Stress management is a wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person's level of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of and for the motive of improving everyday functioning. In this context, the term 'stress' refers only to a stress with significant negative consequences, or distress, rather than what he calls eustress, a stress whose consequences are helpful or otherwise
Stress produces numerous physical and mental symptoms which vary according to each individual's situational factors. These can include physical health decline as well as depression. The process of stress management is named as one of the keys to a happy and successful life in modern society. Although life provides numerous demands that can prove difficult to handle, stress management provides a number of ways to manage anxiety and maintain overall well-being.
Despite stress often being thought of as a subjective experience, levels of stress are readily measurable, using various physiological tests, similar to those used in polygraphs.
WHAT IS STRESS
Stress is a feeling of emotional strain and pressure. Stress is a type of psychological pain. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to bodily harm. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression and also aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
Stress can be external and related to the environment, but may also be caused by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem stressful.
NATURE OF STRESS OF MANAGEMENT
Stress is not a factor that resides in the individual or the environment, instead it is embedded in an ongoing process that involves individuals transacting with their social and cultural environments.
There are all kind of factors that can cause stress. They range from physical illness to financial problems, to change of work, to strain relations, to loss of dear one, to social situations. All these stressors can be listed under:
Dimensions of Stressors:
The stresses which people experience also vary in terms of
Intensity- low intensity vs. high intensity,
Duration- short-term vs. long-term,
Complexity- less complex vs. more complex
Predictability- unexpected vs. predictable
The stress experience will be determined by the resources of the person, such as money, social skills, coping style, support networks, etc.
An individual’s experiences of stress depend on the physiological strength of that person. Thus, individuals with poor physical health and weak constitution would be more vulnerable than would be those who enjoy good health and strong constitution.
Psychological characteristics like mental health, temperament, and self-concept are relevant to the experience of stress.
The cultural context in which we live determines the meaning of any event and defines the nature of response that is expected under various conditions.
Appraisal of Stress
The perception of stress is dependent upon the individual’s cognitive appraisal of events and the resources available to deal with them. An individual’s response to a stressful situation largely depends upon the perceived events and how they are interpreted or appraised.
1. Primary Appraisal
Primary appraisal refers to the perception of a new of changing environment as positive, neutral or negative in its consequences.
2. Secondary appraisal
When one perceives an event as stressful, they are likely to make a secondary appraisal, which is the assessment of one’s coping abilities and resources and whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat or challenge of the event. These resources may be mental, physical, personal or social. If one thinks has appositive attitude, health, skills and social support to deal with the crisis s/he will feel less stress.
These appraisals are very subjective and will depend on many factors. One factor is the past experience of dealing with such a stressful condition. If one has handled similar situations very successfully in past, they would be less threatening for her/him. Another factor is whether the stressful event is perceived as controllable, i.e. whether one has mastery or control over a situation. A person who believes that s/he can control the onset of a negative situation, or its adverse consequences, will experience less amount of stress than those who have no such sense of personal control.
TYPES OF STRESS
The three major types of stress, which is physical and environmental, psychological, and social. It is important to understand that all these types stress are interrelated.
Physical and Environmental
Physical stresses are demands that change the state of our body. We feel stained when we overexert ourselves physically, lack a nutritious diet, suffer an injury, or fail to get enough sleep. Environmental stresses are aspects of our surroundings that are often unavoidable such as air pollution, crowding, noise, heat of the summer, winter cold, etc. Another group of environmental stresses are catastrophic events or disasters such as fire, earthquake, floods, etc.
These are stresses that we are ourselves in our mind and are unique to the person experiencing them. These internal sources of stress. Some of the important sources of the psychological stress are frustration, conflicts, internal and social pressures, etc. We worry about problems, feel anxiety, or become depressed.
Frustration results from the blocking of needs and motives by something or someone that hinders us from achieving a desired goal. There could be a number of causes of frustration such as social discrimination, interpersonal hurt, low grades in school, etc.
Conflicts may occur between two or more incompatible needs or motives, e.g. whether to study dance or psychological. You may want to continue studies or take up a job. There may be a conflict of values when you are pressurised to take any action that may be against the value held by you.
