Stress: An Overview and its Causes

August 3, 2018

All of us are affected by stress. Stress sets in when you are unable to reach targets, when you are disciplining your children, when you are coping up with conflicts with your spouse or when you are managing your finances or when you are stuck in a traffic and have an urgent and very important meeting to attend. In short, stress has become omnipresent.

 

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A little bit of stress is manageable and is considered to be essential to bring out the best in every individual. This is called eustress. However, too much of the same can sometimes wear down a person and make him sick physically as well as mentally. This is called distress.

Through this blog we are going to understand how stress affects one’s body and performance after understanding what Stress is all about.

Stress is defined in different ways by different experts.

In the medical parlance, it is best described as “a psychological or physical stimulus which produces physiological reactions or mental tensions that lead to illness”. When a person is under stress, his adrenal gland releases cortisol into the blood stream.

According to Lazarus, stress is experienced when a person feels that “demands exceed social and personal resources that he or she is able to mobilize. Stress, whichever way experienced, disturbs the regular functioning of the person. And yes, there is no fun in life when you do not experience stress. A situation could be extremely stressful for a given person but the very same situation could be a cakewalk for another. Hans Seyle said that stress is not always harmful and it greatly depends on how a person takes it. He said that the stress of successful work can be beneficial but the stress of a failure or infection or humiliation can be detrimental.

Stress can therefore be negative, positive and neutral. It has been observed that people get extremely productive when they are placed under stress. A person should therefore know how much of stress he can handle so that there is optimized performance from his end.

Stress is basically of three types.

Acute stress: Here stress exists for a short time. It may be because of work pressure or over exertion or heightened physical activity. This is extremely common when people handle many responsibilities and hence are overloaded. They become hard-pressed for time and end up becoming disorganized with their work.
Episodic stress: This kind of stress affects those people who fall prey to acute stress frequently. These people can be helped by bringing in some lifestyle changes so that their stress does not become ground for more complex and chronic problems.
Chronic stress: This is stress for a prolonged period of time. It could last for a few days to a few weeks to a few months to a few years too. This is due to chronic illnesses, failures in life, bad marriage or stressed families. This kind of stress can prove to be harmful for the health of the person.
What are the different causes of Stress?

There are different causes of stress.

Stress at Home:

Chronic illness to the person or anyone in the family.
Divorce from spouse
Death of spouse or death of a family member or close relative
Pregnancy or birth of a baby
Disobedience shown by children
Discord with spouse
Financial pressures
Relocation or house shifting

 

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Stress at Workplace:

Meeting various demands in the job
Problematic relations with boss
Achieving targets
Tremendous work pressure
Long working hours
Harassment
Poor rapport with boss or coworkers
Working against interest and will
Change of job
Other causes:

Uncertainty
Social threats, physical threats, financial threats
Misunderstandings with special people
Lack of sleep
Identifying the source of stress can help deal with it more effectively.

Internal stress:

This is worry that one has about things over which he has no control. People themselves are responsible for this kind of stress. It occurs because we tend to worry more about those things on which we do not have any control.

Survival stress:

This is a regular response that all people give towards some kind of danger. The body responds naturally and helps it in ‘fight or flight’.

Fatigue and overwork:

Fatigue sets in over a period of time and takes a toll one fine day. Too much of work brings about this stress, whether it is in home or school or in office. When a person does not know how to efficiently manage his time, he falls prey to this kind of stress.

Environmental stress:

This stress comes about because of stressors outside in the environment. Crowding, noise and travel may act as environmental stressors.

We have seen the different types of stress and the causative factors of stress and the sources of stress. A certain amount of stress is definitely helpful in bringing out the best of performance in a person but too much of it for over a long period of time may debilitate his performance.

I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.