Business of Well-being

Understanding Stress for Better Stress Management

With such a great amount of stress encountered in our daily lives, it is no wonder that for almost the past 20 years we have had to dedicate the whole month of April as Stress Awareness Month; whereby healthcare professionals and educators pay extra attention to educating the public about the prevalence, causes, misconceptions, cures, and even the dangers of this ever so present and silent, modern-day epidemic we call stress.

Know what stress is however, is an essential part of stress management. What is stress? Well most people would say the definition is based on the individual asked; but stress can be defined as person's physical and emotional response to change, and it is also the body's reaction to the constant demands of everyday life. Each day we are exposed to stressors, which are events or conditions in one's surroundings which may trigger stress.

While most people think of stress as uncomfortable and harmful, it can actually be either positive or negative in nature. There are two main types of stress that one can be faced with, acute stress, also known as the fight-or-flight response, and chronic stress, which results from long term exposure to acute stress. The fight-or-flight response is the reaction that causes an increase in breathing, an increase in heart rate, and an increase in blood pressure. Acute stress is the body's immediate reaction to a threat or challenging situation.

This response is not only immediate, but also tends to be intense and sometimes even thrilling. Some examples of stressors that may cause an acute stress response include such things as a job interview, a minor fender bender or accident, or even an exhilarating snowboarding run. Although acute stress does exhibit a response, it does not drain the body's resources. On the other hand, chronic stress is the response that over time can cause serious illness and even death.

This response is more subtle, but the effects may last longer and can be more problematic for the individual. Chronic stress results from changes that are not addressed, which leaves the body in a state of heightened awareness or tension. Sooner or later the energy drain on the body will cause the body to fall behind in the repair and maintenance necessary for good health. Stressors that cause chronic stress for individuals are those situations in the everyday life that are constantly nagging, and often times seem unrelenting.

Some examples of chronic stress stressors include family and relationship issues, difficulties on the job, and financial problems. The effects of chronic stress can be very harmful and can be seen in conditions ranging from tension headaches to heart attacks; it can raise blood pressure, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. For these reasons, stress management is very important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of all illnesses and disease are stress related.

The physical reactions experienced when stressed are the body's built-in defense mechanism to help deal with threats. When the body is constantly exposed to stress, these mechanisms are activated; but instead of protection, when constantly activated, these mechanisms actually breakdown the immune system and increase the body's vulnerability to illness. Symptoms of stress often mimic symptoms of other problems and illnesses.

A person may feel that an illness is causing headaches, stomach pains, or even chest pain, but in reality these symptoms may be stress related. Because stress readily affects the physical, mental, emotional, and social self; once again, recognizing the symptoms can assist in managing it's effects. The ability to adapt to stress, adversity, and traumatic events is called resilience. In general, one's resilience is a very important component of coping with life's difficult challenges and helping to maintain a healthy state.

Although most people recognize that the possibility of encountering a stressful situation or event is part of everyday life; understanding the sources of stress, whether large or small, short-term or long-term, is the single most important step in learning to manage it, and to becoming more resilient. For stress management, the goal is not to completely eliminate stress, but to limit the harmful effects it can cause. So what actually is stress management and how does it work?

Stress management refers mostly to managing the psychological and sociological stressors that threaten our self-esteem. Some of these stressors can come from external factors, which are events, and situations that happen to us, or internal factors, which can be self-induced. Regardless of the source, recognizing that persistent exposure to stress can lead to many adverse health problems is the first step in stress management.

There are many ways in which stress can be managed and this is totally dependant on an individual's personal preference. Some strategies to managing stress include eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate exercise and rest, a good night's sleep, and having good social support systems. Although the main goal is to effectively deal with stress in healthful ways, one must not forget that there are other unhealthy ways in which people choose to manage their stress; and these ways are not always beneficial to the individual or their respective family and friends; and over time, can actually magnify the problem ten-fold.

Some of these unhealthy coping mechanisms may consist of smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol, illicit drug use, and sometimes even violence.Maintaining good mental, physical, and emotional health requires adequate rest, good nutrition, and effective stress management. This could also require a consultation from a licensed physician or therapist to help discuss ways to minimize stress and its negative impact.

No matter how one chooses, the payoff to managing stress can be peace of mind and maybe even a longer, healthier life. For more information on stress awareness and effective stress management you can read Stress management 101 by Don Colbert, M.D., The Little Book of Stress Relief by David Posen, M.D., or go online to

About the Author

Kescia D. Gray, RN, MS, PHN, CHES is constantly seeking new and exciting opportunities in order to cultivate total wellness and to promote high quality health. With 15+ years experience in the healthcare field, she is dedicated to health & wellness. Graduating Cum Laude, Kescia earned her Master's of Science degree in Health Services with an emphasis in Wellness Promotion from Independence University in Salt Lake City, Utah, and her Bachelor's of Science degree in Nursing at Lourdes College in Sylvania, Ohio.

She is also the owner and president of GrayKo Clinical Consultants, LLC., a health and wellness company dedicated to providing quality education programs, workshops, in-services, and seminars tailored to the individual or corporate client. Their detail-specific program plans can be customized to fit your needs in order to foster success at meeting your goals of better health, increased productivity, health safety, job satisfaction, and more.

Subject content related to the needs and concerns of your company may include, but is not limited to stress management, emotional wellness, diet, exercise, and personal development. To contact Kescia Gray, please call (866) 653-2570, or go to

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→