Internal pressures stem from beliefs based upon expectations from inside us to ourselves such as, ‘I must do everything perfectly.’ Such expectation can only lead to disappointment. Many of us drive ourselves ruthlessly towards achieving unrealistically high standards in achieving our goals.
Social pressures may be brought about from people who make excessive demands on us. This can cause even greater pressure when we have to work with them. Also, there are people with whom we face interpersonal difficulties, ‘a personality clash ‘of sorts.
These are inducing externally and result from our interaction with other people. Social events like death or illness in the family, strained relationships, trouble with neighbours are some examples of social stresses. These social stresses vary widely from person to person who like to spend quiet evenings at home while an outgoing person may find staying at home in evenings stressful.
SOURCES OF STRESS
Stress can be generated because of a wide range of events and conditions. Few of these are:
Types of personality
Each individual has their own personality traits. Some people are sensitive, emotional, competitive in nature others may be relaxed, carefree, patient and less serious. Individuals belonging to first type of personality are more susceptible to stress while that of second type feel less (no) stress. Thus, Individual basic dispositions can also be the reason for potential stress.
Demographic differences such as age, health, education and occupation are some of the reasons causing stress in individuals.
Health: Sound health enables a person to cope up stress better that unsound health. Physical condition of individual like illness, disability leads to potential stress.
Age: Age is positively related to stress. When a person grows older, his/her expectations and responsibilities also increase and if he/she is unable to find avenues for realising expectations, one feels stressed.
Education: Better education provides an opportunity to understand things in a better manner. So better educated persons are less prone to stressed condition.
Occupation: The nature of the occupation and stress are related. Certain occupations are inherently stressful than the other occupations. For instances, doctors, lawyers, politicians etc.
Life styles of individuals can also cause stress.
Sedentary life styles, individuals experiencing certain unique situations, faster career changes lead to stress.
The origin of stress can be any variation in physical surroundings conditions like high temperature, absence of comfortable sitting arrangement in office, noise etc.
These are the personal stresses we endure as individuals, due to the happenings in our daily life, such as noisy surroundings, commuting, quarrelsome neighbours, electricity and water shortage, traffic jams etc.
When a individual is subjected to hassles for significant period of time, it produces stress.
Major life events that disturb our routine and because upheaval can be stressful.
If several of these major life events that are planned (e.g. moving into a new house) or unpredicted (e.g. break- up of a long-term relationship) occur within a short period of time, then it may produce stress.
These include being involved in a variety of extreme events such as a fir, train or road accident, robbery, earthquake, tsunami, etc.
The effects of these events may occur after some lapse of time and sometimes persist as symptoms of anxiety, flashbacks, dreams and intrusive thoughts, etc.
Symptoms of Stress
The way one responds to stress varies depending upon his/her personality, early upbringing and life experience. Everyone has their own pattern of stress response. Hence, both the symptoms and their intensity vary from individual to individual. The symptoms of stress can be physical, emotional and behavioural.
Emotional symptoms include:
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need take control
Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
Low self-esteem, lonely, worthless, and depressed
Physical symptoms include:
Insomnia- lack of sleep
Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Forgetfulness and disorganisation
Inability to focus
Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioural symptoms of stress include:
Changes in appetite-either not eating or eating too much
Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
Exhibiting more nervous behaviours, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Effects of stress:
An individual experiences stress through psychological emotions and is disseminated through physiological breakdown or biological changes. However, stress is not negative always. Stress has also positive consequences. The positive form of stress is known as eustress.
Eustress- is the term used to describe the level of stress that is good for you and is one of a person’s best assets for achieving peak performances and managing minor crisis. Eustress, however, has the potential of turning into ‘distress’. Distress is the manifestation of stress that cause our body’s wear and tear. Few of the Eustress effects include:
Motivation: Mild stress elevates body metabolic and biological rates. The increase in the metabolism leads to increase in drive for achievements.
Performance: It enhances job performances, leads to excellence and provides impetus to work hard and perform better.
Speed: Mild stress stimulates body and increase reactivity. It helps individuals perform tasks in a rapid way.
Decision –Making: Eustress helps in development of proper perception in the decision making.
Creativity: Individuals involved in the discharge of professional oriented jobs, jobs involving creativity, challenge, interpersonal communications and certain managerial jobs, will be benefited by stress, which leads to positive performances.