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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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2.1 What is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones, which prepare the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and your senses become sharper. These changes help you to deal with the ‘danger’ your body thinks is coming.

This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ stress response and is your body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, stress helps you stay focused, energetic and alert – for example, giving you extra strength to defend yourself or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

Stress is also what keeps you on your toes at work, sharpens your concentration or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.

This is what we think of as positive stress but beyond your comfort zone stress stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body.