Stress is a type of anxiety and it is the way that we respond to a challenge. Stress involves a reaction from both our mind and body and in appropriate measure stress is an adaptive, helpful and necessary way of dealing with demands. Stress motivates us to deal with tasks; once our brain identifies a challenge or demand it releases adrenaline into our system. This impacts on our mind by speeding up our thoughts patterns to improve our response times and the efficiency with which we can deal with the cognitive aspects of the demand. The adrenaline affects our body by increasing our breathing and heart rate so that additional oxygen can be delivered to our muscles preparing us for the physicality of the demand. Without stress we would have neither the intellectual nor the physical capacity to deal with the challenges that life throws at us, in short we would not survive.
Stress therefore has been designed by evolution to ensure the survival of the human race. However, for it to be effective the amount of stress that we experience must remain within certain limits, limits which are dictated by our cognitive, physical and social resources; stress is only helpful as long as it occurs at a level that we can handle. Once the balance between stress and our resources tips in the wrong direction stress becomes a problem. Over an extended period of time high levels of stress can lead to both physical and psychological distress and exhaustion, resulting in problems like panic attacks, generalised anxiety, depression, eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, eating disorders not otherwise specified). Left untreated, high levels of stress have debilitating consequences, yet treatment, if sought early on, can be relatively brief and can yield significant and long lasting changes.
The evidence suggests that currently the most effective type of treatment for stress is a counselling therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps and individual to increase their capacity for dealing with stress whilst also helping them to identify and resolve the underlying causes of the additional stress.
If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our page about Stress useful.