What is Stress? Definition, Causes, Eustress Vs. Distress, and Ways To Manage

What is Stress?

Stress is a general term applied to various psychologic (mental) and physiologic (bodily) pressures experienced or felt by people throughout their lives. It can be also described as a state of psychological and physiological imbalance happening from the variation between situational requests and the individual’s experience and motivation to meet those requests.

It is also defined as the rate of all wear and tear caused by life. In medical or biological context stress is a mental, physical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.

Eustress Vs. Distress

Stress affects everyone in different ways, there are two major types of stress. Stress that can be beneficial and motivating is called good stress or eustress and stress that can causes anxiety and even health problem is called bad stress or distress. In small doses, stress has many advantages.

For example, stress can help you to meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, it can help you to accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory. It is also a valid warning system, producing a fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortical. This generates a variety of responses such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, there are numerous health benefits with a small portion of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to strengthen the immune system. For example, it can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection.

It can be positive or negative. Stress is good when the situation offers an opportunity to a person to gain something. It acts as a motivator for peak performance. It is negative when a person faces social, physical, organizational, and emotional problems.

Effects of eustress and distress:


  • Motivates
  • Focuses energy
  • Short term effect
  • Perceived as within our coping abilities
  • Feels exciting
  • Improves performance


  • Causes anxiety
  • Can be short-term or long-term
  • Perceived as outside of our coping abilities
  • Feels unpleasant
  • Decreases performance


Simply, stressors are the causes of stress. A stressor is a condition or event in the environment that challenges or threatens a person, often unpredictable events. Stress is an unavoidable part of modern living. Can come from a simple event as crossing a busy street.

Also can come from an exciting event such as college graduation. It is not always bad if a person is prepared. Virtually all stressors can be described as related to the environment (e.g. inadequate housing) or personal (e.g. health-related, sexual, or others).

There are various kinds of stressors like:

Cataclysmic events: Strong stressors that occur suddenly and typically affect many people simultaneously. For example, natural disasters, plane crash, earthquake, terrorist attacks, and so forth. A storm or system of winds that rotates about a center of low atmospheric pressure, advances at a speed of 20 to 30 miles an hour and often brings heavy rain.

Personal Stressors: These are the major life events such as a death of a partner or spouse, the loss of job, failure in business, and so forth are the example of the personal stressors.

Background Stressors: These are the more informal stressors like a long line at the bank, traffic jams, petrol lines, gas lines, and so forth. Other background stressors might be long-term chronic problems such as suffering from diabetes, dissatisfaction with the job, and so on.

Few Specific Causes of Stress

Professional stressors can also have a big impact. Examples of professional stressors (work stress) are:

  • Being unhappy in the job.
  • Having a heavy workload or too many responsibilities.
  • Working long hours.
  • Having poor management, unclear expectations of the work, or poor decision-making process.
  • Working under dangerous conditions.
  • Being insecure about the chance for advancement or risk of termination.
  • Having to give a speech in front of colleagues.
  • Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your organization is not supportive.

Life stressors can also have a big impact. Examples of causes of life stresses are.

  • The death of the loved one
  • Divorce
  • Breakup
  • Loss of a job
  • Increase in financial obligations
  • Getting married
  • Moving to a new home
  • Chronic illness or injury
  • Emotional problems (Depression, anxiety, anger, grief guilt, low self-esteem)
  • Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
  • A traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence you or a loved one.

Sometimes the stress arises from inside rather than outside. You can stress yourself out just worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:

Fear and Uncertainty: When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks, global warming, and toxic chemical on the news, it can force you to feel stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events. In addition, even though disasters are very rare events, their intense coverage in the media may make them seem as if they are more likely to occur than they really are. Fear can also hit closer to home, such a being worried that you won’t finish a project at work, or won’t have enough money to pay your bills this month.

Attitudes and Perceptions: How you view the world or a particular situation can determine whether it causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the attitude, It is ok, my insurance company will pay for a new one, you will be far less stressed than if you think. My TV is gone and I will never get it back. What if the thief comes back to my house to steal again? Similarly, people who feel like they are doing a good job at work will be less stressed out by a big upcoming project than those who worry that they are incompetent.

Unrealistic Expectations: No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you are intended to feel stressed when things do not go as expected.

Change: Any major life change can be stressful, even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. A divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family, and so on can also be significant sources of stress.

Level of Stress: Your stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations. Some people let everything roll off their backs. To them, work stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally worry themselves sick.

Cost of Stress

As per Keeffe (2016), and others the following are the few points regarding the effects of stress.

  • Stress makes it difficult to control emotions
  • It can promote disease
  • It can decay the teeth and gums
  • It can ruin the heart
  • It can make you gain weight
  • It can make you look older
  • It can lead to long-term disability
  • Disbalance time management
  • Anxious interactions and relationships
  • Lack of focus

Ways To Manage Stress Effectively

Managing stress can be tough if you do not do it correctly. Out there are various tips and techniques to reduce stress. Some easy and useful ways to manage stress are:

  • Identify Your Causes of Stress
  • Try To Develop Healthy Responses
  • Establish Boundaries
  • Take Time To Recharge
  • Learn How To Relax
  • Talk To Your Seniors
  • Get Some Support

Results can be really beneficial if you properly apply above mentions ways to manage stress. Learn here how to apply properly.

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