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Should we fear stress?

Should we fear stress?


We are probably all familiar with this concept. We experience it in different ways, depending on varying circumstances. The definitions of stress are very diverse, but what must be remembered is that it is a response of the body, both psychological and physiological, to a stimulus from the environment, perceived alarmingly by the individual.

Stress can be absolute or relative1.

Going back to our ancestors, absolute stress would be evolutionary in nature and provide an important survival function1. It is a response to a real threat that can affect the life of an individual: a dangerous animal or a natural disaster for example. It is this stress that pushes us to face or avoid (the famous fight/flight) situations that our body perceives as dangerous1. Relative stress, on the other hand, is rather experienced because of the individual interpretation of a situation that is not life-threatening, such as an interpersonal conflict, an exam or an interview1.

Above all, we must understand that stress is not a problem that we must remedy. It is a completely natural phenomenon, even necessary for the survival of a species. It is also thanks to stress that we try to meet the needs of our body1.


It is indeed when stress becomes maladaptive that damage can occur to the body and mind of individuals, who expose themselves to significant psychological risks such as anxiety, depression, exhaustion and others2. Chronic stress can be caused by long-term exposure to the same or different stressors without the individual being able to cope effectively with the adversities they encounter. This would lead to a disruption of stress hormones, which represents, among other things: a risk of developing addictive and impulsive behaviors, vulnerability to physical illnesses, fatigue, irritability2,3,4


Strategies against maladaptive stress

How to put in place appropriate strategies when we are in a state of confusion or when our body reacts in a destabilizing way? Resilience is the long-term key against chronic stress5. However, it is not easy to demonstrate resilience. To regain control over your stress so that it becomes healthy again, it is not enough to relax. We must opt ​​for solutions that allow us to de-stress in the present moment, to bring our body back to respond to stress in a more controlled way and quickly, in order to allow us to think more aptly about more sustainable solutions. These solutions are not universal, it is only by trial and error and by having a good knowledge of our interests and our needs that we know which ones to use at which times. Everyone reacts differently. For some, it may be breathing techniques, the practice of a physical activity / sport, the practice of a hobby and a range of other possible methods. Hangar South offers you several.

 by Chadia Boucher

1. Schramek, T. E. (2006). Alors. . .Pourquoi un mammouth ? (G. Arsenault-Lapierre, Trad.). Stress humain - Centre d’étude sur le stress humain (CESH). https://www.stresshumain.ca/download/mammag-2006 automne/?wpdmdl=12477&refresh=632f7d8b6312e1664056715

2.Mariotti A. (2015). The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future science OA1(3), FSO23. https://doi.org/10.4155/fso.15.21

3. Chanlat, J.F. (1990). Théories du stress et psychopathologie du travail. Prévenir, 20(1), 117-125.

4. Denson, T.F., Spanovic, M., & Miller, N. (2009). Cognitive appraisals and emotions predict cortisol immuneresponses: A meta-analysis of acute laboratory social stressors and emotion inductions. Psychological Bulletin, 135(6), 823-853

5. Justier, R.-B. & Marin, M.-F. (2013). Stress et résilience. Stress humain - Centre d’étude sur le stress humain (CESH) ; Mammouth Magazine. https://www.stresshumain.ca/download/mammag-2013-ete/?wpdmdl=11603&refresh=632f7bf4d74d21664056308

6. Lupien, S. (2010). Par amour du stress. Montréal: Éditions au Carré.

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Our collaborator Chadia Boucher

Chadia (she/her), is passionated about mental health. She is about to graduate in Psychology at University of Montreal with the intention to pursue her studies in Cognitive Neuroscience. She worked with neurotypical and neurodivergent children, people of all ages with physical and/or mental disabilities, and individuals with mental disorders.