Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress can be positive or negative. Sometimes stress acts as a motivator for peak performance, so is helpful when the situation offers an opportunity to the individual. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations because your body prepares to face a threat in response to danger. However, it can be negative when the individual faces physical, social, emotional and organizational problems. Everyone feels stressed from time to time. This may be due to a short-term occurrence or can even be as a result of an incident which keeps happening over a long time. Major causes of stress in work are occupational demands, work overload, work under load, poor working conditions, lack of group support, role ambiguity, interpersonal and intergroup conflicts, etc. Certain factors outside the work can also have an impact on individual’s stress such as inadequate facilities, life changes, career changes, personality, racial, caste and religious conflicts, frustration, etc.
How stress affects well-being
Stressors have a significant impact on our mood, well-being, health, and behavior. Acute stress responses in healthy individuals mostly are adaptive and do not impose a health burden. But some studies have shown that sudden stresses can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death. However, if the stressor is unremitting mostly in older and unhealthy individuals, long-term influences can damage health. With chronic stress, the same life-saving effect of stress starts to cause suppression of body systems. For example, chronic sympathetic stimulation of cardiovascular system due to stress will lead to vascular hypertrophy and continuous increase in blood pressure. Elevated basal level of stress hormones suppresses immunity by affecting cytokine production and makes the individual more prone to infections and inflammatory disorders. Studies also revealed that faster progression of AIDS is highly associated with stressful life events. Chronic stress hinders the mental well-being thereby resulting in depression, anxiousness, frustration, cynicism and moodiness in an individual. Stress also diminishes the cognitive functions such as memory, judgment and concentration, especially in older people. It exposes people to unfavorable behavioral habits like increase intake of alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine to relax, getting isolated from others, etc. In essence, stress deteriorates all the aspects of well-being.
In above ways, the effects of stress tend to build up over time. Therefore, reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better at the moment but may also ensure your quality of life and overall well-being.
Strategies to reduce your stress include:
- Identifying the cause of the stress – monitor your day and give priority only to the essential commitments.
- Relax your mind – activities like yoga and relaxing exercises help to boost immune functioning and reduce stress.
- Maintain strong interpersonal relationships – get the assistance and support from close relatives and friends to manage stress.
- Do regular exercises – only 30 minutes exercises per day can reduce your stress and improve your mood.
- Seek consultation from health-care professionals when necessary – to learn to manage your stress and deal with diseases.
Experiment evidence also supports that cognitive behavioral therapies and stress management programs highly influence coping with stress. Such interventions are proven to decrease perceived stress and negative mood, facilitate problem-focused coping and change cognitive appraisals.
Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 607–628 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
Five tips to help manage stress. (2017). http://www.apa.org. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx