Stress is something that we talk quite a lot about but actually is very subjective and difficult to define. In many ways, stress has become synonymous with distress, but if we look at the original definition, it came from someone by the name of Hans Sealy in 1936 who was one of the original stress researchers and he defined stress as "the changes that occur in the body in response to any type of new or different situation that arises in our environments." We often think of stress as a bad thing, but in many ways we actually need stress. A certain amount of stress allows us to be productive, allows us to be motivated. However, when stress exceeds a certain point and interferes with our ability to function, then it becomes difficult and we need to address how we're managing our stress. The other thing that's important to consider is that positive life changes can also be stressful. Sometimes we think of things like getting married or getting a new job or moving as exciting, and we don't realize that even though they are positive changes, because there are different and new, they actually can create stress for us. So how do we know when we are stressed? Actually, stress looks very different for every individual. We can divide the experience of stress into emotional and physical. When we feel stressed emotionally, we often feel worried. We feel anxious, we might have racing thoughts, we could have difficulty falling asleep, but we also can have physical symptoms. For example, people can develop a racing heart, they can feel short of breath, they can develop stomach upset, and even get sick more often than usual.
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