NATURE, CONSEQUENCES AND MANAGEMENT
What is Stress?
An executive of a large
firm developed high blood pressure (hypertension) at the age of
35. A 27-year-old housewife developed recurrent Bronchial Asthma.
When consulted, the physicians told them that they were suffering
from disorders due to stress.
The executive had to
take frequent quick decisions all alone for about one year. Each
decision could have resulted in heavy losses to the company.
After each decision, the executive used to worry about it till
the decision proved right. It was his constant worry and anxiety
which made him end up with hypertension.
The housewife had a
nagging mother-in-law and her husband was not supportive. Every
time when her mother-in-law nagged her, she wanted to give back
but never did so. Instead, she suppressed her anger and used to
feel choked. Eventually, the choking became breathlessness and
ended up with attacks of asthma.
This is what stress does
to us. There are thousands of examples like these. One of the
recently diagnosed stress induced disorders is chronic
fatigue. If stress is so powerful shouldnt we know
more about it? Yes, what is it then?
Stress is an experience.
When demands of a physical, psychological or sociological nature
make us react to it we are under a stress. Those which demand a
reaction and force us to mobilize our resources are called
Stressors. Stressors make us experience stress.
Increased temperature of the room, demands of people around us
and societal norms are examples of stressors. When we mobilize
our resources to meet these demands, psychologists say we are
Due to inappropriate
usage, the word stress has assumed bad connotations. In its
original sense a stress is neither good nor bad. It becomes good
or bad, desirable or undesirable, healthy or unhealthy depending
upon what it does to us. For example, the demands of an
examination could make one child work hard and pass creditably.
In the case of another child the very same examination could
appear very demanding and he might end up in a break down, as his
resources are poor. Thus by itself a stressor or a stress is
neither good nor bad. They are neutral in nature.
When a stressor becomes
too demanding or when we do not have adequate resources to meet
the demands, we get stressed up. The stressed up
experience is called a Distress. Distress is bad and
unhealthy. Prolonged distress initiates a number of reactions at
the level of the body and mind. As it depletes our resources we
become impoverished and susceptible to diseases and disorders.
The child who has poor resources to write an examination falls
ill. The executive who went on worrying depleted his resources
and developed hypertension. The housewife spent a sizable portion
of her resources to suppress her constant anger and ended up with
bronchial asthma. Thus any stress that becomes distressing is
When a stressor puts
demand on our resources and we experience stress that need not
always lead to distress. If the stressor is within limits and we
have enough resources we will be able to cope up with the stress.
When a stress makes us cope up with it, there is a feeling of
satisfaction and joy. Stresses that make us cope up with them
culminate in better integration of our personality. Such stresses
are called Eustress or useful stress. The child who
prepared well for the examination, wrote it effectively and came
out successfully experiences better self worth and increased
self-esteem. The examination though a stress had indeed
beneficial effects on him. Such beneficial stresses are required
for our motivation and growth. No wonder it is then called a
Perception of Stress
noticed that to a large extent, it is our perception ( the way we
look at things) which determines a stress to be a
eustress or a distress. For example,
people who are trained as in military combat, perceives a threat
to be as simple whereas some one who is new to it sees it as a
matter or life and death. Thus psychologists have shown that
perception determines the magnitude of stress. They also feel
that perception can be changed through training. This
contribution of psychologists is very important as in our modern
times already existing stress assumes greater magnitude and also
newer and newer stresses are being added day by day. The training
to reorganize our perception has become very useful in bringing
down the intensity, frequency and duration of many stress related
disorders. So also future stresses could be anticipated and
perception regarding it could be altered through training. Such
training is known as Stress Inoculation. As we get
inoculated against diseases, now we can strengthen people to face
stresses with Stress Inoculation. Isnt it wonderful?
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