Stressed Out

The science behind stress can reveal the best ways to combat its negative effects.


photo by Evelyn Wiethorn

Every day, students around the world experience stress as a result of their school work.

Evelyn Wiethorn, Staff Writer

It’s common to hear that people are overcome with stress, so much so that it’s almost considered normal. However, the impact of stress is much more dangerous than many people may believe.

Stress can be defined as the body’s response to a situation it perceives as dangerous, whether the threat is present or not. When the body feels threatened, it responds in different ways. Some ways the body responds to stress is with an increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, and a rise in blood pressure. 

Stress is also incredibly individualistic. For some people, it can cause outbursts of anger, while it causes others to shut down completely.

But stress doesn’t always have to have negative effects. In fact, there are two kinds of stress. Good stress, also known as eustress, is the stress one feels when they are excited. Many things can trigger good stress, like riding a roller coaster, competing in a sporting event, or even applying for a job. These types of stress are good for the body and can trigger adrenaline, causing the body to feel hyperactive and alive.

The bad kind of stress, known as acute stress, can also cause the body to trigger its stress response. However, the body’s response to acute stress greatly differs from eustress. Unlike eustress, acute stress can cause long-term effects on a person’s body. Instead of feeling alive and happy, the body perceives the stressor as a threat, causing the body to tense up, redirecting blood to major organs, and triggers the release of cortisol. 

When someone experiences ongoing acute stress, the person can develop chronic stress. Chronic stress is defined as “a prolonged and constant feeling of stress.” Chronic stress can be caused by a variety of factors, like a high-stress job, family issues, or even long-term stress in school.

With chronic stress comes a wide variety of dangerous health problems that can actually shorten a person’s lifespan. Some of the most dangerous and life-threatening effects of chronic stress include heart disease, strokes, mental illnesses, and eating disorders. People under chronic stress can also experience menstrual problems, obesity, and permanent hair loss.

Chronic stress can also cause behavioral changes, as well. Increased use of alcohol, changes in appetite, and nervous ticks such as fidgeting and nail-biting are common in people who experience chronic stress.  


infographic courtesy of

Though stress may seem like an unavoidable part of life, steps can be taken to lessen its toll on the body. 

Physical activity is one of the easiest and most effective ways to limit stress. When a person exercises, the brain increases the production of endorphins, a hormone that reduces stress and promotes happiness. Physical activity can also improve a person’s mood, as exercised is linked to higher levels self-esteem.

Another great way to reduce and limit stress is to practice yoga. Yoga combines exercise and mindfulness and allows the body to slow down. Studies suggest that practicing yoga even five minutes a day can lower an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure.

Another easy way to prevent bad stress is by turning acute stress into eustress. For someone to feel stressed, the body must perceive something as a threat. If someone can convince themselves there is no threat present, the body will perceive the brain’s reaction as excitement instead. If a person can master this skills, they can eliminate most of the bad stress from their life. 

In today’s bustling world, stress is unavoidable, but there are ways to minimize its negative effects. Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to dangerous health problems, so it is increasingly important that schools and employers around the world take stress seriously.