It is early in the morning and you are fast asleep in your bed.  Suddenly, your alarm clock rings very loudly.  You sit up immediately and jump out of your bed.  As you react to the loud, ringing alarm, you experience stress.  Stress is the response of your body and mind to being challenged or threatened by something within your environment.  You experience stress when situations, events, or people make demands on your body and mind.  Most people often think of stress as a negative experience, but in a lot of cases, stress can be positive as well and can even boost your performance.  Stress is positive when it helps you get away from a dangerous situation, helps your personal development, or helps you finish your goals.  Positive stress is called eustress while negative stress is called distress.

Think about something you have accomplished lately - perhaps you did well on a recent exam or your soccer team had just defeated a tough opponent in the playoffs.  You most likely remember the feelings you experienced before and during that event.  Do you think you performed better or worse when you were under stress or not?

At moderate levels, stress can actually improve your ability to focus and perform jobs and assignments at your best capability.  Beyond that level, however, it is too much and begins to take a negative toll on performance.  Suppose that you were scheduled to take your driving test next week.  The feeling of stress and nervousness might assure that you practice consistently in preparation to take your driving test next week.  On the day of the test, your nervousness might make you more alert behind the wheel and result in a higher score on your exam.  But what if you experience overwhelming stress and nervousness behind the wheel during the driving test?  You might find it extremely difficult to concentrate and you might make numerous mistakes that cause you to fail the test.

Any event or situation around you that causes stress is called a stressor.  A ringing alarm clock is one example of a common stressor.  Other stressors in your life may be a difficult homework assignment, an english project that is due tomorrow, or an argument with a close friend or family member.  These events takes a toll on the capacity of your body and mind.  Four general types of stressors are the following: major life changes, catastrophes, everyday problems, and environmental problems.