The concept of stress
THE CONCEPT OF STRESS It is universally accepted that optimum levels of stress can act as a creative, motivational force that can drive people to achieve incredible feats . Chronic, problematic or traumatic stress on the other hand, is potentially very destructive and can deprive people of physical and mental health, and at times even of life itself. When stress has become chronic and problematic, it is known as distress.
What is meant by the term stress? There are many ways of defining or explaining stress. In general terms, Stress may be defined as the body’s response to situations that pose demands, constraints or opportunities. Stress refers to the reaction and the stressor is defined as the stimulus that evokes a stress response.
Why is the issue of stress such an important one? Stress is not always negative. Indeed some researchers have used the term ‘positive stress’ to refer to stresses that are generally beneficial. However severe or chronic stress can result in disease or death. In the world literature, approximately 80% of all non-trauma deaths are caused by stress-related illnesses. Below are some of the disorders that are thought to be stress-related: • High blood pressure • Strokes • Heart attacks • Menstrual problems • Headaches • Musculoskeletal pain • Increased vulnerability to infection and cancer • Memory impairment • Depression • Anxiety • Sexual difficulties Diabetes mellitus • Peptic ulcer disease
Who experiences stress? Anyone can be affected by stress, but the extent to which we experience stress depends on our life-style and is, therefore, largely self-imposed. Whether you have control over the situation that is causing you stress or not, you can have control over your reaction to the situation. In other words, you can control how stressed you become. Are the effects of stress always harmful? Stressors in our lives are not invariably bad. When the stressor is brief and not traumatic, our physiological state quickly returns to normal. In many instances, the normal stress response is the one which makes us perform. In fact, the absence of stressors in our lives would result in non-achievement.
Positive Stress As mentioned above, stress can have a positive effect, spurring motivation and awareness, providing the stimulation to cope with challenging situations. Stress also provides the sense of urgency and alertness needed for survival when confronting threatening situations. Pressure Pressure is part and parcel of all work and helps to keep workers and managers motivated. It is excessive or uncontrolled pressure which can lead to stress which undermines performance. Work is generally good for people if it is well designed, but it can also be a great source of pressure. Pressure can be positive and a motivating factor, it can help us achieve our goals and perform better. Stress is a natural reaction when this pressure becomes excessive.
Clinical symptoms of stress are as follows: Effect of stress on behaviour
- find it hard to sleep
- change your eating habits
- smoke or drink more
- avoid friends and family or
- have sexual problems
Physical symptoms of stress might include:
- indigestion and nausea
- aching muscles or
- be more indecisive
- find it hard to concentrate or focus on task
- suffer loss of memory
- feelings of inadequacy or
- low self esteem
- lack of confidence
- poor self image
Emotional manifestation of stress
- get irritable or angry
- be anxious
- feel numb
- be hypersensitive or feel drained
- Person can become over-excited or talkative.