Stress: Causes, Definitions and Impacts

3892 words (16 pages) Essay in Health

30/10/17 Health Reference this

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  • Rosalina Das

Definition

“Stress is the trash of modern life-we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.”―Danzae Pace

“a reaction of a particular individual to a stimulus event”. (Skinner, 1985)

“stress may be viewed as the body’s response to any real or imagined event perceived as requiring some adaptive response and/or producing strain” (Elliot, 1988)

“stress can be considered as any factor, acting internally or externally that makes it difficult to adapt and that induces increased effort on the part of the person to maintain a state of equilibrium both internally and with the external environment”. (Humphrey, 1992)

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“stress is caused by a multitude of demands (stressors), such as an inadequate fit between what we need and what we are capable of, and what our environment offers and what it demands of us”. (Levi, 1996)

“a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well being”. (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984)

As can be inferred from the definitions above, there are three main ways to define stress. Firstly, we can define stress as a factor of stimuli a person is subjected to. The greater the pressure, the more will be the stress perceived. This takes into account the cumulative nature of stress. Secondly, stress can be defined as the response to aversive stimuli. This train of thought was publicised by Selye who also called the physiological changes that the body undergoes as a response to stimuli as the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).

Stress is a usual human reaction to pressure when confronted with challenging situations. This pressure is not only about what is happening in our surrounding, but also about the demands that we place on ourselves.

Stress is essentially a reply to a stimulus that interrupts our physical or mental equilibrium. A stressful event can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response which results in a sudden flow of hormones namely adrenaline and cortisol through the body. Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies go through as we adjust to our continually changing environment. It has both physical and emotional results on us and can craft positive or negative feelings.

Stress is not a medical condition, but severe stress that continues for a longer period of time may lead to a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or other severe mental health problems.

Causes of Stress

Stress triggering events are different for different individuals. According to surveys, stress related to work contributes the highest percentage. In the united states, 40% workers admit to have stress caused due to their work and 25% blame work as the biggest cause of stress in their lives.

In general, change in an existing situation of a human being causes stress. This is caused due to lack of control over the existing situation. The changes might be good or bad changes, but they might cause stress to a person. The few common causes of stress are:

  • Job interview
  • Examination
  • New relationship/ Breaking up of old relationship
  • Marriage
  • Serious illness in oneself or a friend or family member
  • Moving to a new place
  • Death of friends or family/ Birth of a child
  • Unemployment
  • Insufficient resources to manage the family
  • Caring for a disabled friend or family

and many similar situations. This stress is causes as one has to re-adjust their life in accordance with the new phenomenon.

The below diagram depicts the three major reasons of stress in college going students.

Stress isn’t always caused by outside factors, sometimes it comes from inside. People can stress themselves by worrying about things. The internal factors causing stress are:

  • Fear and uncertainty about events that are outside someone’s control. Worrying about such events can only cause stress, but not any improvement of the situation.
  • Attitudes and perceptions of the world. A person’s point of view of events and situations can make a huge difference. The same situation may be perceived differently by different people and thus generate different level of stress.
  • Unrealistic expectations. When expectations don’t match reality, it causes stress.

The below graph shows the causes of stress in American citizens according to a survey.

Types of stress

All animals, including human beings have a natural stress response and it is very helpful. But severe stress can cause both physical and mental harm. There are various kinds of stress depending on its causes and effect.

A little amount of stress, called “acute stress” is the most common form of stress. It could be tolerable, in fact it might be constructive in the sense that it keeps a person active and alert. It is usually for a short term of time.

Also stress in long-term termed as “chronic stress,” can have major effect on both physical and mental health of a person. It often develops when a person loses hope of getting out of a bad situation and they stop giving effort to get out of it.

“Episodic Stress” is the kind of stress that originates from a continuous exposure to mismanagement and crisis in life. This is usually found in type ‘A’ personalities as the are always in a hurry, but always late. Episodic stress is caused by constant worrying, pessimism, anxiousness and depression.

“Traumatic stress” is the kind of stress caused by events threating one’s life. For example being in a major accident, involved in war, physically or mentally assaulted or having faced a natural disaster can causepost-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

Symptoms of stress

The signs of stress can show in various forms. Listed below are various signs of stress.

Physical Signs of Stress

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sweating/ freezing hands
  • Headache
  • Shallow or erratic breath
  • Causing nausea, stomach upset
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbance in sleep
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Increased/decreased appetite, increased alcohol consumption

Cognitive Signs of Stress

  • Forgetfulness
  • Being unmindful, Difficulty in concentrating
  • Difficulty in understanding
  • Negative self-assessment and negative self perception

Emotional Signs of Stress

  • Getting angry, irritated easily
  • Anxiety, feelings of panic
  • Fear
  • Crying
  • Increased conflicts in personal life
  • Getting frustrated easily

Impact of stress

Stress is a major concern of the modern world. The below statistics depicts how it has impacted the human race.

  • 43% percent of adults suffer from stress related health problems
  • Stress related ailments contribute to 75%-90% of all doctor visits.
  • Stress is declared as a hazard of the workplace by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared. More than $300 billion is spent annually to cope up with stress in the American industry.
  • Untreated, chronic stress reactions can cause a lifetime prevalence of emotional disorder in more than 50% of people.

In long term, stress can cause serious impact on our body.

Stress Management

Stress managementrefers to the verity of medical andpsychotherapiestechniques which helps in controlling a patient’s stress levels. The treatment may be there for chronic stress or episodic Stress or traumatic stress.

