Frequently Asked Questions

What are the goals of AIS?
The Institute is dedicated to advancing understanding of the role of stress in health and illness, the nature and importance of mind/body relationships and how to use our vast innate potential for self-healing. Our paramount goal at the AIS is to provide a clearinghouse of stress related information to the general public physicians, health professionals and lay individuals interested in exploring the multitudinous and varied effects of stress on our health and quality of life.

How is AIS organized?
The Institute is organized into various boards and committees who drive the direction of all AIS initiatives. Gallery of Boards and Committees

How I can hear more about AIS activities and become involved?
The Institute’s forum of communication is our website. AIS maintains an active calendar in the News and Events section of the site. This calendar is updated often and houses all the conferences, events and other engagements hosted and attended by the institute as well as activities and events hosted by others that are endorsed by AIS.  If you have an event that you would like to have endorsed by the institute and listed in our official calendar, please contact our Media and Public Affairs department.

What is Stress? Eustress?
If you were to ask a dozen people to define stress, or explain what causes stress for them, or how stress affects them, you would likely get 12 different answers to each of these requests. The reason for this is that there is no definition of stress that everyone agrees on, what is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on others and we all react to stress differently. That’s easily illustrated by the list of 50 Common Signs And Symptoms Of Stress noted under Effects Of Stress and the attached diagram illustrating how it affects different parts of the body. Learn More

What can I do to relieve stress?
Just as stress is different for each of us there is no stress reduction strategy that is a panacea. Please visit our Stress Management section to learn more.

Is there proof that stress causes coronary heart disease, cancer – or anything else?
“There are things which will not be defined, and Fever is one of them. Besides, when a word has passed into everyday use, it is too late to lay a logical trap for its meaning, and think to apprehend it by a definition.” Peter Mere Latham. Click here to learn more about this topic.

Why is stress now different and more dangerous?
Contemporary stress tends to be more pervasive, persistent and insidious because it stems primarily from psychological than physical threats. It is associated with ingrained and immediate reactions over which we have no control that were originally designed to be beneficial such as:

  • heart rate and blood pressure soar to increase the flow of blood to the brain to improve decision making,
  • blood sugar rises to furnish more fuel for energy as the result of the breakdown of glycogen, fat and protein stores,
  • blood is shunted away from the gut, where it is not immediately needed for purposes of digestion, to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide more strength in combat, or greater speed in getting away from a scene of potential peril,
  • clotting occurs more quickly to prevent blood loss from lacerations or internal hemorrhage.

These and myriad other immediate and automatic responses have been exquisitely honed over the lengthy course of human evolution as life saving measures to facilitate primitive man’s ability to deal with physical challenges. However, the nature of stress for modern man is not an occasional confrontation with a saber-toothed tiger or a hostile warrior but rather a host of emotional threats like getting stuck in traffic and fights with customers, co-workers, or family members, that often occur several times a day. Unfortunately, our bodies still  react with these same, archaic fight or flight responses that are now not  only not useful but potentially damaging and deadly.  Repeatedly invoked,    it is not hard to see how they can contribute to hypertension, strokes,  heart  attacks, diabetes, ulcers, neck or low back pain and other Diseases  of Civilization.

How can stress cause so many diseases?
Many of these effects are due to increased sympathetic nervous system activity and an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones. Certain types of chronic and more insidious stress due to loneliness, poverty, bereavement, depression and frustration due to discrimination are associated with impaired immune system resistance to viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and cancer. Stress can have effects on other hormones, brain neurotransmitters, additional small chemical messengers elsewhere, prostaglandins, as well as crucial enzyme systems, and metabolic activities that are still unknown. Research in these areas may help to explain how stress can contribute to depression, anxiety and its diverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, skin and other organs.