Stress is a physical and mental state that occurs as a result of the body’s contact with a factor that poses a potential threat to the balance of its life processes.
Imagine the following situation: suddenly a tiger appears in front of you. Your brain quickly assesses the situation and decides that the situation poses a threat to the survival of the organism. As a result of this assessment the brain causes a number of physiological changes aimed at preparing the muscles for an increased work – the fight or flight response (the sympathetic system is activated and stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and noradrenaline, causing the pupils to dilate, accelerate heart rate and breathing etc. ). At the same time, other parts of the brain constantly monitor the changes taking place in the body. They register the increased readiness of the body to take actions and transmit the information about this state to consciousness in the form of – a feeling of stress.
A feeling of stress is how the mind feels a readiness of the body to take an action in order to avoid a danger in its environment. In other words a feeling of stress is the way how an emotion of stress feels (if you’re uncertain on the differences between a feeling and an emotion please read the following article: emotions vs feelings)
A stress response plays a very important role in the survival of the body.
If the body has not been generating the stress responses (an emotion of stress) while facing a danger, it would be fairly quickly eliminated by the process of evolution. It would be unable to cope with challenges posed by its environment. In short, it would be eaten before it had any chance to leave an offspring behind. Therefore the purpose of stress reaction is to prepare the body to undertake a specific physical activity in order to avoid a threat.
Nowadays however, (for most of us in the developed countries) the external conditions in which we find ourselves fall short from being perfect. We don’t suffer from cold, we don’t suffer from hunger, there are no hungry predators lurking around. We spend most of our time sitting in comfortable sofas, talking to nice, cultured people, without fear of an unexpected attempt on our lives. The physical environment seems to be free from stressors, factors with which the body would immediately fight.
It seems that in modern times the main stressors do not come from the outside world*. However, they are born entirely elsewhere. In a virtual world, popularly known as thinking.
*you may rise an argument that this situation has changed in 2020 due to the pandemic but I will still try to refute it in some other text