General adaptation syndrome
Stress can be defined in many ways. According to Hans Selye, the father of modern research on stress and people’s responses to it, stress is the “non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Since the early 1930s, researchers have struggled to define and understand stress. In 1932, Walter Cannon discovered the fight-or-flight response to stress in which the body automatically reacts to threatening situation by either controlling or fleeing the situation. But it was not until 1956 that Selye identified and defined stress.
Selye hypothesized that people exhibit physiological and behavioral changes in response to stressful situations. He expanded Cannon’s theory and developed the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
GAS consists of three stages: alarm reaction, resistance or adaptation, and exhaustion.
Alarm reaction is similar to the fight-or-flight response. Resistance or adaptation is when the stressor is not removed and the body adjusts to function under the stressful condition. Once the body reaches its peak, it automatically goes into the exhaustion phase, in which the body begins to deteriorate and the person has a risk for developing an illness.
According to Selye, stress is the body’s nonspecific response to any demand of change. The term stress is typically used to describe a situation that causes a physical or an emotional reaction, as well as describing the reaction itself. For this chapter, stress defines a person’s reaction to a situation or event. Stressor, on the other hand, refers to the situation causing the stress. Stress response describes any physiological changes associated with stress. For example, let’s say you’re focused intently on a TV show and your roommate bursts into the room and yells, “Boo!” You jump and yell, and you feel your heart racing. In that case, the surprise is the stressor, jumping and screaming is the stress, and the increased heart rate is the stress response.
Stress can’t always be avoided. Trying to understand stress, its causes, and how to manage it can be difficult because there are several factors that can be associated with it. The purpose of this article is to provide an introduction to stress and stress management. If you understand the dynamics of stress and how to manage it, you might be able to reduce stress in your life and avoid developing poor health as a result of stress.