» HR Delavnice in usposabljanja » Understanding stress


Mental health challenges and mental overloads are one of the leading causes for health problems of modern worker. Continue reading and find out what is stress and burnout, why does it happen, signs and symptoms, what happens to the body during stress and how to manage it.

Stress was certainly part of the human condition, far before modern times. However, the innate body response to a stressful situation in modern world is not always the most effective.


Stress is physical and mental body response when experiencing external factors or internal behaviour that disrupt your inner balance.

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Motivacijsko vprašanje - Kaj je stres?

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Med spodnjimi trditvami izberite pravilno.

The word stress comes from the Latin word “stringere” which means “to tighten”. The word carries the meaning of restriction and limitedness and reflects individual psychosomatic states under physical pressure or mental demands. An individual faces negative stress when not being able to cope with such demands.


The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive (“eustress“) and negative (“distress”).

Positive stress is keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger, it encourages us to be active and represents a challenge that we want to accept.

Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds (“distress“).


Stress is the body’s natural defense against predators and danger. It causes the body to flood with hormones that prepare its systems to evade or confront danger. People commonly refer to this as the »fight-or-flight mechanism«.

Imagine that you are walking in the forest and you suddenly see a bear running towards you!

Boj in beg

When you face a challenge or threat, the body activates resources that help people either stay and confront the challenge or get to safety as fast as possible.

You immediately have a physical response: the body produces larger quantities of the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and glucagon), the sympathetic nervous system is activated. The result is an immediate alertness, a faster heartrate that pumps blood throughout the body, deep breathing that brings oxygen, blood full of glucose and heightened muscle preparedness.

These factors all improve a person’s ability to respond to a potentially hazardous or challenging situation.

Stress responses developed to motivate early humans to protect themselves from life-threatening situations. We aren’t facing down predators today, but our body still reacts to modern stressors in the same way.
Long-term stress can be particularly difficult. When stress hormones stay elevated over time, there is a gradual and steady stream of harmful changes to the body. Long-term stress can suppress the immune system, which may lead to the development of diseases.


When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. This correlates with a narrowed attentional focus, thinking becomes rigid, anxiety or fear may appear. A person exposed to long-term stress is less decisive and makes rash decisions.

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A stressful situation, increased level of hormones and activated nervous system lead to an emotional, mental, behavioral and physical reaction.


Everyone copes with stress in different ways, but some people may resort to overeating and excessive consumption or psychoactive substances abuse (nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, drugs and medicines) to manage their stress.

Stress and substances abuse play a major role in the development of sleeping disorders.
Irritability and anger can become common traits in people who are stressed, which affects personal relationships and can also lead to social withdrawal. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to emotional numbness, apathy and later depression.


Before continuing please answer the question.


Kako stres vpliva na organske sisteme?

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Med spodnjimi trditvami, ki veljajo za posledice dolgotrajnega stresa na telo, označite nepravilno.

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We must manage our stress and keep it healthy to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.


Stressors activate autonomic nervous system and trigger a rush of stress hormones in your body, which raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. Your heart is under greater strain.

Stress hormones release fat and sugar into your system to boost your energy. This prepares your body for an emergency response.

People who worry about long-term stress have reason to be concerned: chronic stress, the type of stress that is continual and unchanging, can take a heavy toll. It can negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Chronic stress is when stress is constant and your body is in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time and is a known risk factor for the onset or worsening of cardiovascular disease. It may lead to high blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders, which can increase risk for heart attack and stroke.


Long-term stress exposure causes an excessive production of stomach acid while at the same time blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract decreases, which eventually cause ulcerations in the lining of the stomach and duodenum. Intestinal problems also occur or existing diseases worsen.

Due to the action of hormones and the effect on the blood and blood vessels, disorders in the functioning of the endocrine glands (thyroid disease, diabetes), disorders in the functioning of the kidneys and liver, autoimmune diseases and disorders in the functioning of the reproductive system occur.

Stress and psoriasis often go hand in hand. Stress is one of the most common psoriasis triggers. At the same time, a psoriasis flare can cause stress. This may seem like an endless loop. Although stress doesn’t specifically cause chronic diseases of the intestinal tract, it can lead to flare-ups and relapse.


Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

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It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

The people who fall prey to burnout are, for the most part, individuals who have striven hard to reach a goal. Whatever the project or job, they can be counted on to do more than their share. They’re burning out because they’ve pushed themselves too hard for too long.


prof. dr. Mojca Zvezdana Dernovšek, dr. med., specialistka psihiatrije

Read what are the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and how to talk about mental health problems.


Anxiety is an unpleasant emotion that is usually accompanied by physical and behavioral changes similar to the stress response. It can appear suddenly or gradually, it can be barely noticeable or it can manifest in the form of panic attacks.

Anxiety is among top 3 most common reasons for mental illnesses leave from work in the country.


Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in Slovenia.

The symptoms may include:

  • very negative mood every day for more than two weeks;
  • loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities;
  • tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort.
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. Changes in the function and effect of these neurotransmitters and how they interact with neurocircuits involved in maintaining mood stability may play a significant role in depression and its treatment.
For additional questions or consultation about mental health our experts, psychologists and psychiatrists, are at your disposal.


A stressful situation can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes. This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response.

Stress can be positive. It makes us more alert and helps us perform better in certain situations. However, stress has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived. Chronic stress, which is long-lasting and goes on for an extended period of time, can take a heavy toll on your mental and physical health.

Further reading and learning: How to manage acute stress? and How to manage long-term stress?