• Annette Hurn

Stress: Part 1 - What Exactly is Stress Anyway?

This is the first in a series of posts regarding stress - what it is, what it does in your body, and what you can do about it.

We all seem to know that stress is a part, too big a part usually, of our daily lives, but what exactly is it?

Stress is hard to define because it means different things to different people. Even Hans Selye, the man who first used the term 'stress' found it difficult to define. His original definition in 1936 was, “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change". However, in his latter years, when he was asked for a definition, his response was...“Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows."

Dr Archibald D. Hart, in his book "Adrenaline and Stress", 1991, (p. 4), defined stress as "a multifaceted response that includes changes in perception, emotions, behaviour, and physical functioning."

So for the sake of this post, I'd like to define stress as, something physical, environmental or emotional, that interferes or disturbs your normal state of physiological equilibrium, and in excessive amounts, produces symptoms of anxiety, overwhelm, and a feeling of being out of control. Again, not perfect but definitely descriptive of the people I encounter in my clinical practice who suffer from too much stress.

The truth is, that we need a certain amount of stress in order to live, and our bodies are equipped to handle it, but it's when our stress becomes excessive that we run into problems. And that's what I'll look at in the next post.

Until then, where would you say your stress levels are sitting? Have a look at your daily life and see if you can pinpoint the stressors affecting you, and if so, can you lose them completely, or at least do anything to lessen the impact on your health?

Until next time,

Enjoy your journey to health and wellness.


Hart A D, Adrenaline and Stress", 1991, (p. 4), Word Publishing, Dallas, U.S.

The American Institute of Stress, n.d., http://www.stress.org/what-is-stress/

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