Why Do We Get Stressed?

Stress – it can be annoying, can’t it?

It’s worth remembering, however, that there is a good reason we experience stress. It can help us manage tough situations. A lot of psychology is based on the ‘fight or flight’ scenario and stress is no exception.

We are ‘programmed’ to have a physiological response to situations which may be harmful or threatening to us. In terms of stress, it can be characterised as a threat if we do not feel as though we have enough resources to deal with the issue. For example, many people get stressed at exam times as they may feel as though they do not have enough time, knowledge or support to pass the exam. Meanwhile those at work may feel stressed if they feel abandoned to complete an ‘impossible’ task. Perhaps it may seem ‘impossible’ due to the time constraints and the support available.

So wouldn’t life be easier if we didn’t have this physiological response? Well, no as humans are made to survive and that is why we have a ‘fight or flight’ response. The idea behind it is that stress can act as a flagging system which brings to our attention that something may be wrong, just like with pain. Take the analogy of wild animals: if they went around fighting everything it saw, there would be a high chance that the animal would end up wounded or dead a lot sooner than if it picked it’s fights wisely. This, essentially, is what ‘fight or flight’ is trying to avoid. It is normal to get stressed, especially during exam periods, moving house, starting a new job, or meeting deadlines. However, the flagging system of ‘fight or flight’ can bring to our attention when we need to take a step back and reassess the situation. If we keep going with a stressful situation it can set an uneasy precedent and cause harm to not only our psychological but also our physical health.

If something is flagged up as being stressful then it is worth looking into why it has been. Is it ‘normal’ or something that may need to be addressed through increased resources, for example asking for assistance to complete a task, seeking out reassurance from a lecturer, or prioritising your time.

Does that mean everyone gets stressed at the same things? Not necessarily. Everyone is different and therefore everyones ‘fight or flight’ responses are different. Additionally, we all cope differently, work differently and study differently. This probably explains why in school you had the people who seemed relaxed about exams, others were incredibly stressed and anxious and others were somewhere in the middle.

For more on stress, why not check out our page and share your story with us too?


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