Trying to get to the bottom of what stress really is can get quite subjective, but in general stress can be defined as an individual’s response to a physically, mentally and/or emotionally demanding situation.
It begins psychologically in the way that we are using the word “stress” yet soon begins to manifest physically in the body as well.
It usually arises when the individual’s various resources – physical, emotional, biological, material, etc. – are not adequate to meet the demands placed by a situation.
The Main Causes of Stress
A whole lot of situations can give rise to stress:
- Being hard-pressed for time to meet a deadline at work
- Financial problems
- Health problems
- Having to handle too much workload at workplace plus home
- Loss of a near and dear one and countless other situations.
Stress is everywhere and affects everyone – you can be stressed out while doing your darnedest to meet a deadline, or when you’re stuck in a traffic pile-up, or when there’s a fight in the family, or when a student flunks his exams, or when your financial condition is bad and bill payments are pending – such stressful situations encountered in daily life are countless.
In fact, stress has become an inevitable part of modern life.
The survival factor
Our fast-paced world is all about the survival of the fittest – you have the resources, you survive; if you don’t, you pay the price. So, any situation that depletes personal resources or threatens them or snatches them away will cause stress to build up.
The emotional factor
All people respond to situations in an emotional manner. A combination of emotions can lead to stress, depending on how a person can keep his feelings under check and how practical his approach to life is.
The lifestyle factor
Today’s lifestyles are nerve-wracking – commuting problems, terrorism, depression, pink slips, demanding bosses, overwork, fatigue, deadlines, credit, competition, ambitious colleagues, junk food, etc., all combine to raise the stress levels.
The health factor
If a person keeps poor health or is affected by a threatening medical condition – then such factors can lead to stress. Illness of near and dear ones can also lead to stress.
The environmental factor
Take a look around you and you will find we are living in a noisy, polluted world that’s getting warmer by the day. This too contributes to stress.
Types of Stress
You have already grasped what stress is all about, and now you need to know how stress affects you. Before we get to the effects of stress, you need to differentiate between two types of stress – good stress and bad stress.
Good stress is something that is born out of a feeling of competitiveness – many people try to excel at their professions and they want to be the best in their field. This can happen before an interview, a deadline, a sporting event, etc.
Such stress motivates an individual, gives him a sense of purpose, and brings about a happy and positive outcome. However, people must take care to ensure that this good stress occurs in small bouts and doesn’t get stretched.
When people get stressed (even though it may be good stress) all the time then such stress can be termed as bad stress.
However, that is too narrow a definition for bad stress – bad stress is everything that good stress isn’t – it is long-lived and brought in by negative feelings caused by emotional conflicts or health conditions or negative thoughts or fights or boredom or academics, or a combination of various factors. The outcome of bad stress is negative.
Effects of Stress
Stress is the body’s response to a situation. When people are stressed, the body releases energy-boosting chemicals into the blood to fight off stress. These chemicals adrenalize the person and he reacts to the situation – if the situation is defused and the energy is spent positively, then stress does not cause any problems.
However, if the energy-boosting chemicals remain in the bloodstream and do not find an outlet, then that is bad news. Such bad stress can affect both mind and body – it can cause health (physical and mental) problems, emotional trauma, conflicts, fatigue and various other negative effects.
Facts about Stress
- Stress is universal. It affects people in large numbers across the world, and it spares no one – man, woman or child.
- According to statistics, 75% of Americans experience stress minimum twice in a month.
- Stress can cause or aggravate existing medical conditions. It is known to cause or contribute to high blood pressure and heart problems.
- It can make the sufferer latch on to very unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking or even drug consumption.
- It makes a person very aggressive and such attitude leads to alienation of friends and family.
- It hurts work productivity.
- It can cause overeating – which may lead to obesity.
Well, to manage stress you have to determine your accepted stress levels. If you figure your stress is beyond your acceptable limits, you have to do something about it.
Start thinking positively and mingle with positive people, learn a light meditation exercise, avoid confrontations, don’t procrastinate, and above all, learn to accept a situation that is causing you stress and fight it decisively. Else, if you are in a position, avoid stressful situations.
But if despite your best efforts you are unable to combat your stress, then seek professional help.
To conclude, before fighting stress, learn to distinguish between good stress and bad stress. You have to learn to enjoy good stress, because life without such stress can be boring – it is the bad stress you need to kill in order to survive.