress?

Stress is a part of life. A little stress can be helpful, but too often stress is more harmful than beneficial. Since there are many physical and mental health problems associated with stress, learning to manage your stress is one of the most important things you can do to enhance and maintain optimal health.

Stress is the body’s response to danger. This response helped our early ancestors survive threats to their existence. To survive an encounter with a predator, our ancestors had to attack ("fight") or run away ("flight"). The stress reaction — the fight-or-flight response — activates the nervous system, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and stimulates the body into action. Once the danger is gone, the fight-or-flight response fades and the body returns to its preferred state of balance.

Benefits of managing stress

When you experience stress, your body's alarm system is activated. This fight-or-flight response stimulates many of your body's processes so that you are prepared to deal with danger. Keeping your body in a stimulated state, especially if stress continues for extended periods of time, contributes to physical, mental and social problems. By managing your stress, you will reduce your risk of many problems.

Ways to manage stress

Managing stress is best approached systematically. The five-step guide to stress management can help you structure the way you manage your stress. Use the stress management worksheet [PDF] to systematically plan your approach to stress management. (Refer to the stress management worksheet example [PDF] to see how this tool can be used.)

Adopting a healthy lifestyle enhances your health and reduces your vulnerability to stress. It also makes you better able to manage stress when it arises. After all, good health is arguably your greatest resource, and the more resources you have, the better able you are to manage stress. Consider the following:

Where can I get help managing my stress?

If you are trying hard to reduce your stress and it is not working, consider meeting with a counselor or other mental health professional. Here at Concordia, you can you can meet with a counsellor at Counselling and Psychological Services. You can also meet with a Health Promotion Specialist at Health Services or discuss your concerns with a nurse who can help you identify resources at Concordia or in the community. The mental health support services page lists additional mental health resources at Concordia and in the community.





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