Factors related to Stress

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SLMtitle.png 2 Factors Related to Stress

Chapter Outline

2.0 Introduction
2.1 Objectives
2.2 Five Important Factors about Stress
2.2.1 Stress is inevitable
2.2.2 Everyone gets stressed
2.2.3 Stress is harmful
2.2.4 We can learn to fight stress successfully
2.2.5 Stress can be managed
2.3 Types of Stress
2.3.1 Eustress
2.3.2 Distress
2.3.3 Hyper Work Stress
2.4 Let’s Sum Up
2.5 Answers to Self Assessment Questions

SLMinto.png Introduction

In the previous unit you studied what is Stress. You also saw that stress damages us in many ways. In our life we must face many situations full of stress. We cannot allow stress to damage us. Now in this unit we will study the five important factors about stress. We will understand that stress is inevitable, and everyone gets stressed. This understanding is important to realise that no one can escape stress in any work. We will see that though stress is harmful we can fight stress effectively and successfully. You will learn to manage your own stress. You will be able to guide others on stress management by helping them understand their own stress. In this Unit you will need to study the three types of stress and know how to handle each type of stress. You will need to introspect and analyse your own stress dispassionately and truthfully by relating to your own situations.

SLMobj.png Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:

After studying and working through the activities in this unit, you are expected to be able to:

  • Define five important factors about stress;
  • Describe the harmful nature of stress;
  • Explain the need to handle stress effectively;
  • List the three types of stress;
  • Describe the characteristics of each stress;
  • Use appropriate strategies and methods to manage stress; and
  • Evaluate your understanding of stress.

2.2 Five Important Factors about Stress

Your body has a natural response to threats. If something dangerous is happening, our bodies will produce a reaction to let us know that we need to run away - this has been labelled the "stress response", or the "fight or flight" reaction in the past, and today is also frequently referred to as "pressure". In the context of imminent danger, this acts as a protection mechanism and is not a bad thing.

A small amount of pressure is also not a bad thing in everyday life. We all need that feeling of urgency that helps us get out of bed each morning to go to work, or the slight feeling of alarm which helps us to cross the road quickly when we see a car coming. However, too much pressure can lead to stress, which serves no useful purpose whatsoever, and can cause physical and emotional harm. Far from helping us to function better and keeping us safe, stress can make us more inefficient, by stopping us from sleeping, making us feel overly tense all the time, along with a host of other adverse effects.

Is stress all in the mind? No - it's very real. But different things trigger stress in different people. It may be time pressures, or deadlines, or volume of work, or having to do a certain demanding or unpleasant task - but it will vary according to individuals.

And it's the amount of pressure that counts too. Think about pressure in terms of units. One person may be able to cope with 50 units of pressure; they can function quite effectively with this level of pressure, but add anymore units and they reach their personal "tipping point", where the pressure becomes too much and tips over into stress. Someone else may be perfectly comfortable with 100 units, but above and beyond that they become stressed. The point is that everyone can handle a different amount of pressure and has different stress triggers.

There are five factors related to stress. These are listed below with explanation. Now let us see every factor related to stress in greater detail. This will help us in understanding stress better.

2.2.1 Stress is Inevitable

Every work that we do involves many complexities. Stress exists in every work. Many things we cannot control. We feel tense, angry and even lost. Many things happen that we do not like and did not expect. We lose our motivation and meaning. We feel breaking down.

Our health begins to show the impact…Stress is not a trivial problem. We cannot laugh it away. We have to face it.

But that is perfectly natural. Everyone experiences stress. No one can avoid it. Because stress in everyday life is INEVITABLE!!! Think it over. Every work that you do, your friends, colleagues, children, relatives do contains stress.

Let us know what happened to James Carter from General Motors in America.

In 1956 in America the existence and importance of stress was first recognised.

A machine operator James Carter cracked up while working on the General Motors production line in Detroit. He was suffering from nervous breakdown. He claimed that the stresses of his job had caused his nervous breakdown.

He sued general Motors.

Soon the corporate world in America realized that this was an important lawsuit. Everyone felt involved.

Managers and doctors took the relationship between stress and industry seriously. It was indeed difficult to understand and believe seriously that stress that is in the mind can affect body so much.

But evidences were mounting as found in various researches all over the world.

It was found that:

  • Stress at work affects mind and body
  • Specific occupations cause specific stresses
  • Stress induces disease
  • No one is immune – all are vulnerable

2.2.2 Everyone gets stressed

We cannot always adapt quickly. It takes millennia to adapt to a change. We have moved too quickly to be good for our bodies. This has changed our environment and with it came more stress. Stress is inbuilt in our body chemistry. The Cave man’s life was different. He could fight or run away. It was simple. It was either fight or flight. Now it is not the same in modern world. You cannot run away. You must face it. Life style changed but not the body chemistry. Our response to adverse situations is the same. Whenever we face any dangerous change our bodies react like this:

  • Raised pulse
  • Raised Blood Pressure
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slowdown of digestion

Our life has changed in many ways. Not the body chemistry.

