What is stress? Is it good or bad? How does stress work?

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. The sensation of stress occurs when we feel attacked. If our brain perceives we are going through a stressful event, inflammatory proteins and a hormone called cortisol are activated and released. These serve as biological messengers that tell the body “we are not strong enough to withstand this attack!” As a response, the body sends biochemical building blocks to the area affected by the attack with the goal of strengthening itself for future battles.

Let’s think about an easy activity such as training your biceps. If we work out hard, we essentially cause micro tears in the muscle tissue. This causes a stress response in our brain. The body then releases building blocks and consequently and we go into an anabolic state – muscle is built up so that it can withstand more stress in the future. If the amount of stress is to large or lasts too long, the body fails to adapt, and it deteriorates instead. This is called the exhaustion stage.

Today many refer to this stage as chronic stress. The body rebels and enters something called catabolic process or a state of persistent brake down. Rather than signalling for repair the body elevates inflammations reaching toxic levels. Chronic stress contributes to a myriad of health problems.

In conclusion, stress can be positive or negative. The effect of stress depends almost entirely on the dose. Over time humans tend to adapt to stress and increase their resistance. Going through the right amount of stress is key for your professional and personal growth and your ability to adapt.