The feeling of being stressed is familiar to most of us. We all experience some level of stress, virtually from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. However, our stress perception doesn’t always accurately reflect how stressed we really are at the biological level and whether or not we are recovering well after a stressful situation. That’s why, in addition to a psychological evaluation of stress (such as a stress questionnaire), it’s possible to objectively measure stress by examining the different biological molecules involved in this complex process, including cortisol, DHEA, serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline and more.
Stress is part of the human condition and our bodies are designed to experience stress and react to it. Although there is no medical consensus for the definition of stress, stress is generally seen as a normal reaction to a change that requires adaptation or response. Our autonomic nervous system has a built-in stress response that allows the body to combat stressful situations, the so-called “flight or fight” reaction that is activated in case of an “emergency”.
So stress can be positive and stimulating, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. But if the person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation, the body’s recovery capacity is exceeded and stress-related tension will build up. This repeated/chronic stress will become negative and will then manifest in a variety of ways. Some people feel mostly tense and nervous, others are more anxious and/or depressed, others will feel excessively tired, exhausted, overly emotional with a loss of focus, and some will even have physical symptoms such as pain or a skin rash. What’s more, perceptions of stress differ greatly among individuals and can be affected by, among other factors, the individual’s beliefs, attitudes and occupation.
It’s summertime, and whether you are relaxing on a beach or working hard, remember that you can act on stress in a smart, effective way — so long as you understand it. Once you’re understanding and measuring your stress, you can better take control of it.
CEO & co-founder at Akesio