What is Stress?

A simple definition of stress is anything that causes tension in the mind or body. Stress can be caused by both internal factors (such as personal illness or medical procedure) and external factors (such as work or marital problems).

Not all stress is bad, though. Some stress can actually help you focus and perform your best. For example, your stress level rises when you compete in a contest or give a speech. Afterward, your stress level drops, and then you relax.

An overload of stress, however, can cause a variety of negative effects. Too much stress can take its toll on your body, causing high blood pressure, headaches and sleep problems. And for people with heart issues, poorly managed stress creates special dangers.