Mental Health

Stress Project: What is stress?

“The experience of a perceived threat (real or imagined) to one’s mental, physical, or spiritual well-being, resulting from a series of physiological responses and adaptions.” (Seaward, 2012)

Stress, as it is now, was coined by Hans Selye. He defined it as the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change. However, there are many different ways to view stress so it is hard to define it.Some see it as a way of responding to a demand or threat; the body’s way of protecting itself. Some people see it as a motivator, although sometimes, it is unpleasant. There are five kinds of stress: eustress, neustress, distress, acute stress, and chronic stress.

Eustress “Good stress; any stressor that motivates an individual toward an optimal performance or health.”
Neustress “Any kind of information or sensory stimulus that is perceived as unimportant or inconsequential.”
Distress “The unfavourable or negative interpretation of an event (real or imagined) to be threatening that promotes continued feelings of fear or anger; more commonly known simply as stress.”
Acute Stress “Stress that is intense in nature but short in duration.”
Chronic Stress “Stress that is not as intense as acute stress but that lingers for a prolonged period of time (e.g., financial problems).” (Seaward, 2012)

Symptoms of Stress

Stress affects everyone differently. Below is a chart of some of the possible cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioural symptoms of stress that one might experience when stress becomes overwhelming.

Cognitive Emotional
·         Memory problems

·         Concentration problems

·         Poor judgement

·         Negative thinking

·         Anxiousness

·         Racing thoughts

·         Constant worrying

·         Moodiness

·         Irritability

·         Restlessness

·         Feeling overwhelmed

·         Loneliness/isolation

·         Depression/unhappiness

Physical Behavioural
·         Aches/pains

·         Diarrhea or constipation

·         Nausea/dizziness

·         Rapid heartbeat

·         Loss of sex drive

·         Frequent colds

·         Eating more or less

·         Sleeping more or less

·         Isolating oneself from others

·         Procrastinating

·         Neglecting responsibilities

·         Alcohol/drug use to relax

·         Nervous habits

Causes of Stress

There are many things that cause stress. These are called stressors. Stressors include: education, work, family, relationships, health, mental health, finance and other daily life hassles.

“Something with the potential to cause a stress reaction.” (Greenberg, 2013)
Daily life hassles
“Occasional hassles, like locking your keys in your car, when combined with many other annoyances in the course of a day, create a critical mass of stress.” (Seaward, 2012)

Stress can also be self-generated and internal. These can include: excessive worrying, pessimism, negative self-talk, high expectations, perfectionism, rigid thinking and all-or-nothing thinking.

Most of the time, the causes and stress levels depends on the person. What’s stressful to one person may not faze someone else as much, or not even at all. For example, leaving school work until the last minute may stress someone out to the point where they’re too overwhelmed, but someone else might find that they perform best under pressure.

Here are some other examples of stressors:

Education Tight deadlines, exams, pressure to do well
Work Long hours, too many tasks, boss, co-workers
Family Kids, marriage problems, sibling rivalries, being a caregiver
Relationships Fights, commitment, trust issues, taking next steps
Health Health issues, sickness, doctor appointments
Mental health Bad day, lack of motivation/energy to get tasks done, fatigue
Finances Debt, bills, low income
Other life hassles Car trouble, flood inside house, lose wallet, computer breaks down, late bus


American Institute of Stress. (n.d.). What is Stress? Retrieved from

Greenberg, J. (2013). Comprehensive Stress Management (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Seaward, B. (2012). Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being (7th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Smith M., Segal, J., Segal, R., & Robinson L. (2016). Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes. Retrieved from



Jessica Victoria
<p>Jessica Victoria, 24, is a writer and advocate for mental health, disability and LGBTQ+. She uses her personal experiences and knowledge to help and educate others.</p>

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