Definition of Stress
Researchers define stress as a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that causes bodily or mental tension. Simply put, stress is any outside force or event that has an effect on our body or mind.
Why Do We Stress Out?
Essentially, we stress out for the following two main reasons:
- We perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful.
- We don’t believe we have the resources to cope.
Symptoms of Stress
- Sleep pattern changes
- Digestion changes
- Loss of sexual drive
- Headaches, aches and pains
- Infections and Indigestion
- Dizziness and Fainting
- Sweating and trembling
- Tingling hands and feet
- Missed heartbeats
- Lack of concentration
- Memory lapses
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Panic attacks
- Appetite changes – too much or too little
- Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia
- Increased intake of alcohol and other drugs
- Increased smoking
- Nail biting
- Bouts of depression
- Fits of rage
- Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance
Stressors are factors or events, real or imagined, that elicit a state of stress.
- Bright Lights
- Confined Spaces
- Aggressiveness by others
Major Life Events
- Lost job
- Marital status change
- Misplaced keys
- Mechanical breakdown
- Lack of sleep
- Overloaded schedule
Negative Self Talk
- Pessimistic thinking
- Unrealistic expectations
- Taking things personally
- ‘All or nothing’ thinking
- Rigid thinking
Types of Stress
- Distress is a continuous experience of oppression behind our responsibilities. It is a sense of being imposed upon by difficulties.
- Examples of distress are financial crisis or difficulties, conflicts in relationships, managing a chronic illness etc.
- Eustress is a kind of stress which is positive and beneficial.
- The source of this stress are useful and a learning opportunities to us.
- It provides motivation and energy to meet our responsibilities.
- Examples are graduating from college, getting married, receiving a promotion etc.
Form of Stress
- Everyone has this kind of stress.
- It resolves itself within a day or two.
- No intervention is necessarily required to resolve this kind of stress.
- This form of stress builds up in your body.
- It becomes more difficult to alleviate your symptoms.
- You may have more serious physical symptoms and mental anguish in this form of stress.
Acute Traumatic Stress:
- This form of stress is a critical incident stress.
- It produces considerable physiological distress.
- This is a normal reaction to abnormal events.
Post Traumatic Stress:
- This form is a severe stress produced by severe physiological trauma.
- It is created by unresolved critical incident stress.
- It produces lasting changes.
Stress and Our perception
We often identify specific events, people, or situations that seem to make us feel stressed. It’s as if these things automatically cause us to feel stressed out. In reality, it’s how we perceive an event, the meaning we give to it, which leads us to feel stressed or not stressed about it.
The interesting thing about stress is that it begins with our own perception of things!
Have you ever noticed that some people can feel quite stressed out about a particular event while others don’t seem to be bothered by it at all? For instance, if all three of your friends get a poor grade on a test, you may notice some different reactions. One friend may seem mildly annoyed for an hour or so. Another friend doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. The third friend, however, might become quite alarmed by this poor grade. She can’t get it off her mind, she vows to study three times as hard next time, she can’t concentrate on her other work, and she might even find it difficult to fall asleep that night.
In a case such as this, a poor grade on a test means something different for each of your friends. The same situation has happened to all three, but each person feels more or less stressed about it because of what it means to him or her.
Stages of Human Stress Response
The ‘alarm’ activates when the stress of a threat is felt. This is characterized by pallor, sweating and an increased heartbeat.
When the stress is maintained, then comes the stage of ‘resistance’. The alarm symptoms dissipate and the body develops an adaptation to the stress.
Finally, the stage of ‘exhaustion’ is reached. In this stage the body fails to adapt to the continued stress. Certain diseases such as gastric disorders, ulcers and colitis may begin at this stage.
Responses to Stress – Fight or Flight Response
When we feel that something is threatening us, our bodies react quickly to provide protection and prepare to take action. This physiological reaction is known as ‘fight or flight’ response.
This type of ‘fight or flight’ situation was common in the olden days when people were living in forests.
Whenever a person saw a tiger threatening him, either he has to fight the tiger or he has to run away. He has to respond quickly.
At this stage, the heart beat increases, breathing rate increases, muscles get tense and the mind processes information rapidly.
What is Stress Management?
Stress management is the reduction of stress and especially chronic stress often for the purpose of improving everyday functioning.
Stress management encompasses techniques intended to equip a person with effective coping mechanisms for dealing with psychological stress.
Definition of Workplace Stress
Our emotions are getting affected in the workplace because of the social, occupational, environmental and psychological elements that we see as threats. These perceived threats are external and stress is a reaction of the human body. These threats are considered as external stimuli and human body is treated as internal stimuli. The amount of stress depends on the individual’s ability to deal with the external factors as the relative intensity of the stimuli. For example, the stress of creating a software would be more for a fresh graduate who has just joined the company than the stress it would cause an employee with experience.
Management personnel and their employees view stress in two different perspectives. Management view stress as an individual problem which is linked to personality and emotional make up of the employee. Employees often see stress as a problem which is created because of poor working conditions, heavy workloads, unrealistic expectations and other management shortcomings.
According to a recent study, almost 15% of the occupational disease claims are stress related. Workplace stress involved the emotional state resulting from a perceived difference between the level of occupational demand and person’s capability to make up with this demand. Work place stress is related to a person and his workload fit.
Importance of Stress Management
It is important to successfully and strategically master and manage your stress in your life.
Consider the following statistics:
- Stress is the underlying factor in 75-90% of all physician visits.
- 60-90% of all illness comes from undue stress.
Being able to identify stress is the first step to relieve the symptoms of stress in the workplace and at home and to manage your stress, toward a much more relaxed and enjoyable life. Hence, managing stress is important as it is now recognized that stress can cause problems such as
- Weak immune system