What is stress?

Today a lot of people say that they are stressed out.

The brain

And some people even say they are depressed because of all the strain they feel. Do you know what stress is and what is the difference between stress and depression?

The dictionary definition of the word stress is:  “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

The definition of the word depression is: “severe despondency and dejection typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”

Most professionals would agree that stress is one of the leading causes of depression. Depression can lead to severe mental health issues and worse which is one important reason why stress needs to be identified and “treated” as soon as possible.

We are talking about stress prevention!

Some people don’t use the word stress – they might say: strain, pressure, (nervous) tension, worry, anxiety, trouble, difficulty; it is more or less the same thing.

I usually call it brain stress – because the brain is the motor in these processes. I see it as grades on a scale – roughly you can divide it into 4 phases that are seamlessly connected.

  1. Acute stress moments –  trying to catch a bus when late, having more homework than time allows, performing of different kinds – I hope you understand – it can be anything that is stretching your limits a bit too much.

Acute stress moments are perfectly ok, they are a natural part of life and will do no harm – if you get some time to rest / rejuvenate after.  If not things will progress into stage 2

  1. Exhaustion phase: A lot of acute stress moments that come after each other without having the pause in-between. Stress hormones build up in the body – after a while they start processes that are not to the favour of health. You get irritable, feel worn out, get a headache, repeating infections, hard to relax.

It is still not too late to reverse the band. But here you are getting short of time and you are in a desperate need of rest. Sometimes a longer rest. Because if you don’t take care now you might glide into stage 3:

  1. Depression phase: Now you have passed the border to disease. Your sleep is very disturbed and you have lost the joy for life. Time to wake up and rapidly do something – or rather hope someone in your surroundings recognise your situation and help you out. Because at this level you usually have decreased executive power so you badly need help. If this continues you get into stage 4
  2. Collapse phase: Your resources are emptied and you your body and mind screams for help by panic attacks, hypertension, gastric ulcer and more. As you may have guessed it is so much harder to get back to normal if you have come this far in the process.

This may feel sad but I hope you can see the bright side of this knowledge.


Here is room for great deeds helping each other out – warning each other in time. Don’t be afraid of telling friends when you see they start getting drawn into this overwhelming process.

I plan to have more posts on this subject ahead – keep your eyes open.

And I would love to hear your thought on today’s topic. Just post a comment or question below and I will read it – and answer.

Until next week – keep smiling!

Dr. Annika

3 thoughts on “What is stress?

  1. Dear Dr Annika,

    I’m a sales mamnger in a commercial sector working in a showroom but for sometimes now i’m facing a problem with one of my salesperson who is not abiding to my rules and wants to do things by her own way.

    Each time she committed an error, she does not accept it and talking loudly with me infront of customers and other staff members.

    By doing so, she is challenging my authority and this also is creating lots of stress in the work environment.

    Please help me to have a peaceful working environment.

    Thanking you in advance and wating for your prompt reply.


    • Hi!
      I can really feel your strain and stress in you comment. However I dont believe this is the right forum to deal closer with your personal situation so I will send my answer to you in a private e-mail. And good for you that you dig into the problem before it gets all out of hand.

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