What counts as persistent stress


According to psychology, "stress can be understood as the organism's unspecific response to any kind of requirement" (Selye, 1956). In other words, stress is by definition a physical reaction that is supposed to make the organism extremely productive in the short term in demanding situations. For people in much earlier times, such a demanding situation meant "danger" in most cases. Then the following physical reactions set in:

  • Breathing speeds up.
  • The muscles tighten.
  • The heart beats faster
  • The cerebrum switches off.
  • The reactions become more instinctive and faster.

These mechanisms were enormously important and useful when humans were faced with saber-toothed tigers and other threats.

The body's response to stress is the same today as it was in the past. But the triggers have changed. If it used to be attacks, freak weather or hard work, it is now more time pressure, performance thinking, overstimulation and conflicts that make our system “ready to jump”.

The point at which someone feels stressed varies a lot. It is not possible to measure stress because there are no objective parameters for it. And the stress itself can also be different:

  • Positive stress (Eustress): It drives people to top performance and gives them a feeling of satisfaction.
  • Negative stress In the technical jargon is called distress and has exactly the opposite effect - it damages the head and body in the long run. People become tense due to negative stress and should try to relax every now and then. Stress always affects the metabolism because various neurotransmitters flood the body. A well-known stress hormone is adrenaline. But the amount of other hormones also increases with stress, for example cortisol. They increase the heartbeat, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and the oxygen supply to the brain and muscles. If this condition persists, it weakens the body in the long term and it becomes more susceptible to inflammatory diseases. In the long run, stress weakens the immune system. Continuous stress, which leads to symptoms of overuse, depression or headache, among other things, is what experts call (chronic) stress syndrome. Then you should definitely take measures against the stress.

Robert Lazarus, a sociologist, was the first to assume that stress does not arise from objective stimuli or situations, but from individual, subjective assessments on the part of the person concerned. Accordingly, he differentiates between three types of stress management:

  • Problem-oriented: The person concerned tries to collect information that enables him to take direct action or to refrain from certain actions. You will help him to overcome the problem situation.
  • Emotion Oriented (also intrapsychically): The person concerned tries to reduce the emotional arousal that has arisen in the respective situation.
  • Evaluation-oriented: The person concerned cognitively reassesses his relationship to his environment and can thus deal with it accordingly. The aim here is to see stress as a challenge and to evaluate it positively.