Stress Causes, Types, Tips On How To Handle Stress

By Dr Shilpa Ramdas MD (Ayu) and Ms Usha Shinde.


Stress is like Oxygen!
Many readers, who are already stressed, will frown at the title and may raise questions like “How It can be?” I again say that stress is must for us…. . ! All over the world stress is treated like a threat, disease and feared about. I do not want to create any controversy, but would like to show the positive side of the stress over negative. Because stress is a very powerful force which has to be handled with respect.


What is a stress actually? Can we define it?
Stress is difficult for scientists to define, because it is highly subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us. Things which are stressful for us may be pleasurable for others. For example, fast driving may create stress on you whereas driver may be enjoying it. We may hold our breaths while watching a circus but the artist actually enjoys to do it. Everybody responds to stress differently. Let us see the different definitions of stress.

“Stress in individuals is defined as any interference that disturbs a person’s healthy mental and physical well being. ”
“Stress is a psychological and physiological reaction to a situation that is perceived as a difficult to cope with and involves a strong emotional arousal. It is an anticipatory in nature and best treated in pre emptive manner. ”

“ Stress may be viewed as body’s response to any real or imagined event perceived as requiring some adaptive response. ”
“Stress is a cerebral reaction of a particular individual to a stimulus event.”
“Stress is body’s response to change that requires a physical, mental and emotional adjustment or response. ”

There are two main types of stress —-Positive and Negative stress. Again we can divide them in Acute and Chronic stress.

Positive stress

Positive stress increases the total concentration of all mental and physical abilities towards the achievements.
Negative stress decreases the total concentration of all mental and physical abilities towards simple tasks even day to day life.

 Eustress, also referred to as “good stress” or “Eu stress,” is a form of stress that positively impacts both the body and mind, leading to enhanced performance and overall well-being.

Positive stress is essential for healthy character development and has a positive impact on our life.

E.g. Taking on a demanding job, relocating to a new area, Excitement before a performance, and preparing for certain activities can be considered as examples of positive stress.

Positive stress is a must for human beings. Without it one will not get up and go to meet a friend or go to work! Positive stress motivates you to perform and achieve something. For example, if you are performing a role in a drama or performing a dance on a stage and if it is your favorite role or dance and you have prepared a lot for it and just eager to perform……this is a good stress.

You are looking forward to perform and you are confident that you will be well received; you enjoy the stress with make –up on in the wing! A confident surgeon enters in the operation theater to do the challenging case and performs a very difficult surgery while listening to music is called positive stress. His skill, experience motivates him and creates positive stress. If you have prepared very well for the examination, have checked your knowledge by various ways and are very confident that you are going to snatch the top rank …. you are actually waiting for the question paper … your brain is fully organized to express, your hand is eager to write, that is a positive stress. Players and sports person who are waiting to perform without any other thoughts and distraction in Olympics are under positive stress. It creates a winning mentality!
Read related: Stress Symptoms and Natural Measures for Stress Relief

Characteristics of stress are very funny and fluid! Stress is illusive. It is a perception. Stress is a general term. Sometimes its is more fearful than the actual happening or an incidence. Good stress is associated with confidence, performance, joy and fulfillment. Bad stress is always associated with “fight” or “flight. ”

Effects of positive stress on the body

Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, Positive stress can lead to adrenaline surge thereby increasing stress response.

Increased heart rate: This aids in supplying more oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues, thereby enhancing the body’s response.

Improved Immune Function: Stress may have a positive impact on the immune system. It may contribute to overall well-being, which can indirectly support immune function.

Enhanced Cognitive Function: Positive stress can enhance cognitive function, by improving memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.

Tolerable stress

Moderate levels of stress within an individual’s capacity that allows them to adapt and respond to difficult situations. Tolerable stress can be beneficial when appropriately managed with the help of supportive environments. It activates the body system to a great degree to tolerate long lasting difficulties such as national disaster etc.

Chronic stress

It is a prolonged and persistent form of stress that occurs over an extended period; weeks, months, or even years. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health including cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, immune system dysfunction, and mental health issues.


