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Definition Return to top
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension.
See also: Stress in childhood
Information Return to top
Emotional stress usually occurs when people consider situations difficult or unable to manage. Different people consider different situations as stressful.
Physical stress refers to a physical reaction of the body to various triggers. The pain experienced after surgery is an example of physical stress. Physical stress often leads to emotional stress, and emotional stress often occurs as physical discomfort (e.g., stomach cramps).
Stress management involves controlling and reducing the tension that occurs in stressful situations by making emotional and physical changes. The degree of stress and the desire to make the changes will determine how much change takes place.
Attitude: A person's attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful. A person with a negative attitude will often report more stress than would someone with a positive attitude.
Physical well-being: A poor diet puts the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system. As a result, the person can be more likely to get infections. A poor diet can mean unhealthy food choices, not eating enough, or not eating on a normal schedule. This can cause a person to not get enough nutrients.
This form of physical stress also decreases the ability to deal with emotional stress, because not getting the right nutrition may affect the way the brain processes information.
Physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity can put the body in a stressful state. Physical activity has many benefits. A regular physical activity program can help decrease depression, if it exists. It also improves the feeling of well-being.
Support systems: Most everyone needs someone in their life they can rely on when they are having a hard time. Having little or no support makes stressful situations even more difficult to deal with.
Relaxation: People with no outside interests, hobbies, or ways to relax may be unable to handle stressful situations because they have no outlet for their stress.
AN INDIVIDUAL STRESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
If these stress management techniques do not work for you, there are professionals, such as licensed social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who can help. Schedule time with one of these mental health professionals to help you learn stress management strategies, including relaxation techniques. Support groups of various types are also available through the community.Update Date: 2/6/2008 Updated by: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.