When an organism is confronted with a threat, the general physiological response occurs in three stages:

Alarm Reaction
In the initial ‘shock phase’ the body’s resistance is lowered. Then comes the ‘counter shock phase’. The defence mechanism becomes active. We become excited. Adrenaline is discharge raises the heart beat, muscle tone and blood content and gastro-intestinal ulceration. Depending on the threat the body reacts either vigorously or mildly in adjustment. The process flows as follows:


The Second Stage of Resistance
Our body adapts maximum in this stage. Resistance increases above normal level. If resistance fails and stress persists then body deteriorates. Diagrammatically it can be shown as follows:


Facing the Stress: Cave Man and You
What happens when your superior scolds you? What happens when a cave man is threatened by a Tigre? Your body chemistry acts in the same way to meet up the emergency. Both have an additional burst of energy. Then comes the problem. The cave man can either fight or take flight. It is that simple. But not for you. You cannot physically fight your superior not leave the place of work. The additional burst of energy is pent up. The flow of adrenaline is metabolized. And it acts on various balancing and self-correcting mechanisms of the body.

2.2.3 Stress is harmful

Stress harms. Stress stresses the whole mechanism of our body. Stress damages our immune system. Stress can damage the mind-body relations. Not only that stress can damage and destroy marriages. Present life style is very hectic, very taxing and stressful. Look at the life of any IT professional. He earns tons of money but he is stressed. Many are on the verge of committing suicide. In many cases people simply do not understand the fact that the culprit behind all their physical and mental problems is stress. It is necessary to recognize stress and take immediate steps. Some people simply do not admit that they are stressed as they feel that it will reflect badly on them and that they will have admitted that they are incompetent. These people burn the candle at both the ends. You cannot control stress unless you understand it, admit it and remove it. One should be willing to make changes. Rigidity shatters. Survey tells us that in India heart failure is on the rise in youngsters.

It is necessary to take a positive view of life and learn to handle failures and other disturbances in life. Not every day is going to be Sunday. The point is not to become philosophical but realistic. One should learn to accept oneself as one is. Unrealistic competition and getting hijacked with one’s own wrong ambitions can cause stress. We need to train our youth not for handling success but for handling failures which are always going to come our way. What we need is right perspective. Our Indian philosophy always talks about limits (maryadas) and exhorts us to be ‘Maryada Purushottama’.

The harmful nature of stress must be understood and addressed accordingly. How stress harms us in various ways will be discussed in greater details later.

2.2.4 We can learn to fight stress successfully

As stated above, in order to fight stress we must admit that there is stress. One we admit that there is stress and understand it then we can begin to take steps to control it, even use it positively. Just because we deny or pretend that stress does not exist, the problem is not to go away. The best in us comes out when we control and conduct ourselves well.

The good news is that we can learn to fight stress and successfully. The word ‘learn’ is very important here. This is because it tells us that like any life skill we can learn to handle stress like acquiring a skill like learning to swim. One has to make personal decision to fight stress. It can be viewed as part of self-management strategy. One must understand that every one of us is unique and we have different causes for our stress. That is what stresses Mr. Joshi may not stress Mr. Mishra. So there cannot be any general ‘one for all’ remedy on stress. Every individual has to respond to stress in his own ways. It is like everyone is happy in his own way and everyone is sad in his own way. One has to find one’s own way to handle and overcome stress. It must be understood in one’s own unique situation.

Of course, some stresses like work place stresses are common. There could be some general solutions to lighten the workplace stress which causes anxiety and worry. Right emotional intelligence and management is a sure remedy. There could be sessions on relaxation, yoga, etc even at the work place. We see such facilities in call centres. A strong self-concept and self awareness play good role in stress management. Being open to change, being flexible (not to be too finicky about perfection in everything), etc. helps.

In next unit we shall study stress management tools and techniques with case studies.

2.2.5 Stress can be managed

Stress can be managed because we can actually LEARN to fight stress. We are born with capabilities to learn to fight things which threaten and trouble us. We have the ability to adapt to adverse conditions. We need to exploit this capability to learn to fight stress.

In order to learn to fight stress to manage it well we must understand stress in terms of its symptoms. As we have seen earlier, stress affects us both physically and mentally. When we understand that someone is stressed (chances are that the stressed person may not understand this and may indulge in blame game, etc) we can extend help. Thus we need to recognize the conditions of stress through visible and invisible symptoms.