Let us analyze the causes of stress –

  1. Increasing urbanization. Society at large and daily life has changed almost beyond recognition in the past 50 years. In recent decades there has been rapid urbanization. Stress arises from crowded cities, cramped living conditions, proximity of millions of other people, high level of crime, noise and air pollution. Higher rents, high cost of living, long hours of travelling to and fro from workplace cause stress.
  2. Aging population. Life expectancy is increased. People live longer than before. This is due to better diet and modern medical facilities over last 200 years. In urban areas the birth rate is also fallen. It has created conflict between career plans and long term care for aging relatives. The cost of living along with healthcare cost continues to spiral. If there are very old people at home and the couple is compelled to earn, there is a stress in the family.
  3. Changing gender roles. The role of a woman has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, especially in urban societies. Women are in almost in all areas of work force and are judged by the same stresses as men. However women suffer more stress than men because of conflict between outside work and home management. Today, no field is untouched by women, but at the same time they have to manage pregnancies, deliveries and children too.
  4. Materialism and success calculations. In recent years along with consumerism, materialism is also increased. Aspirations, ambitions, better standard of living etc. has forced people to earn more for social status and for family’s happiness. Better jobs, promotions, increments are the criteria today.
  5. Isolation. Due to pressure of modern life, people are isolated from their own self. They do not have time or energy for their own feelings and emotions, true wishes, aspirations, likings and requirements of own soul. There is isolation from friends and society too. Most important is there is isolation from “higher Self”. The fast routine and drudgery has made many to lose a daily dialogue with higher force or supreme force. Due to this the harmony between body, mind and soul is affected. It is not just “I am lonely”, but the “I “is lonely.

Sources of stress

Social Stress – Deadlines, Financial problems, Job related, Loss of loved ones, Demands for your time and attention
Environmental stress – Air, Water, Noise, Traffic, Weather
Physiological stress – Menopause, Aging, lack of exercise, Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep

Sub types

Now let us see the sub types of stress:
– Acute stress – Acute stress is dealt more efficiently than expected. If life threatening situations occurs, body and mind’s mechanism swings into action to face the situation. In such situations, there is no time for thinking, planning or worrying. We are designed to cope with acute stress much better than with chronic stress. Series of mechanisms help us to face the crisis.
Read related: Student Stress Management – How To Cope With Stress Of Studies

-Chronic stress. This takes toll on the total personality. It is like a hanging sword. Any life threatening disease or terminal disease to the family member can cause chronic stress. Untimely, unexpected death of a family member, severe financial loss, loss of reputation is responsible for chronic stress.

Individual stress. This is due to individual reasons like loss of job, unemployment, heart break, unhappy marriage, court cases. Stress can break families.

  • Social stress. Sudden loss of job, severe financial loss, diseases like HIV+ cause social stress. In many villages HIV+ person and his families are boycotted. Even inter cast and inter religious marriages cause social stress.
  • Environmental stress. Natural calamities like earthquake, floods, famines, war, and nuclear radiation leakage are the examples of environmental stress.
  • Organizational / Industrial stress. Strikes, layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, retrenchment, hierarchy, harassment including sexual harassment etc.

Effects on the health are vast. It is proved that under stress the entire endocrinal system goes out of gear. Hormones like “Adrenalin” and “Cortisol” are released in blood which creates stress on vascular system and on heart. Under stress blood pressure fluctuates. Many psychosomatic diseases like diabetes, depression, personality disorder, suicidal thoughts and tendencies surface. Loss of appetite, poor digestion, fatigue, less immunity and frequent infections also affect.

Cognitive symptoms like memory loss, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, anxious and racing thoughts, seeing only negativity are observed by psychologists and psychiatrists. If prolonged, it may lead to swinging moods to extremes, inability to relax, panic attacks etc. Then the dependency on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and medication also starts.

Childhood stress cannot be neglected. Today’s children are more prone to stress due to the total change in life pattern. If this stress is not dealt properly, it can lead to personality disorder and violent nature. Imposing our aspirations, dreams, and ambitions on children causes harm than help.

Phases of Body response to stress

There are three phases of body response to stress.
Alarm phase – Fight or Flight
Resistance phase
Exhaustion phase

Alarm phase: Fight or Flight

The process begins with the brain’s recognition of a stressor, which can be anything perceived as a threat or challenge. This perception occurs in the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with emotion and memory. which evaluate and compare the stress challenge with existing state and previous stress experience of the organism

Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System – sympathetic nervous system is activated, leading to the release of stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine). This results in the “fight or flight” response.

Activation of the Hypothalamus Pituitary axis – Stress causes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to become active, which releases cortisol, the main hormone associated with stress. Cortisol aids in immune response modulation, energy mobilization, and increased alertness. On the other hand, persistently high cortisol levels can be harmful to the body.

Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure:
The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the heart to beat faster and increases blood pressure, ensuring that oxygen and nutrients are delivered to vital organs and muscles to respond to the perceived threat.

Suppression of Non-Essential Functions:
In times of stress, the body focuses on vital functions necessary for survival, this can lead to the temporary suppression or alteration of non-essential physiological processes like digestion, reproduction, and growth. reframe the sentence.

Resistance phase

Body is actively trying to reverse the actions that had happened during the alarm phase.
During this phase the body is under control of the parasympathetic NS.
The body’s vital functions such as heart rate, BP, Respiration, Digestion, Spleen function, Vision, Bladder function, Glucose level, saliva etc. returns to normal functioning.
Remember – The body is trying to reach Homeostasis as a defense mechanism. The body wants to survive.

