What do we mean by stress?
What are the signs?
And how do you know when you need further
Dr Adrian Hampton, a GP and expert on stress, has the answers.
means different things to different people and it is very likely
that there are as many varying definitions of stress as there
are causes. There are some people who get stressed as soon as
there is a slight change in their day to day routine, while
others appear to thrive on the adrenaline rush of a
frantic lifestyle and enjoy living on the edge of an impending
The majority of us fall between these two extremes; however,
it’s ironical that we all need a certain level of stress in
order to function normally. It’s stress that helps us to get out
of bed in the morning and takes us through the day. A totally
stress-free life would be far too tedious and wearisome to
imagine. Having said that, when we step past that minimal level
of tension and notice that our quality of life has been affected
by a feeling of stressful tension, we should distance ourselves
and remedy the situation we are in.
Positive and Negative Stress
When we experience short bursts of stress for limited periods of
time, it’s not life threatening. Our bodies can cope with stress
without any adverse effects. We have in our genes an automated
reaction which is called the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. When
our distant ancestors used to hunt for food in the wild, they
needed an adrenaline trigger to alert us of danger so that we
could escape and get out of harm’s way. This hormonal trigger
has, to a certain extent, remained with us over time.
On the other hand, chronic stress can stay with us for longer
periods and, although it won’t directly cause death, it can be a
major factor in developing heart problems as we get older. If we
allow chronic stress to continue unchecked, it can certainly be
a contributing factor in such conditions as insomnia, psoriasis,
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and migraines.
Doctors haven’t been able to agree on exactly why this is, but
the fast pace of modern life results in our increasing inability
to simply switch off, calm down and relax. This continual state
of high anxiety and inability to simply take a step back from
our hectic lives, often leaves us feeling unwell and can lead to
more serious health problems.
Answer the following true or false questions and confirm your answers by finding
the relevant information in the above text.
1. Most people suffer
from extreme stress. 2. We all need a little stress to be normal.
3. If we didn’t have some stress in our lives, we’d
be really bored. 4. If you suffer from chronic stress, you will
probably die from a heart attack.
Check your answers.
Find words in the above text which match the following definitions. Follow the
Example: to grow, develop or be
successful = to thrive
1. done or arranged in a hurry and a state of excitement
or confusion =
(adj.) 2. not interesting or exciting in any way; boring =
(adj.) 3. a force or influence that stretches, pulls or puts
pressure on something, sometimes causing damage =
(noun) 4. to do something to correct or improve something that
is wrong = (verb) 5. a sudden increase in something, especially for a short
period = (noun) 6. to deal successfully with a difficult situation =
(verb) 7. to chase and try to catch and kill an animal or bird
for food, sport or profit =
(verb) 8. describes something harmful that is continuing or
increasing without or despite any limits or attempts to prevent
it = (adj.)
Check your answers.
Some of the following phrases have the words in an incorrect order, and some are
correct. If you see a mistake, write the sentence with the words in the correct
order without looking back at the text. Follow the example.
appear thrive on to the adrenaline rush of a lifestyle
1. There are some people who get stressed as soon as there is a
slight change in their routine day to day.
2. We all need a certain level of stress in order normally to
3. A totally stress-free life would be far too tedious and
wearisome to imagine.
4. …they needed an adrenaline trigger to alert us of danger so
that could we escape and get of out harm’s way.
5. ...although it won’t cause directly death, it can be a factor
major in developing heart problems as we get older.
6. If we allow chronic stress to continue unchecked, it can
certainly be a contributing factor in such conditions as…
7. Doctors have been not able to agree on exactly why is this,…
8. This continual state of high anxiety and inability to simply
take a step back from our hectic lives, often leaves us feeling
unwell and can lead to more serious health problems.
Check your answers.
Take the Stress Test and find out your stress level.
Use the Help box for difficult vocabulary.
1. Are you often angry or
2. Do you have dramatic mood swings?
3. Is it common for you to suffer from obsessive thoughts or
actions, such as repeatedly washing your hands or constantly
checking if you have left the gas on?
Do you regularly feel frightened or apprehensive?
5. Are you a sufferer of diminished libido (a low sex drive)?
6. Do you experience feelings of low self-worth or self-loathing?
7. Do you sometimes think of commiting suicide?
8. Do you regularly find it imposible to concentrate?
9. Do you have constant feelings of guilt?
10. Do you experience paranoia?
11. Do you get aches in parts of your body, particularly in your
sholders and back?
12. Do you have nightmares, suffer from insomnia or just wake up
feeling tired and unrested?
Do you suffer from breathlessness?
14. Do you often get indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation?
15. Do your muscles sometimes twitch uncontrollably?
16. Do you suffer from being constantly tired?
17. Do you suffer from pains or tightness in the chest area?
18. Do you experience palpitations or a 'lump' in the stomach or
19. If you are female, have you noticed your menstrual cycle
20. Do you sometimes have clammy or sweaty hands?
21. Are you a ‘yes’ person, always agreeing to work more and do
things for friends, family and work colleagues?
22. Is it common for you to rigidly stick to routines?
Do you either clench and unclench your fists, and/or clench your
jaw and/or grind your teeth?
24. Are you a consumer of large quantities of either alcohol or
25. Do you often find yourself too busy to relax?
26. Do you often find it difficult to make decisions and, as a
result, feel increasingly frustrated by this?
27. Do you think that you set yourself deadlines that are
28. Do you frequently lose your temper and get irritated easily?
29. Do you find yourself working longer and longer to achieve
the same or even less?
30. Have you noticed that you are either overeating or perhaps
that you have lost your appetite entirely?
mood swings = cambio de estado de ánimo
loathing = aversión, odio
twitch = mover nerviosamente
a lump in the throat = un nudo en la garganta
clammy = húmedo/a
clench = apretar
grind (teeth) = rechinar (los dientes)
jaw = mandíbula
deadline = fecha tope o límite
Count one point for each 'yes' answer and check your score below.
Scores of 1-6
You are laid back and stress does not seem to be a problem for you.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Scores of 7-12 You are in
control, but keep an eye on your stress levels.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Scores of 13-17 Danger Zone.
Watch out! Your stress levels are high.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Scores of 18+ You are very
stressed out and you probably need professional help.
Do you remember the following collocations from the above text and
Match the verbs with the words to make collocations. Follow the example.
Listen to check your answers.
Check your answers.
Now choose one of the collocations from the previous exercise to complete each
of the following sentences. You will need to make changes to some of the
1. When I’m driving in
heavy traffic, it doesn’t take much for me to
and start shouting
at other motorists. 2. My dentist has given me a plastic mouth guard to
stop me from at
night. 3. When I’m working on a difficult project, I find it
sometimes and think about what I’ve done so far and where
I’m going. 4. I knew he was going to hit me because his eyes
opened wide, he
and stepped aggressively towards me. 5. Great writers like Hemingway and Miller needed to
in order to do a
certain amount of work every day. Their days were not all
filled with wine, women and whisky. 6. I can’t live with my wife anymore. Not unless she
stops . One minute
she’s laughing, smiling and joking, and the next she’s
screaming at me and throwing the dishes around the room. 7. My boss has
for my report on
sales in the US. It has to be finished by next Friday at the
latest. 8. There are many ways to
, such as
meditation, medication and acupuncture. I prefer to go to a
bar and drink until I fall over.