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. People feel little stress when they have the time, experience and resources to manage a situation. They feel great stress when they think they can’t handle the demands put upon them.
Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment. It has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.
As we have seen, positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave us feeling “tied up in knots”. What we need to do is find the optimal level of stress that will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us.
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another. And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it.
The person who loves to arbitrate disputes and move from job site to job site would be stressed in a job which was stable and routine, whereas the person who thrives under stable conditions would very likely be stressed in a job where duties were highly varied. Also, our personal stress requirements and the amount which we can tolerate before we become distressed changes with our life-styles and our ages.
It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage it.
Finding the cause of the anxiety is the first step in resolving a problem with stress. Stress management refers to the effort to control and reduce the tension that occurs with a situation that is considered difficult or unmanageable. Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require effort toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it.
There are three major approaches that we can use to manage stress:
• Action-oriented: In which we seek to confront the problem causing the stress, changing the environment or the situation.
• Emotionally-oriented: In which we do not have the power to change the situation, but we can manage stress by changing our interpretation of the situation and the way we feel about it; and
• Acceptance-oriented: Where something has happened over which we have no power and no emotional control, and where our focus is on surviving the stress.
Stress management involves the effort of a person in making emotional and physical changes. The degree of stress and the desire to make the changes will determine the level of change that will take place.
The attitude of an individual can influence whether a situation or emotion is stressful or not. A person with a negative attitude will often perceive many situations as being stressful. Negative attitude is the predictor of stress, because this type of person is more affected by stress than a person with a more positive attitude.
If the nutritional status of the person is poor, the body is stressed and the person is not able to cope well in a stressful situation. As a result, the person can be more susceptible to infections. A poor nutritional state can be related to unhealthy food choices, inadequate food intake, or an erratic eating schedule. A nutritionally unbalanced eating pattern can result in an inadequate intake of nutrients.
Inadequate physical activity can result in a stressful state for body. Physical activity has both physiological and psychological benefits. A consistent programme of physical activity can contribute to a decrease in depression, if it exists. It also improves the feeling of well-being.
A minimal or total lack of mutually supportive friendships/relationships due to family problems or other social problems in general can cause stress. Social situations can be beyond the coping ability of a stressed person.
When a person has no hobbies or means of relaxation, he may be unable to handle stressful situations because the individual has no outlet for stress.
Warnings & Consequences of Physical Signs of Excess Stress:
Physical warning Physical consequences
Warning and consequences of Mental signs of Excess Stress
Mental warning Mental consequences
Lack of concentration
Loss of memory
Quick to cry
Quick to anger
Excessive worry Loss of self-confidence
Total mental breakdown
Stress by itself can’t hurt anyone. Its how we respond to stress that counts.