Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body's response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory. Through hormonal signaling, the perception of danger sets off an automatic response system, known as the fight-or-flight response, that prepares all animals to meet a challenge or flee from it. A stressful event —whether an external phenomenon like the sudden appearance of a snake on your path or an internal event like fear of losing your job when the boss yells at you—triggers a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, that surge through the body, speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, focusing attention, preparing muscles for action, and more. It generally takes some time for the body to calm down after the stress response has been triggered.

Lifesaving as the stress response is, it was meant to solve short-term, life-threatening problems, not extended difficulties such as daily traffic jams or marital problems. Prolonged or repeated arousal of the stress response, a characteristic of modern life, can have harmful physical and psychological effects, including heart disease and depression.

Over the last few decades, a rising tide of studies has demonstrated the value of regularly engaging in activities that blunt the stress response, from meditation to yoga to strenuous physical activity. Since the stress response begins in the brain with the perception of stress, researchers are now looking into what may be a most basic, and effective, way to defuse stress—by changing perception of certain types of situations so that they are not seen as stressful in the first place. Studies show that helping people see certain experiences—such as final exams—as demanding rather than dire, protects them from the negative effects of stress while delivering its positive effects, especially focused attention and speedier information processing. Changing the stress mindset not only minimizes the effects of stress, studies show, it enhances performance and productivity.

Recent posts on Stress

So Long Friend

When you lose someone unexpectedly.
CC0 Creative Commons; Free for commercial use; No attribution required

It Depends

By Tim Carey Ph.D. on November 22, 2017 in In Control
We always make decisions relative to other decisions we could have made or different goals we could have achieved.
Shutterstock

Six Tips for Handling Survivor Guilt

By Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D. on November 22, 2017 in How to Be Yourself
Is survivor guilt weighing you down? Learn the causes of it and what you can do to free yourself of the guilt.

Trump’s Age of Anxiety: Worries Pile Up, Health Will Go Down

By Daniel P. Keating Ph.D. on November 21, 2017 in Stressful Lives
If you're feeling especially stressed lately, you aren't alone. National surveys show an unprecedented rise in anxiety. Health consequences are likely but there are options.

How to Put a Stop to Catastrophic Thinking

By Toni Bernhard J.D. on November 21, 2017 in Turning Straw Into Gold
Catastrophizing is also called “magnifying.” This is a good way to think of it because it emphasizes how often we magnify unpleasant experiences way out of proportion.

Navigating the Holidays

Holiday gatherings are a mixture of joy and stress. People planning can reduce stress and increase joy.
DeanDrobot/iStock

Will I Be Good Enough for the Holidays?

Eight tips for dealing with criticism from narcissistic families.

What Makes Someone Incredibly Successful?

By Peter Bregman on November 20, 2017 in How We Work
Discover the five essential qualities of an Extremer, how to tell if you’ve found the career you’re best suited for, and a practice to overcome your fear of failure.

‘Tis the Season… for Emotion Regulation

Find yourself falling into familiar traps during holiday togetherness? You can keep your cool and sidestep problems with these tips.
fotolia, used with permission

When This Moment Is Enough

By Allison Carmen on November 20, 2017 in The Gift of Maybe
When you allow this moment to be enough, it doesn’t mean you stop working on what you want your life to be, it just means you are opening your heart to a more joyful life right now

Don't Let Anxiety Ruin Your Day

By Barbara Markway Ph.D. on November 19, 2017 in Shyness Is Nice
Do you feel anxious before you even get out of bed? A few simple strategies can help you cope.

Reducing Host-Guest Tensions: How to Be a Good Houseguest

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on November 17, 2017 in Presence of Mind
These houseguest guidelines will increase the odds of a visit unmarked by host-guest tensions.

What Is Mindful Eating?

By Susan Albers Psy.D. on November 17, 2017 in Comfort Cravings
What is mindful eating? How do I get started? This article lists some of the benefits and easy strategies for learning how to eat more mindfully today.

Five Ways to Remain Calm This Holiday Season

By Azadeh Aalai Ph.D. on November 17, 2017 in The First Impression
Is it possible to get the joy out of the holiday season without the added stress and anxiety?
image courtesy of Pixabay

How to Flip the Switch on Stress

Is stress wearing you down? Here is a simple practice that might make a difference.

Do You Know About The "Missed Approach" Procedure?

By Tom Bunn L.C.S.W. on November 15, 2017 in Conquer Fear Of Flying
It's a standard procedure, but since it isn't used often, if you don't know about it, it could really frighten you.

Managing Diabetes in Festive Times

Are you worried about managing your Type 2 diabetes as the holidays approach? Are you anxious about going to social gatherings? Talking about your concerns and planning can help.
'Wikimedia Commons' (cc by 2.0)

Refugee Children Need Our Help

Refugees, including many children, from war-ravaged areas continue to flee. Psychologists can document, call attention to, and address to their trauma.

The Problem with Anger

How can we use anger to strengthen communication and enhance our relationships?

Why Do We Have an Empathy Deficit?

Have you been feeling an empathy deficit? If so, here's how to deal with it.

Living With Chronic Pain

By Ana Nogales, Ph.D. on November 13, 2017 in Family Secrets
The more you fight with your pain, the more pain you will have.

Five Mistakes We Make When Complaining

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on November 13, 2017 in The Squeaky Wheel
If you want to get results when you voice a complaint to a partner, friend or customer service, you need to avoid these five mistakes...

The Workplace Bully and The Office Sociopath

Individuals who are competent, successful, cooperative and unlikely to confront the bully, or take action when bullied, are particularly susceptible to workplace bullying.

Are Racial Microaggressions on College Campuses Harmful?

A new study of college students finds that psychological harm due to racial microaggressions are real and not explained by the personality trait called neuroticism.

Can Bad Emotions Be Good for You?

By Marcia Reynolds Psy.D. on November 12, 2017 in Wander Woman
Nonpositive emotions can motivate productive behavior. Learn how you can use them to channel your energy in positive directions.

Millennial Distress: Why More? Why Now?

By Russ Federman Ph.D., A.B.P.P. on November 12, 2017 in Bipolar You
A discussion of current socioeconomic and social media influences upon the emotional and psychological distress of today's millennial generation.

Bekindr Kindness Study Shows We Put Ourselves Last in Line

By Eva Ritvo M.D. on November 11, 2017 in On Vitality
This general kindness quiz that was completed by more than 1,300 people. I would like to share with you the highlights of this study, along with a few surprises.

Why Does My Child Hate Math?

By Stuart Shanker Ph.D. on November 09, 2017 in Self-Reg
How can we help a child with a kindled math alarm? How can we prevent this from happening in the first place?

Enhancing Mental Health For Veterans Through Technology

Artificial Intelligence will enhance mental health support for veterans through the first-ever meditation voice app launching this week in partnership with National Geographic.

Preventing Trouble With Houseguests

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on November 08, 2017 in Presence of Mind
Houseguests can be a dream but they can also be experienced as territorial invaders that create stress and strain, especially if we aren't clear about visit boundaries.