What is stress?

We are all different in our genetic make-up, our individual and collective life experiences, our histories, our identities, our heritage, and the way we respond to stress. That’s why two people involved in the same event or situation can have responses that look and feel very different.

When we experience any type of stress, our automatic survival mechanisms become activated to protect us.

Our body prepares to fight, flee, freeze, fawn, or flop, which happens instantaneously without us having time to think about it. We’ve all experienced situations where perhaps we’ve wanted to run away from something when we felt scared, or became angry in response to a situation we found ourselves in.

Psychological trauma is an emotional or psychological response to a deeply distressing, disturbing, or overwhelming event. Many of us will experience these types of events over the course of our lives without any long-term or adverse consequences, but for some, this develops into post-traumatic stress disorder.

Plant tendrils intertwining

Stress exists on a spectrum, ranging from everyday stresses to major life challenges, followed by traumatic stress occurring during, or immediately after an event we find overwhelming or distressing.

At the end of the spectrum is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which encompasses a range of symptoms, usually beginning within three months of an intensely stressful experience and continuing for longer than one month. PTSD usually occurs after a single traumatic event, whereas Complex PTSD tends to develop as a result of prolonged and repeated adverse experiences, including those in childhood.

If you need professional support around this topic, or for more information on symptoms of post-traumatic stress, please go to our resources page.

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