Categories: Stress

Understanding Stress

Understanding Stress

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash


Klippenbosch spa is a relaxation sanctuary and offers complete relaxation in various forms. The opposite of relaxation is stress,
so we attempted to understand stress a little better.

Stress is part of everyday life. It’s a multifaceted construct that is designed to protect us, however, over exposure can be
damaging. Stress could be the force that drives you to new heights or have an adverse effect on your physical health.

Living in the rat race, our daily lives are filled with different types of stress therefore, it is important to understand
the various aspects pertaining to stress and the how to combat negative stress.

1.Physiological aspect stress:

In physics stress is used to explain elasticity, the property of a material that allows it to resume its original size and shape after having been compressed or stretched by and external force. (1)

The same is true in the human body. For example, when most people attempt public speaking for the first time there is a physical and chemical reaction toward the challenge – the secretion of cortisol for example. However, with repeated public speaking most people adjust to the challenge and the reaction stops (resuming its original state after being influenced by an external force).(2) This reaction to the external force or stress. will help you focus and make it through the challenge, this is positive stress.

In the same way that there might be some who do not have this reaction when publicly speaking for the first time, there are some who do not adapt to the challenge and the reaction occurs every time that they attempt public speaking. This repeated reaction because of the inability to adjust to the challenge is negative stress.

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

The chemical changes that your body goes through in challenging or stressful situations is known as allostasis and the inability to adapt leads to allostatic load or distress. See below visualization for different types of allostatic load:

Allostatic load can lead to illness and physical wear and tear. People with excessive stress showed earlier aging, more depression and earlier decline of both physical and mental function (As measured by multiple periods of poverty level income). (3)

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a by-product of cellular energy production, like the exhaust fumes that come out of your car. In instances where these ROS molecules exceed antioxidant levels necessary to clear them up, there is a cellular imbalance which is referred to as oxidative stress. This proposed Free Radical Theory of aging suggests that the accumulation of oxidative stress over our lifetime is what brings on age relate disease. Furthermore, psychological stress leads to higher levels of oxidative stress. (5)

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

2.Psychological aspects of Stress:

The psychological point of view regards stress as a relational concept. The relationships between the appraisal of the situation by the individual and the perceived ability to cope with the situation. (4)

The individual’s perception toward the challenge in front of them will determine the severity and duration of their physical reaction.

If someone finds themselves in a situation or environment where they are unable to see a way out, their prolonged stress levels are a lot higher than someone who might view the situation as a challenge that they are conquering.

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

3. Preventing damaging stress:

High antioxidant levels assist in preventing as much damage as possible from your body’s natural decay caused by energy production and can be achieved by a healthy diet complete with all the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Exercise, both mentally and physically are important parts of keeping your allostatic load to a minimum and lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. (2)

Studies have found that mindfulness and positive reappraisal lead to significant stress reduction. (6)

An example could be someone who lost their job. They could focus on the impending doom of not having an income, which would increase their stress levels. On the other hand, they could reappraise this as a challenge for finding new ways of generating income and use the stress levels to elevate their abilities and achieve their goals.

Through intentional rationalisation you learn to remove yourself from the situation and look at it objectively, allowing you to find the positive side. The image below illustrates the mindful coping model: longitudinal view (Garland etal. 2010):

Lastly you can book a spa day or massage, with a professional or even just your spouse. Most massages, especially Swedish massage, are good for reducing stress as they reduce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are hormones associated with stress.

Massages will probably make you feel sleepy, even if you spent the whole day at the spa doing nothing. All your stress hormones drop quite radically after a massage which is what causes the sleepy feeling.


Stress is a component that touches every aspect of our lives and we will all face challenges. However, understanding stress and how your body and mind react to challenges can assist you in coping with them more efficiently or even using them to your advantage.

How do you cope with stress and do you think that the mindful coping model could be useful to you?

This post was last modified on 2nd Oct 2019 3:14 pm


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