Stress is not only associated with Patients with mental illness but it is also associated with our everyday life. At first, we will discuss about what is stress? Stress can be defined as our mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to any perceived demands or threats. Stress is a bodily reaction to any situation which are perceived as threatening, dangerous to our own self. Our own perception plays a crucial role to make a situation stressful. Our bodily reactions can be physical (muscle tension, headache, stomach upset); emotional (anger, anxiety over trivial issues) and behavioral reactions include difficulty in concentrating, losing interest in work, fatigue, etc.
Causes of stress or types of stressor:
The causes of stress are found within the environment, the individual, and the interaction between the two. Stress has become increasingly common in organizations, largely because individuals experience increased job complexity and increased economic pressure. In exploring the causes of stress, it is important that a clear distinction be made between stress and the stressor (the source of stress). It is confusing and technically incorrect to speak ‘stressful situation’ as though anyone placed in that situation would experience stress. For understanding, stressors are divided into 2 types
1. Internal Stressors - There are 4 internal sources of stress. Each of these internal influences on stress is considered separately, although they function in continual interaction.
- Inner conflicts: for many people, stress is a constant companion regardless of how favorable/unfavorable external conditions may be. Non-specific fears, anxiety and guilt feelings maintain the body in a state of readiness for emergency action on a continuing basis.
- Perceptual influences: perception is influenced by a number of internal factors. Certainly, people with inner conflicts sufficient to cause stress are more likely than self-confident people to perceive environmental conditions as threatening. Because the environment is presumed to be full of danger, evidences of danger are perceived everywhere. They are selectively perceived in exaggerated form.
- Thresholds of stress: the threshold of stress is not independent of the two factors just discussed. People who have few internal conflicts that weaker personalities would find intolerable. People who have high thresholds for stress have a high level of resistance to it.
- Motivational level: people who are ambitious and highly motivated to achieve are more likely to experience stress than those who are content with their career status.
2. External stressors- environmental or external conditions that lie beyond an individual’s control are called external stressors. Such can have a considerable impact on work performance and adjustment.
- Task demands: these are factors related to a person’s job. Changes and lack of control are two of the most stressful demands people face to work.
- Lack of control: it is the second major source of stress, especially in work environments that are difficult and psychologically demanding.
- Role ambiguity: it is created when role expectations are not clearly understood and the employee is not sure what he/she is to do. Role ambiguity is the confusion a person experiences related to the expectations of others.
- Interpersonal demands: these are pressures created by other employees. Lack of social support from colleagues and poor inter-personal relationships can cause considerable stress, especially among employees with a high social need.
- Physical demands: non- work demands create stress for people, which carry over into the work environment or vice versa. Family demands related to marriage, child-rearing, and parental care may create role conflicts or overloads that are difficult to manage. These demands more or less stressful, depending on their compatibility with the person’s work and family life and their capacity to provide alternative satisfaction for the person.
*(I use work-related situations just for example).
Concept of Eustress & Distress:
Now, we will discuss about whether stress is necessary in our life/ not. Imagine a situation, where you need not wake up early in the morning, need not to go to work, you have to just sit idle on your bed and free food will fill your tummy, here the stress level is 0, and work performance is also 0, will you be happy? No, after sometime boredom will affect you.
I am attaching a diagram which indicates the relationship between the amount of stress and level of one’s performance.
So the relationship between stress and performance can be described by the ‘INVERTED U’ shaped curve. Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to deliver performance, for example- if a student has no strive for a good result, he/she will not give any effort in his/her study. Everyone has an optimum point where their performance is ‘THE BEST’, but if stress increases beyond that point, the performance will start dipping. So, where the stress level and performance are directly proportionate, that is called ‘EUSTRESS’ and the opposite side is called ‘DISTRESS’ where our performance and stress are inversely proportionate, for example- imagine a student has potential to get 70-75% marks in examination, if he/she has a strive for 80% marks, that can be achievable and that goal helps him/her to get a better result (eustress) but the same student set a goal to get 95% marks, that is an unrealistic goal which may lead him/her to distress.