Stress does not have a precise scientific definition and the term is used very widely in various contexts. In general, however, stress refers to a situation where a person is faced with so many challenges and demands that the resources available for adaptation are tight or exceeded. Almost any change, positive or negative, can affect an individual stressfully. Thus, no stimulus is stress in itself, but the reaction depends on the individual's resistance and tolerance, and especially on perspectives and attitudes.
Short term stress
Stress is generally perceived as a negative phenomenon, but it has different effects depending on whether one is talking about short-term or long-term stress. From a physiological point of view, stress means an increased state of alertness in the body, whereby the sympathetic activity is prevalent. Stress is a normal reaction of the body that raises the level of alertness. The reaction is triggered when the stimulus does not match the images perceived as safe, thus enhancing sensory function.
In a short-term stress response, the body activates, the heart rate rises, and energy use is enhanced to be able to respond effectively to the situation. Short-term stress usually doesn’t cause problems, but on the contrary, it makes people do their best. Stress is useful, for example, when you need to get a job done by the deadline.
In a short-term stress response, the sympathetic nervous system is activated to defend the body. Activation of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal gland (HPA axis) secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream, triggering a “fight or flight” reaction that results in an increase in the body’s energy intake and physical performance. Its effects are seen, for example, in an increase in heart rate and respiratory rate. The secretion of pain-relieving endorphins also increases during the stress response. These changes help a person cope with short-term stress.
When the short-term stress situation is over, the body calms down and returns to homeostasis. Or so it should and does happen when stress is in balance. In other words, beneficial stress makes us function effectively when needed, but does not prevent recovery during sleep and relaxation. Stress is an asset.
Long term stress
With prolonged persistence, stress keeps alertness levels consistently high, impairing the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, which may prevent complete recovery. Constant rush, unhealthy lifestyles and excessive caring maintain a high state of alertness and prevent the body from calming down. If a night’s sleep, free time, and a weekend aren’t enough for recovery, then it can be a matter of prolonged stress.
Much of the stress symptoms are explained by so-called stress behavior. A stressed person uses alcohol more and more often, smokes, eats unhealthily, and engages in too little exercise and outdoor activities.
As a result of unhealthy lifestyles, fitness deteriorates, overweight increases, health fails, and stress management is impaired. Stress thus exposes stress behavior and stress behavior to stress.
There are two options for relieving stress. Either the situation should be resolved by relaxing or alternatively by moving. However, it is not advisable to accumulate stress on top of stress, ie if a person is already loaded, exercise should be dimensioned in terms of revitalizing, restoring and balancing the situation.