What is Stress Really?

April is Stress Awareness Month… It’s also a month to be aware of Head and Neck Cancer, Parkinson’s, Autism, Child Abuse Prevention, Testicular Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Organ Donation, and Cancer Control.  That was just a list of the most popular causes!  (Although, I have no idea why these causes are more “popular” than the others.)  If you really want to raise your awareness levels, check out the complete list here.   Just reading the list feels a bit stressful!While the word stress is thrown around a lot in conversations, our thoughts, and our facebook  posts, most people can’t give a simple clear definition of what stress really is.  It’s well, you know… STRESS!  It’s used it as a noun: John is grumpy, the stress is too much.  Or a verb:  Stop acting like a buffoon, you are stressing me out!From the massage therapists point of view this is how stress is defined:The body’s non-specific response to any demand made upon it.  (Selye, 1974) Stress is not a disease but can contribute to ill health.1We are working with the body, the bodies desire to maintain homeostasis, and what happens when the body can’t do it.  Originally, there was a distinction between stress and distress.  Today, in our common language there is no distinction.  The stress may be mental, emotional, or physical but the body works to maintain a balance against the stress.  Our bodies work on EVERY level to maintain balance, so the reach of stress is broad!“Stress is considered a combination of stressors and a person’s stress reactivity.” 2   I love that this doesn’t just limit stress to one aspect on our lives.   Stress really is a combination of the internal and external.This month I will focus the blog on stress.  How it affects our body.  What we can do to identify, control or limit stress.1 Ludwig, Rattray; Clinical Massage Therapy; p 1572 Ludwig, Rattray; Clinical Massage Therapy; p 158