Managing stress is all about taking charge. If one controls one’s thoughts, emotions, schedule, and the way one deals with problems, then they can overpower stress.

Step #1: Identifying the source of stress

The first step to manage stress is to identify the sources of stress in one’s life. The sources are not always evident and most of the times it is hard to find the real source. This might because we are well acquainted with our way of life and it’s hard to point out what is wrong with it. It is important to find the root cause of stress because that is the key to treat it.

Step #2: Change the situation

We should try to avoid the situation that is causing stress. If the situation is unavoidable, then we must try to alter it. Figuring out the key points to bring about a change in the current situation helps in dealing with stress. This might involve changing few things like communication, relationship or any other way of life. But this change has to be ensured so that it can lead to a less stressful situation.

Step #3: Adapt to the change

It is hard to adapt to any change. But we must ensure that changing the life style doesn’t result in more stress. Also it is advisable to cope up with the changes made as soon as possible. We can adopt to stressful conditions and also regain our sense of control by modifying our attitude and perception.

Step #4: Avoid further unnecessary stress

Stress can’t be always avoided. But we should make a conscious effort to keep it at bay. Isolating situations which causes unnecessary stress can help. Situations which might cause this kind of unnecessary stress could be eliminated in advance. We should just make sure that the peace of mind should be preserved at all cost.

Step #5: Time Management

Stress can be avoided by proper usage of time. Dividing up your work into small segments of doable chunks and dedicating proper amount of time to all activities in a day can reduce the stress in work environment. One should dedicate some buffer time for unexpected activities so that in case of any emergency, the time table is not shattered.

Step# 6 Meditation and breathing exercises

When stress takes over, the sympathetic ANS pumps adrenaline and other hormones into the body to prepare it for action. Usually, the parasympathetic ANS eventually takes over and calms the body down. You can help the parasympathetic ANS take over by practicing meditation and breathing exercises.

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Combine meditation and breathing into one exercise by doing the following: Sit down comfortably and close your eyes. Begin taking slow, measured breaths. Take note of where in your body the breaths originate. After a while, let your body breathe entirely on its own while still focusing on the breath. Notice which parts of the body your breathing moves: From your hands and feet to the top of your head. If you begin to think about anything other than breathing, set your concentration back on those breaths and how they affect your body

Simple things can lead to relieve stress. For example talking to a trusted person (friends or family), calling up someone and have a friendly chat, talking to experts via phone helpline or internet, exercising, taking deep breaths, eating a healthy diet, taking a vacation, time management etc.

Conclusion

As can be inferred from the definitions above, there are three main ways to define stress. Firstly, we can define stress as a factor of stimuli a person is subjected to. The greater the pressure, the more will be the stress perceived. This takes into account the cumulative nature of stress. Secondly, stress can be defined as the response to aversive stimuli. This train of thought was publicised by Selye who also called the physiological changes that the body undergoes as a response to stimuli as the general adaptation syndrome (GAS).

Stress is a usual human reaction to pressure when confronted with challenging situations. This pressure is not only about what is happening in our surrounding, but also about the demands that we place on ourselves.

Job traits and Hackman & Oldham model Motivation and job satisfaction is important. Factors like job satisfaction, job expansion, job turnover, job enrichment, etc. should be ensured to ensure the minimal level of stress occurring at workplaces. Hackman & Oldham job traits model present in their paper have selected to study the impacts of job traits on job stress. In their study on a telecommunication company, Richard Hackman and Edward Lowler (1971) concluded that employees’ job satisfaction is higher and their performance and attendance in workplace is better when they feel traits like skill diversity, task nature, independence and engaging with other further in their job. This study paved the ground for Hackman and Oldham job traits model in 1975. Through a research, they found that employees’ job satisfaction and performance increase and their turnover and absenteeism decrease when they enjoy high levels of job traits such as skill diversity, job nature, task importance, independence and job feedback.

Hackman and Oldham job traits model consists of three parts:

(1) job major aspects including skill diversity, job nature, task importance, independence and job feedback;

(2) mental conditions including the feeling of having an important job, accountability, being informed of job results; and

(3) working and individual ramifications including promoting inner motivation on job qualitative performance improvement, job satisfaction promotion and mitigating job relinquish.

Stress is part of life and sometimes unavoidable. Sometimes a little amount of stress is helpful too. It is only when stress lasts for a longer period of time and exceeds one’s capability of handling it, stress becomes harmful. Stress impacts one’s physical and mental health, relationship, family, work environment and one’s whole life. But stress can be handled. Instead of stress manipulating one’s life, one can learn to manipulate the stress by oneself. By enhancing one’s vision, raising the available resources regarding stress, one can cope up with stress. It is important to know one’s strength and limits regarding handling stress. It is always advisable to take external help if needed to cope with the anxiety and stress in one’s life.

Useful contacts

Emotional / Relationships Problems

1. Aasra, Mumbai

Direct crisis intervention and counselling services for people who are depressed or feeling suicidal.

Phone:+91 22 2754 6669

Timings:All Days :24 Hours

Email:[email protected]

Website:www.aasra.info

Depression, anxiety, obsession and mental health

Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm)

Website:www.rethink.org

Depression Alliance

Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.

Website:www.depressionalliance.org

CALM

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.

Website:www.thecalmzone.net

Contact the Stress Counselling helpline

Talk in confidence, 24 hours a day. Call:0800 092 3189

Useful books

The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbookby Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, Matthew McKay – Publishers New Harbinger Publications: ISBN 1572242140

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

By Edmund J. Bourne

 

The Feeling Good Handbook

By David D. Burns,David D. Burns (Preface by)

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