What is Stress? How to use to your advantage.

Live Well Diary Team

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What is stress - woman
In its varied forms, stress is an intrinsic part of our daily existence. Ironically, although a certain degree of stress can motivate us to accomplish our objectives and confront challenges directly, it can significantly damage our well-being if left uncontrolled. It is essential to recognise the two sides of stress.

The impact of unaddressed stress extends beyond mere psychological discomfort. It has a lot of effects, such as influencing our connections with others, our career endeavours and our sense of satisfaction. Recognising the signs of stress and adopting effective coping mechanisms are essential for cultivating resilience and safeguarding our mental and physical equilibrium.

What Is Stress?

The word “stress” defined by Oxford Learners Dictionaries – “pressure or worry caused by problems in somebody’s life or by having too much to do.”[1]

Stress manifests as a response to perceived threats or challenges, constituting the body’s innate mechanism for safeguarding against potential harm and providing the necessary energy for confrontation or escape. This adaptive reaction is not confined to workplace pressures; it extends to various life domains stemming from issues within familial or social circles, financial uncertainties, and other external factors beyond individual control.

The diverse nature of stress is evident in its ability to manifest as either a positive force or a negative influence. This distinction spans many aspects, including short- and long-term periods, and influences our physiological and psychological states.

Stress can originate from work pressures, personal relationships, financial limitations or unexpected situations. Its ranging effects highlight how it can impact our well-being.

What Exactly Causes Stress?

Many items and reasons can cause stress. It can be from work, family, friends, relationships or money issues. Stress can even come from your health.

The body has a stress response system. This system alerts your brain when something is wrong. This helps you stay safe if you’re in danger or need to respond quickly to a threat (like being attacked).

Physical stressors

Includes illness, injury, and overworking your muscles and other body parts, including overexertion and lack of sleep.

Mental stressors

Includes pressure to perform at work or school and financial problems.

Relationship stressors

  • Conflicts with family members or partners;
  • Problems with children or pets;

Emotional stressors

  • Include the loss of a loved one (as mentioned above);
  • Being bullied or harassed at school or work;
  • Sometimes, there’s this sense of not measuring up in aspects of life such as academics, physical appearance or how we perform tasks.

Good Stress vs Bad Stress

Good stress challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone and grow. It helps you learn, grow and develop new skills and abilities. It’s the energy and motivation that pushes you to accomplish big goals. You feel excited and energised when you’re in this state because you can achieve something great.

A positive feeling of anticipation helps us do our best work under pressure—which means less time spent procrastinating (which is also stressful).

Good stress enhances our state of mind by reminding us of our competence in attaining success.

Bad stress refers to situations that place a burden on individuals, making it difficult for them to handle and often resulting in feelings of anxiety and depression. Stress isn’t necessarily harmful. But, ongoing chronic stress can have consequences on health, potentially leading to conditions like anxiety disorders and depression.

How to Reduce Stress

  • Meditation is one way to reduce stress. The objective is to concentrate on your breath and empty your mind of any thoughts. You can use guided meditation apps (like Headspace) or audio tracks that play specific meditations for you as you go through the motions.
  • Regular exercise can be beneficial in managing stress. Exercising triggers endorphins, commonly known as the “feel good” hormones. Endorphins contribute to our mood. It helps to better cope with life’s challenges than those who don’t exercise. Additionally, some research suggests that maintaining a consistent exercise routine may even help prevent illnesses from occurring altogether.
  • Not particularly fond of exercise? There are other ways to reduce stress that can bring joy and happiness. For example, spend time playing with a pet. Enjoy quality moments with close friends.
  • Mindful breathing techniques create a sense of calm and ease stress. Concentrating on the breath can soothe your nervous system.
  • Engage in writing where thoughts and emotions flow freely as you put pen to paper. Journaling provides self-reflection and emotional release.
  • Look into Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Tense and then release muscle groups in your body in a systematic manner. This method aids in relieving tension and fostering a feeling of tranquillity.
  • Engage in activities like sketching, watercolour painting, or DIY projects. Art can be an outlet, allowing individuals to channel their emotions and alleviate stress.
  • Make sure to dedicate time to loved ones – friends, family or people who support you. Human connections can offer solace, motivation and a feeling of fitting in.
  • Learn strategies for organising and prioritising tasks to improve time management skills. Dividing the tasks further can help alleviate the sense of being overwhelmed.
  • Indulge in the serenity of nature by spending moments. Take some time to go for a stroll or power walk. Tend to the garden. Soak up the beauty of nature. Being in nature can have a soothing impact on our minds and offer a refreshing perspective.
  • Look for things to do or watch those that genuinely make you laugh. Studies have indicated that laughter has an impact on reducing stress and promoting positive mood.
  • Infuse mindfulness into routine tasks such as eating, walking, or washing dishes. Focusing on the moment can help us feel more peaceful and focused.
  • Utilise calming scents like lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus through essential oils, candles, or diffusers. Certain scents have been associated with reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
what is stress


Remember: stress is not all bad!

Stress can also play a role in one’s professional life. It doesn’t have to impact one’s routines and activities. By incorporating some of the techniques mentioned earlier and devising a strategy to manage stress proactively, you can transform stress into a tool that works in your favour rather than allowing it to drag you down.

Watch a Video Summary


[1] stress_1 noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com (no date). Available at: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/stress_1?q=stress.

Images Used

Photo by Keenan Constance: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-sitting-on-wooden-planks-2865901/

Photo by energepic.com: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-sitting-in-front-of-macbook-313690/



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