Stress is not damage. It looks like damage. It acts like damage. But brother, damage it is not. Consequences are damage. Stress is just your ability to avoid permanent, or semi-permanent harm. I have been involved in a lot of conversations about what stress is, and what it is not. There are, essentially, two views on stress. On the one side stress is viewed as a type of damage. On the other it is not. I think I have established which side of the argument I fall under.
See the problem I have with stress being viewed as a type of damage is that it doesn't really behave like damage in a few key areas. It has no lasting effect. It is not immediately statistically relevant. It does not require any sort of recovery action. To me damage must have at least one of those factors to count as damage. I could be wrong. Hasn't happened yet, but there is always the possibility.
If stress isn't damage, what is it then? Stress is a pacing mechanic. Its the ticking clock that pushes conflict forward. It is also a damage mitigator. It is there to help the players avoid consequences. Here is where I tend to get into arguments with folks. They look at stress the other way around. They see consequences as a way to avoid stress. To me this is baffling. Why would the longer lasting issue be the mitigating factor?
This is the beauty of stress and consequences for me. it is a constant balancing act to keep you dancing around in pain and moving toward the end of the conflict. Conflict becomes a game of chicken. Which side concedes first? How bad do you want, or need, to win? This interplay makes every hit you take a choice between shortening the conflict(taking stress) or making your life harder(taking consequences).