Exhaustion Phase

Long term exposure to stress can result in overload.
When the body is over taxed and there are no recovery periods illness can result.
This is a depleted state that has been the result of an ineffective balance of the alarm and resistance phase.

Effect of stress on body and mind

Chronic stress can lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, especially in areas involved in emotion regulation, memory, and cognitive function. These changes can contribute to mood disorders, anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairments.

Prolonged activation of the stress response can disrupt the balance of various hormones in the body, affecting metabolism, reproductive function, growth, and other physiological processes.
It can manifest as psychological and physical symptoms

Psychological effects

Individuals may experience a range of emotions in response to stress, including anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, sadness etc.
Stress can influence cognitive functions, leading to changes in perception, attention, memory, and decision-making.
Persistent exposure to stress can significantly impact mental health, leading to the onset or worsening of several psychological conditions such as anxiety disorders, mood disturbances like depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Physical symptoms

Sleep disturbances
Muscle tension, Back, shoulder or neck pain,
Tension / migraine headache
Heartburn, IBS, Diarrhea
Weight gain /loss
Hair loss
Eating disorders
High BP
Chest pain
Cold palms
Skin problems (Hives, eczema, Psoriasis, Tics, itching)
Jaw pain
Reproductive problems
Immune system suppression
Growth inhibition

Tips to handle stress

How to handle the stress?
Unless you are able to manage yourself, you cannot handle other person’s stress. It begins from you! But suffering from stress is not a weakness.

Requirements to handle the stress-

A) Find the root cause. If you are able to identify the root cause, half of the problem is solved. The cause can be removed or dealt firmly. For ex. If the distance to office is too far, one can think to shift near to workplace and save the energy, time and money.

B) Sharing. Being expressive helps. Sharing with a non judgmental, non critical and unbiased person reduces the stress.

C) Family support. Family is an unique and most informal institution which cannot be replaced by anything. A warm, understanding family can provide psychological safe


  1. D) Friends. They are an asset who can lend a listening ear and support.
  2. E) Society. Society at large and even the neighborhood can support a stressed person by being available and helping when required.

F)Counseling /Medical support. Now a days there is much awareness about mental health compared to last century. Even schools are appointing full time counselors to handle and prevent the stress. A counselor should know when medical intervention is required.

  1. G) Intimate relationship. Every human being yearns to have a understanding partner who shares the joys and sorrows. Partner is a strongest support system.
  2. H) Perusing any kind of art, sports, games can divert the attention and create a better perception and bring hopeful feelings towards the situation and life.
  3. I) Pay attention to yourself and listen to your body. In the rat race, we get into mechanical rut. Relaxation methods, control over moods, tension and anger management, meditation, Yoga can enrich the personal life. Music therapy, Aroma therapy, Reflexology is very useful. Becoming “slow” in life is necessary.
  4. J) Treat stress as a teacher. What is a message from stressful person or situation? This introspection can change attitude, opinion and behavior for betterment.
  5. K) Humor. It is a stress buster. It can make things easier, lighter and brighter. It eases the tension. Watching comic movies, serials, cracking jokes reduces the intensity of stress.
  6. L) Social work. The most important but underestimated tool. Those who serve less privileged or needy, their problems become milder. With less fortunate, you ystart knowing your blessings. A grateful heart reduces the stress and attracts more help from universe! That is a law of attraction!

As Terri Gullemetes says “Stress is a choice. We all generate it but if you don’t dispose it properly, it will pile up and take over your life. ”

In short, stress can be managed, coped with and dealt if you decide for it! My recommendation to readers is to read a book written by Swamy Sukhbodhanada “O Mind, Relax Please!” and then S—T—R—E—T—C—H !

Ultimately stress is our reaction and perception. Anything that enhances our perception towards hope allows our hearts to heal and life becomes more joyful. Thus we can take stress on our stride and make it useful like oxygen!

2 comments on “Stress Causes, Types, Tips On How To Handle Stress

  • Land of winter

    07/03/2018 - 1:31 am

    Thank you for this very informative article. Especially in western societies stress may come from fear of death. It is very common that people read a lot of information about healthy life style, wonder diets and sometimes get into searching for way to increase the maximum age of life. Apparition of death is chasing them constantly and causes constant stress (according to materialistic thinking, they “possessed” life like car, house or jewellery and are afraid to loose it). But the truth is that maximum age didn’t change too much over hundreds of years. However average life span last longer because of lower newborn children mortality rate. This makes average age to increase. So there is no any sensible reason to work on increasing maximum age, because it appears simply impossible, by nature. So don’t worry, don’t stress! End will come at the appropriate time, regardless of what will you do!
    Best regards

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