For the past one hundred years there has been much debate and theory offered about what stress is and what stress is not. We each know intuitively what stress is to us because we all experience it. Defining stress, however, is not so easy.
Hans Selye is one of the founding fathers in stress research. In 1956, Mr. Selye argued that “stress is not necessarily something bad – it all depends on how you take it. The stress of exhilarating, creative successful work is beneficial, while that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental.”
Selye’s position was that the biochemical effects of stress would be experienced irrespective of whether the situation was positive or negative.
Since that time, much more research has been conducted, and new ideas have evolved. Stress is now widely perceived as a "negative," producing a range of harmful biochemical and long-term effects. These same effects have rarely been observed in positive situations.
Richard S Lazarus is attributed with our most commonly accepted definition of stress: Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”