What is stress and how does it impact health?

Stress is a big problem in the UK at the moment - 45% of all sick days in the 2015/16 financial year were stress-related. In general terms, you can think of stress as 'pressure or tension exerted on a material object'. But what does this mean for you, in your day-to-day life?

Types of stress

There are three main types of stress - physical stress, mental stress, and dietary stress. There are other types of stress, but you have the most control over these three.

Physical stress: physical stress can come from doing too much exercise, but it can also come from doing too little exercise - the body expects and requires movement to function properly.

Dietary stress: your eating habits can also cause stress. This may be caused by eating the wrong types of food, the wrong amount of food, or not having enough variety in your diet.

Mental stress: mental or emotional stress can be caused by any adverse or demanding situation. It is often linked to the way we think about and cope with the problems in our life.

The impact of stress

Not all stress is negative. Stress can be good, inspiring us to push towards our goals and overcome challenges. When stress is positive in this way, it’s known as 'eustress', and it’s actually an important part of good health.

Problems arise when mental, physical or dietary stress is too much for you to cope with. This is known as 'distress', or what we call an extreme balance. Over time, this type of stress will lead to ill-health.

The key to reducing distress and encouraging eustress is to maintain a moderate balance in how active you are, what you eat, and how you think. Over time, this will lead to positive health benefits.

This is just a brief overview of stress, but hopefully it's given you an idea of what stress is and how it comes to affect you. In future videos and posts we’ll look at physical, mental, and dietary stress in more detail.

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