The symptoms of stress:

Stress at sometime or the other affects all of us. If you can recognize the symptoms, you will be able to manage them. However, these symptoms can be indications of other sicknesses as well. Therefore, the best thing to do in this situation is, when in doubt, consult your physician. Stress can have emotional symptoms as well as physical symptoms. Nevertheless a person under stress may not necessarily experience all these symptoms and on the other hand even one symptom experienced may be a sign of stress.

The emotional symptoms are:

  • Feeling of restlessness,
  • Feeling irritable for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of frustration . Feelings of guilt
  • Memory problems
  • Not being able to concentrate on anything for long
  • Getting confused
  • Negative thoughts and talk
  • Appetite problems either eating too much or eating when not hungry
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings that you are unable to cope with anything
  • Decision making is very difficult
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Feeling upset in general
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Being anxious in general
  • Getting worried over nothing
  • Feeling sad and depressed

The physical symptoms are:

  • Muscle tension
  • Pain in shoulders or neck and lower back
  • Pain in chest
  • Muscle tension
  • Stomach pain
  • Breaking out into rashes or skin irritations for no apparent reason
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sweaty palms
  • Sweating without any exertion
  • Feeling of nervousness
  • "Racing" heart
  • Indigestion and diarrhea
  • Sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Increased smoking
  • Increase in alcohol consumption
  • Coping with your stress

There are several ways one could cope with stress. We will study them in great details in the next units. Here we will get a passing idea of them. They are;

  • Exercise - Many scientific studies have confirmed the relationship between exercise and mood. Exercise strengthens the body and it can also reduce stress. Exercising promotes arousal and relaxation and it also improves the quality of ones sleep. These in turn helps the body recover from stress.
  • Social Contacts - Family and friends and even counseling can help in creating emotional trust, support and relaxation.
  • Caring for a pet - Even this can play a major part in providing emotional comfort that helps reduce stress.
  • Relaxation - Relaxation through meditation, biofeedback (this is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health by using signals from their bodies. For example, your temperature, the thermometer tells you whether you're running a fever or not, the thermometer "feeds back" information about whether you have a temperature or not. Therefore having this information, you can take steps you've learned to improve the condition. When you're running a temperature, you go to bed and drink plenty of liquids) and a range of other activities and techniques which gives rise to lower blood pressure, slower respiration, decrease in metabolic rate and muscle tension which in turn offsets the effects of stress.
  • Attitudes – We are not more than our attitudes. We must understand the great power of attitudes on our life.

Ponder over this quotation

“The greatest all time discovery of man is that a man can change his life by changing his attitudes.” So, the attitudes of confidence, positive ability to overcome problems and balance permit the cycle of stress response to resolve now and then instead of being sustained.

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle - minimal use of alcohol, not smoking, eating healthy and weight control and taking time to enjoy life and to relax, promotes a sense of peace and control. Stress is often related to worry caused by a feeling of being out of control. Enough with junk food. Let us eat to live and not live to eat. Life is too precious than any burger.

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) -1
Answer the following questions by identifying correct option:

1. The existence and importance of stress in industry was first recognised by……….
a. Jimmy Carter
b. James Stockhom
c. James Carter
d. James Karner

2. Some of the changes that occur in the body to protect itself from the danger are……………..

  1. Release of adrenaline and conversion of glycogen into glucose.
  2. Raised pulse
  3. Raised blood pressure
  4. Rapid Breathing
  5. Dilated pupils
  6. Slowed Digestion

a. 1, 2 and 4
b. 2, 3 and 4
c. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
d. all the above

3. Maximum adaptation occurs during …….stage.
a. alarm reaction
b. Stage of Resistance
c. Raised blood pressure

2.3 Types of Stress

Did you know that some types of stress can be good for you? That's right! Some forms of stress can be good for you, but other types of stress disorders can cause major health problems and even be life threatening. Stress is a natural function of the body, but understanding the different types of stress, such as distress and eustress, helps you to better understand how to deal with the stress you find in your life.

So, what are the major types of stress? While there are many subcategories of stress that are being treated today, the major types of stress can be broken down into four different categories: Eustress, Distress, Hyperstress, and Hypostress.

2.3.1 Eustress

2.3.1 Eustress Eustress is one of the helpful types of stress. What is the definition for eustress? It is the type of stress you experience right before you have the need to exert physical force. Eustress is because of sudden overjoy. It is not last-longing. As it is of happiness it is not harmful and is fleeting. Eustress prepares the muscles, heart, and mind for the strength needed for whatever is about to occur.

Eustress can also apply to creative endeavors. When a person needs to have some extra energy or creativity, eustress kicks in to bring them the inspiration they need. An athlete will experience the strength that comes form eustress right before they play a big game or enter a big competition. Because of the eustress, they immediately receive the strength that they need to perform.

