Stress – what is it and how does it affect our body and mind?

Stress – a well-known word that is used by us all – but what is it really? And how does it affect our body and mind? In this text, I will go deeper into this subject, finding the truth about stress and the methods for how to avoid it or at least how to manage it.


So, what is stress? According to the English oxford dictionary, stress is explained as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. The biological explanation of stress is physiological disturbance or damage caused to an organism by adverse circumstances. Stress is something that most of us face every single day, some more or less, and it mean different things to different people. It does not only affect our body, but also our mind.

We divide stress into three different categories; acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress is the most common form of stress and happens when we face a threat or a challenge from our surroundings. An instinctive survivalism in our body starts to work, a so-called “fight-or-flight” mechanism, to face the challenge we are facing. The reaction sets fire to the sympatric nerve system which releases the stress hormone adrenalin. This hormone activates the body by making sure the glucose is being released for the muscles to prepare them for the coming muscle-activity, so that the pulse, blood pressure and breath is being intensified. We have to be well prepared both physically and mentally until the danger is over or prevented. And after that has happened, our body turns back to normal. We can then feel exhausted and tired, and then might need a couple of days to recover. This is a healthy process, and can either be a positive or a negative form of stress depending of the cause of the stress.

Some of the physical symptoms of acute stress are faster breathing, rise of blood pressure and pulse rate, and the muscles become tense. We can also experience jaw pain, backaches and headaches. We can experience mental and emotional symptoms such as anger, anxiety, irritability and acute periods of depression.


Episodic acute stress is when you suffer acute stress frequently and seem everlasting in the clutches of acute stress. The difference between this type of stress compared to the others is that it takes an end from time to time, but not as frequently as acute stress does and not so rare as chronic stress does. Episodic stress is typically observed in people with “Type A” personality, which involves being overly competitive, aggressive, demanding and sometimes tense and unfriendly.

The physical symptoms of episodic acute stress are aggression, anxiety, impatience and high blood pressure. We can also experience mental and emotional symptoms such as ceaseless worrying, anxiety disorders, depression and emotional distress.


Chronic stress is the worst type of stress and the complete opposite of acute stress. It can destroy bodies, minds and possible lives. Chronic stress occurs when the acute stress won´t end and when your body are being exposed for this type of stress over a long amount of time without being able to return back to normal. This type of stress is brought about by long-term exposure to stressors, such as unhappy marriage, traumatic experiences, unwanted career or job, stress of poverty, chronic illnesses, relationship conflicts, political problems, and dysfunctional families. These stressful situations seem to be unending, and the accumulated stress that results from exposure to them can be life-threatening, and can even lead a person to resort to violence, suicide and self-harm. Serious illnesses like stroke, heart attack, cancer, and psychological problems such as clinical depression and post-traumatic disorder can originate from chronic stress.

There are a lot of symptoms of chronic stress and among them are physical symptoms as headache, dizziness, stomach-pain, tiredness, hyperventilation, restlessness, dry mouth and tightening of muscles. The mental and emotional symptoms that are often shown are anxiety, depression, anger, problems with remembering and staying focused, insomnia,


So, now I have told about what stress is and how it affects our body and mind, but how do you avoid stress and how do you handle it? I will now tell you about different techniques for how to handle stress and become calmer.

Stress is very hard to avoid, but there are a lot of things you can do to try to prevent and manage stress. Among them are enterprises such as writing down what stresses you, getting enough sleep, making a list of priorities and a plan, disconnecting to the internet for a while, working out, being with friends and family, and having a positive mind telling yourself that you are good enough and that you will succeed. As mentioned earlier, stress is not only bad for us. It helps us in different situations and prepares our bodies for what will happen. And after being stressed, these techniques I´ve mentioned are very helpful to use for our body and mind to calm down and for the pulse to sink. Staying stressed over a long amount of time is not good, so make sure you sit down for a while and breath when you feel overwhelmed.


We all handle stress in different ways, and some of us gets easier stressed than others. It´s therefor important to try to understand and get to know your own body and mind, so you know when you´ll get stressed and how you´ll react so you can handle it the best way as possible. There is a lot of situations and life-events that can cause stress, and you most often can´t control getting stressed or not, it´s just a way our bodies and minds are handling a situation the best way they can. You just have to accept it, and help your body and mind to calm down afterwards. So just take a deep breath and tell yourself that it´s all going to be just fine.



Sources: (Article last updated by Adam Felman on Tue 28 November 2017, retrieved 16.04.18)

Psykologi 1 (Aschehoug, written by Tonje Fossum Svendsen and Ole Schultz Larsen, published in 2016, retrieved 05.04.18) (Sarah Mae Sincero (Sep 10, 2012). Three Different Kinds of Stress. Retrieved Apr 18, 2018 from


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