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Stress is simply a fact of nature, forces from the inside or outside world affecting the individual.

The individual responds to stress in ways that affect the individual as well as their environment. In general, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include the physical environment, including your job, your relationships with others, your home, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations you're confronted with on a daily basis. Internal factors determine your body's ability to respond to, and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors. Internal factors which influence your ability to handle stress include your nutritional status, overall health and fitness levels, emotional well-being, and the amount of sleep and rest you get. Stress has driven evolutionary change (the development and natural selection of species over time). Thus, the species that adapted best to the causes of stress (stressors) have survived and evolved into the plant and animal kingdoms we now observe. Man is the most adaptive creature on the planet because of the evolution of the human brain, especially the part called the neo-cortex. This adaptability is largely due to the changes and stressors that we have faced and mastered. Therefore, we, unlike other animals, can live in any climate or ecosystem, at various altitudes, and avoid the danger of predators. Moreover, most recently, we have learned to live in the air, under the sea, and even in space, where no living creatures that we know of have ever survived. So then, what is so bad about stress? As one example of stress related to a life transition, the teen years often bring about an increase in perceived stress as young adults learn to cope with increasing demands and pressures. Studies have shown that excessive stress during the teen years can have a negative impact upon both physical and mental health later in life. For example, teen stress is a risk factor for the development of depression, a serious condition that carries an increased risk of suicide. Uncontrollable, unpredictable, and constant stress has far-reaching consequences on our physical and mental health. Stress can begin in the womb and recur throughout life. One of the pathological (abnormal) consequences of stress is a learned helplessness that leads to the hopelessness and helplessness of clinical depression, but in addition, many illnesses, such as chronic anxiety states, high blood pressure, heart disease, and addictive disorders, to name a few, also seem to be influenced by chronic or overwhelming stress. Fortunately, effective stress-management strategies can diminish the ill effects of stress. The presence of intact and strong social support networks among friends, family, and religious or other group affiliations can help reduce the subjective experience of stress during the teen years. Recognition of the problem and helping teens to develop stress-management skills can also be valuable preventive measures. In severe cases, a physician or other health-care provider can recommend treatments or counseling that can reduce the long-term risks of teen stress.

STRESS AT A GLANCE Stress is a normal part of life that can either help us learn and grow or can cause us significant problems. Stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action (to fight or flee). If we don't take action, the stress response can create or worsen health problems. Prolonged, uninterrupted, unexpected, and unmanageable stresses are the most damaging types of stress. Stress can be managed by regular exercise, meditation or other relaxation techniques, structured timeouts, and learning new coping strategies to create predictability in our lives. Many behaviors that increase in times of stress and maladaptive ways of coping with stress -drugs, pain medicines, alcohol, smoking, and eating actually worsen the stress and can make us more reactive (sensitive) to further stress. While there are promising treatments for stress, the management of stress is mostly dependent on the ability and willingness of a person to make the changes necessary for a healthy lifestyle.