When the body enters the fight or flight response, it will experience eustress. The eustress prepares the body to fight with or flee from an imposing danger. This type of stress will cause the blood to pump to the major muscle groups, and will increase the heart rate and blood pressure to increase. If the event or danger passes, the body will eventually return to its normal state.

2.3.2 Distress

Distress is one of the negative types of stress. It is harmful. This is one of the types of stress that the mind and body undergoes when the normal routine is constantly adjusted and altered. The mind is not comfortable with this routine, and craves the familiarity of a common routine. It is caused when you are sad or angry. Demands of modern life cause it. You get it when you feel inadequate, anxious, nervous and lost. It damages executive efficiency. An environment of objectivity and mutual trust help in Distress. There are actually two types of distress: acute stress and chronic stress.

Subsection.png Acute Stress

Acute stress is the type of stress that comes immediately with a change of routine. It is an intense type of stress, but it passes quickly. Acute stress is the body's way of getting a person to stand up and take inventory of what is going on, to make sure that everything is OK.

Subsection.png Chronic Stress

Chronic stress will occur if there is a constant change of routine for week after week. Chronic stress affects the body for a long period of time. This is the type of stress experienced by someone who constantly faces moves or job changes.

2.3.3 Hyper Work Stress

Hyper Work Stress is because of hyper activity and traivails of life to meet deadlines, etc. Eleventh rush to meet target causes this stress.

Hyperstress is the type of negative stress that comes when a person is forced to undertake or undergo more than he or she can take. A stressful job that overworks an individual will cause that individual to face hyperstress.

A person who is experiencing hyperstress will often respond to even little stressors with huge emotional outbreaks. It is important for a person who thinks they might be experiencing hyperstress to take measures to reduce the stress in their lives, because hyperstress can lead to serious emotional and physical repercussions.

Good planning is a way out. We will study this aspect in greater details in next units.

2.3.4 Hypo Stress

Hypo Stress is because of less than optimal activity. When you are denied legitimate work opportunities you suffer Hypo Stress. We all have self-esteem needs. Retired people always experience this stress.

The final of the four types of stress is hypostress. Hypostress stands in direct opposite to hyperstress. Hypostress is basically insufficient amount of stress. That is because hypostress is the type of stress experienced by a person who is constantly bored. Someone in an unchallenging job, such as a factory worker performing the same task over and over, will often experience hypostress. The effect of hypostress is feelings of restlessness and a lack of inspiration.

Do you understand one thing?

Whatever you do or do not do; no one is immune from stress. So what? Only life can teach us some lessons. And that’s the fun of life and living.

So say with a smile, “Dear Stress, you are welcome!”

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs)- 2

(i) Answer the questions below as instructed.
(ii) Compare your answer with the one given in the end of the Unit.

Answer the following questions by identifying correct option:
1. Hyper Work Stress is caused because of……………………….
a. Sudden overjoy
b. Sadness or anger
c. Hyper activity
d. Less than optimal activity

2. Chronic Stress occurs due to…………………………
a. feeling of restlessness
b. constant changes in one’s rountine
c. overload of work
d. over excitement

II. Match the following

Column A Column B
1. Distress a. is due to minor or trivial occurrences in the life
2. Hypo stress b. is caused by sudden overjoy
3. Hyper work Stress c. is caused by anxiety, nervousness, loss
4. Eustress d. is often experienced by retired persons

III. Identify if the following statements are TRUE OR FALSE.
1. Distress is because of the sudden overjoy.
2. A change of routine causes acute stress.

SLMsum.png Results

SLMfeedb.png Answers to SAQs

Self Check Exercise 1
1. (C) The existence and importance of stress in industry was first recognised by James Carter
2. (d) All the above
3. (b) is the right answer. Resistance increases above normal level at the Stage of Resistance. Our body adapts maximum in this stage.

Self Check Exercise 2
1. (a) Sudden overjoy causes Eustress.
(b) Distress is caused when you are sad or angry.
(C)is the right answer. Hyper Work stress is caused by hyper activity and travails of life to meet deadlines.
(d) Hypo stress is caused by less than optimal activity.

2.(a) Feeling restless is the symptom of Hypo stress.
(b) is the right answer , as chronic stress causes because of constant changes in one’s rountine.
(c) Overload of work causes Hyper work stress.
(d) Over excitement leads to eustress.


(1)=(a) Hyper work stress is due to minor or trivial occurrences in the life.
(2)=(d) Hypo Stress is because of less than optimal activity.
(3)=(c) is the right answer, as Distress is caused by anxiety, nervousness, loss.
(4)=(b) the sudden overjoy causes eustress.

1. False. Distress is not because of the sudden overjoy but because of anxiety, nervousness, loss.
2. True. Constant change of routine causes acute stress.