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Articles » Understanding Stress


Stress is something that has become an integral part of present human life. It is almost as if we cannot function without stress. On certain level, it has some truth in it. A modest amount of stress and anxiety can provide valuable stimulus that gets us to focus and prepare, otherwise we might not bother to put in our best effort. Haven't you heard the phrase, “grace under pressure”?

Well that’s stress on general level. Before we get into “whys” and “hows; of stress, let's get ourselves clear on “whats” of stress. Stress is defined as an unpleasant state of emotional and physiological arousal that people experience in situations that they perceive as dangerous or threatening to their well-being.

The word stress means different things to different people. Some people define stress as events or situations that cause them to feel tension, pressure, or negative emotions such as anxiety and anger.

Others view stress as the response to these situations. This response includes physiological changes such as increased heart rate and muscle tension as well as emotional and behavioural changes. However, most psychologists regard stress as a process involving a person's interpretation and response to a threatening event.


  Stress Hazards

Stress is a normal component of the body's response to demands that are placed on it. When we are frightened or angry, the body responds to this stress with a number of physical reactions that prepare it for action. Factors that trigger this stress response are known as stressors.

Stressors are encountered in almost every aspect of our lives. Excess stress, or distress, has been identified as an important factor in many types of illness. Heart disease is one of the health effects that has been linked to excessive stress.

Workplace stressors can lead to distress because they are, in many cases, beyond the individual's control. And the individual may be exposed to the same stressors day after day. Occupational stress is often the combined effect of several stressors. The health effects of different stressors cannot be easily separated. Nonetheless, an understanding of the different types of stressors is essential to recognizing, assessing and controlling these potential hazards. Workplace stressors include physical and organizational factors.

  Physical Stressors

The body has automatic mechanisms that attempt to protect it from physical agents such as noise and extreme temperature. Physical stressors can be harmful because they force body systems to continuously compensate for conditions that are outside the normal range.

Exposure to excessive heat and excessive cold may be workplace stressors. Other physical agents that cause excessive stress are high levels of noise and vibration.

Work station design may cause excessive stress. Heavy manual labour may have similar effects. Work on rotating shifts may place the body under physical stress, because the body's natural cycles, known as the circadian rhythm, are forced to readjust. Several days may be needed for this adjustment to take place, when workers change from one shift to another. In the meantime, their appetite, sleep, body temperature and blood pressure may be affected.

  Organizational Stressors

Organizational stressors result when people face anxiety or frustration from aspects of their work that they cannot control. Examples include situations where people are not able to exercise their full skills and knowledge potential or may not understand what they produce, and how. They may face conflicting demands. Or they may not receive the respect or recognition they expect for their accomplishments. Organizational stressors may cause specific reactions in the body that can lead to potential health effects. One European study correlates the degree of stress with the amount of responsibility and control a person has over the job. Work Overload or Underload

  Role Uncertainty and Role Conflict
  Responsibility for Others
  Lack of Job Satisfaction
  Job Security
  Workplace Violence

  Health Effects

Individuals respond differently to stress. Personality, general health and the support of friends and colleagues all affect this response. A group of people exposed to the same type of stressors may experience different health effects. Nonetheless, the body's physical response to stress is generally the same for everyone. It is commonly known as the generalized stress response.

Excessive stress has been associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive ailments, skin rashes, insomnia, nervous or emotional disorders, substance abuse and interpersonal and family dysfunction.

As long as stressful experiences are brief and infrequent, the body quickly returns to normal. In nature, this phenomenon is known as the fight or flight reaction. But a person who is in a continuous state of stress throughout every working day may experience a wide variety of potential health effects.

  Assessing Excessive Stress

It is difficult for an employer or a joint health and safety committee to determine that excessive stress is contributing to adverse health effects. Known stressors may be present in the workplace, and their potential effects may be observed. Attendance records or interviews with workers and supervisors could indicate the possibility that a person is suffering from stress-related health effects. However, a determination that a stress-related health effect exists requires a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.

If not managed appropriately, stress can lead to serious problems. Exposure to chronic stress can contribute to both physical illnesses, such as heart disease, and mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders.  Symptoms of chronic stress can be:

1.eating disorder

2.upset stomach



5. insomnia




  Having another look at Stress

Stress is a normal component of our everyday lives. Excessive stress, or distress, is the effect of prolonged excessive physical or emotional pressure on the human body. Factors that may cause excessive stress, such as physical agents and organizational characteristics, are called stressors. Some physical agents such as excessive noise, vibration and temperatures are stressors. Other physical factors that may lead to distress include work station design, ventilation and lighting. Shiftwork may cause excess stress by interfering with the worker's body rhythms. Organizational factors which can lead to anxiety and frustration are also stressors.



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