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What is Stress?

Stress can be considered an imbalance in physiological systems that activates both physiological and behavioural responses to restore balance. It is important to point out that psychologically experienced stress activates a physiological stress response also. In 1998, McEwen coined the term ‘allostatic load’ to refer to the long-term effects of the physiological response to stress, where allostasis means the ability to achieve stability through change. McEwen explains that the process of adapting to stress (overactivity or underactivity) results in allostatic load. Some people develop a hypoactivity or hyperactivity when responding to stress. Ideally, a balanced response to stress is healthy.

Stress can lead to various physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, headache, an upset stomach, etc. Other physiological signs of stress may include an increase in heart rate, high blood pressure, sweating or a dry mouth, and behavioural responses may range from aggression to hyperactivity to withdrawal. Responses to stress can be active (resistance or avoidance) or passive (accepting it without resistance).