Stress is a natural response from the body to certain stimuli, and there are several components to stress. Too much stress however can lead to physiological problems such as heart disease and a weakened immune system (1, 497). Stress management and relaxation exercises though can help lessen the effects of stress and help keep the body balanced.
Stress can be triggered by a number of things. Among them are "physical trauma, prolonged exposure to cold, prolonged heavy exercise, infection, shock, decreased oxygen supply, sleep deprivation, pain, fright, and other emotional stresses" (2, 728). After the brain has detected the stressor, a process commonly called the "fight-or-flight response" begins, preparing the body to deal with the stressor (2,729). The first stage is the alarm reaction. Hormones are released by the adrenal glands and the body becomes more sensitive and alert. Pulse and breathing rates quicken and muscles tense, helping the body activate coping resources to deal with the stress.
Stage two, resistance, is when the body either deals with or thus reduces stress and returns to a more normal state, or stays agitated and then problem begin to occur physically and mentally. The third stage, exhaustion, or "burnout", is when the body is desperately trying to get the stress under control. Skin or stomach problems may occur and one might even turn to drugs or alcohol to try to manage the stress (1, 496).
While the body is under prolonged stress it is working in high gear all the time, and since the body is not designed to work like that for extended periods of time, all the system of the body suffer (1, 496). Deterioration in important links in mind-body interaction can occur, possibly resulting in a decrease of activity of the immune system. If prolonged physiological stress occurs,