How does stress occur?

How does stress occur?
©Andrey Popov/

We often hear from our fellow human beings that they hardly have any time because they are under stress. But what is behind this term anyway? The term is extremely imprecise, because on the one hand it is about stressors. On the other hand, stress is a physical reaction to these stressors. More than half of the population suffers from stress. At the same time, 57 percent of the people themselves already state that they are often stressed. Almost every fifth person even suffers from stress permanently. If you are interested in why stress can occur and what it triggers in your body, you should continue reading the following article.

These are the typical triggers for stress

Stress can arise when you cause it yourself. But it also develops as a result of external influences. However, not all stress triggers cause the same stress reactions in everyone. Here are a few examples where stress can arise.

  • Unfulfilled wishes
  • Perfectionism
  • Time pressure
  • Deadline pressure
  • Pressure to perform
  • Trouble
  • Noise
  • Cold or heat
  • Illness or injury

Whether stress can develop in you from previous examples depends on your gender, age, and experiences. However, specific situations also determine whether stress occurs. For example, one moment you may find a stimulus pleasant. In the next moment, however, you will classify it negatively. This happens to you especially if you perceive this stimulus at the wrong time, too distinctly or unexpectedly. An example: At first you are looking forward to your upcoming birthday party. The next moment, however, you realize how much you still have to prepare for it. You are afraid that you will not be able to do everything in time. Especially if you are already tense and have a lot on your plate. In this case, stress can arise from a situation that is actually harmless.

Stress can never be completely avoided!

For you and numerous other people, it would of course be perfect if no stress would arise at all. However, this seems almost impossible, especially in this day and age. You will not manage to get along in your life without stress. Whether stress makes you ill depends on how often and in what ways it occurs. The duration and intensity also determine whether you will become ill due to stress. To evaluate your stress, you have to assess the situation yourself. If stress exceeds your own strength, you feel it to be a burden. If, on the other hand, you believe that you can cope with a particular situation excellently, you will view the stress as positive. It helps you to master a task.

How your body reacts to stress

As a rule, stress ensures that you are protected from potential dangers. This complex system was already extremely useful in order to react adequately to threats. When stress arises, the body reacts and quickly makes energy reserves available. In the past, people therefore successfully fled or were able to hunt skillfully by themselves. Today, your body reacts in the same way. The only difference lies in the stress triggers. These were different back then than they are today. Furthermore, you don’t always relieve stress sufficiently with physical activities. What consequences this can have for your body, you will learn here.

  • Your heartbeat accelerates so that more oxygen can be transported.
  • Your breathing rhythm is shortened so that more oxygen and thus additional energy is available to you.
  • Your sugar and fat reserves are activated to gain energy.
  • Your muscle activity increases.
  • Your sweat glands activate to cool your body.

This causes other body functions to slow down to conserve energy. Your digestive process goes dormant and your skin becomes less nourished. In addition, your sexual organs are inhibited. Previous immediate reactions flatten out once your stress triggers disappear. If you allow your body enough rest to recover, it will soon be back to normal.

Stress response system

This is what stress feels like

Stress doesn’t just bring physical reactions. When stress occurs, you will notice additional symptoms. Below you will learn which behaviors and sensations are signs of stress.

  • You become nervous and feel inner restlessness.
  • You are dissatisfied and anxious.
  • You are afraid of embarrassing yourself or otherwise failing.
  • You feel helpless.
  • You blame yourself.
  • You feel an inner emptiness in your mind.
  • You struggle with thought blocks.
  • Hectic behavior (you shorten your breaks and eat faster than usual).
  • You behave in a harmful and numbing way towards yourself (your alcohol consumption increases, you smoke more, you resort to medication more often).
  • Your work behavior is clearly more uncoordinated (your planning is poor, you misplace things or forget them).
  • Your interactions with other people are more conflictual (you are irritable, often fly off the handle at trivialities).
Man with stress attack

When stress becomes a permanent condition

Stress can occur when you are always worried or anxious, possibly including financial problems. This can quickly become dangerous, as the increased muscle activity turns into long-lasting tension. In this case, your muscles are constantly tense. Consequently, you will notice permanent cramps, which will also be felt in your back. Pain in the neck and shoulders is just the beginning. Other areas of your body will also be affected. Your immune system is weakened and your cardiovascular system is stressed. When this stress occurs, you can also suffer from sleep and eating disorders, become nervous or even suffer from depression.
How to treat stress

There is no specific treatment for stress. However, there are ways to prevent stress from occurring. If you are already suffering from stress, you can only reduce it with the following behaviors. However, you should not expect too much, because you cannot get rid of stress overnight. It is a long process and you need enough time to succeed.

  • You can control your perception of stress. In doing so, you prefer to evaluate your negative stress positively or neutrally.
  • You should better organize your stress in the family, at work and in your free time.
  • Strengthen your own performance.
  • Take care of relaxation as an antipole to stress.

Re-evaluate stress now

Whether you evaluate stress as positive or negative is in most cases only a mental evaluation of you. The best example is exam stress. Most people go into an exam thinking that they will fail. An ideal alternative to this is to admit to yourself that you are worried about the exam. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous and have clammy hands. The sinking feeling in your stomach or the faster beating heart are also very typical physical symptoms of your stress reaction. However, you have no objective reason to perceive this as negative or stressful.

If you re-evaluate your stress and avoid negative stress, you will have a better chance of passing the exam. At the same time, you reduce the risk of getting seriously ill. You get a completely new quality of life.

Get fit against stress

If you already realize that stress could arise, you should react. The more fit you are, the better you can combat stress. Exercise plays an enormously important role in this. Doing 20 minutes of sports three times a week will strengthen your cardiovascular system and immune system in the long term. You don’t even have to become an athlete. It’s enough if you leave your car at home more often and cycle to and from work. Use the stairs more often than the elevator and go to your friend’s house instead of talking to him on the phone.

woman at break recovering from stress

With relaxation against stress

Before stress can develop, you should take a break more often. Be it a quarter of an hour in between, which belongs only to you. You could use these breaks for additional relaxation techniques. Basically, it is recommended that you incorporate autogenic training, breathing exercises, yoga or Pilates into your daily routine. However, you will have already gained a lot if you simply enjoy your breaks more often.