Hans Selye first introduced the concept of stress in 1939 derived from Latin, the word “stress” was popularly used in the seventeenth century to mean hardship, strait, adversity or affliction. It was used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to denote force, pressure, strain or strong effort with reference to an object or person. In engineering and physics, the term implies an external force to an object or pressure exerted to distort and being resisted by the object on which it is exerted. In psychophysiology, stress refers to some stimulus resulting in a detectable strain that cannot be accommodated by the organism and which ultimately results in impaired health in behaviour.
Stress has been conceptualized in the following ways: (i) as an external force which is perceived as threatening (ii) as response to a situation demanding an individual to adapt to change physically or situation demanding an individual to adapt to change physically or psychologically (iii) as interaction outcome of the external demand and internal resources and (iv) as a personal response to a certain variation in the environment. Stress is a normal physical response to events that makes you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.
DEFINITIONS OF STRESS
According to Selye (1956) “Any external event or internal drive which threatens to upset the organism equilibrium” is stress. He has defined stress as the non specific response of the body to any demand made upon it.
Lazarus (1960) maintains that “stress occurs when there are demands on the person which tax or exceed his adjustment resources”.
Caplan, Cobb, French, Van Harrison and Pinneau (1975), “stress refers to any characteristic of the job environment which is a threat to the individual”.
Kyriacou (1978), on the other hand, defines “stress as a response syndrome of negative effect that develops when there are prolonged and increased pressures that cannot be controlled by the coping strategies that the individual has”.
Stress can be viewed as an “adaptive response, mediated by individual characteristics and/or psychological processes, that is the consequence of any external action, situation or event that places special physical and/psychological demands upon a person” (Ivancevich & Matteson, 1980 )
Stress is defined as “a state of tension that arises from an actual or perceived demand that calls for an adjustment or adaptive behaviour” (Olson, McCubbin, Barnes, Muxen, Larsen & Wilson, 1989).
“Stress is said to occur when there have been prolonged, increasing or new pressures that are significantly greater than the coping resources” (Dunham, 1992).
Kruger (1992) states that “stress is a phenomenon that manifests in the individual person as a result of various stressors that arise from the self and the environment and affect the individual person in accordance with the way in which he or she attributes meaning to the events, stimuli or demands affecting him or her, and in accordance with the way in which he or she experiences and enters into or handles such events, stimuli or demands.”
According to Fisher (1994) and Keiper and Buselle (1996) “positive or good stress, referred to as eustress can act as a motivating agent for achievement. Distress, on the other hand, is negative or destructive stress, as it causes serious ailments or discomforts it impacts negatively on the organisation and the individual’s physical and mental system. This could result in reduced performance, absenteeism, errors, job losses, accidents, unethical behaviour, dissatisfaction and illness”.
“Teacher stress has been viewed as an interactive process which occurs between teachers and their teaching environment which leads to excessive demands being placed on them and resulting in physiological and psychological distress” (Forlin & Hattie, 1996).
Seyle (1974) indicated that when confronted with stressors, the body creates extra energy and it is when all the energy available is not utilised, that stress is a consequence. This reaction to stress was first described in 1936 and was coined the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS), which includes three distinct stages.
- Alarm reaction,
- Stage of resistance, and
- Stage of exhaustion.
Response to stress is therefore deemed to be invariant to the nature of the stressor and followed a universal pattern- three stages, i.e. an alarm stage, a resistance stage and an exhaustion stage. Figure 1.1 provides an overview of this process.
The alarm reaction is the immediate psycho-physiological response and at this time of the initial shock, resistance to stress is lowered. This process includes the secretion of hormones from the endocrine glands, causing for example, increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension and a decrease in maintenance functions, e.g. digestion and sexual responsiveness. In cases where the stressor is continuous, the resistance phase starts where the body triggers the needed bodily system to deal with the stressor. The body is alerted and activated and stress levels are at its highest during this stage.
The resistance stage is characterised by an adaptation response of the body that is manifested with “fight or flight” responses. The body endeavours to remedy the shock caused by the stress and to return the homeostasis of the body. If the stressors continue, the body will persevere in defending itself, thereby impeding any possibility of rest and repair.
In the exhaustion phase, there is a resistance to a continued stressor, and where the adaptation response and /or return to equilibrium replace the alarm reaction. If the alarm reaction is elicited too intensely or too frequently over an extended period of time, the energy required for adaptation becomes depleted, and the final stage of exhaustion, collapse or death occurs. It is during this stage that physical and mental breakdown occurs, the individual performance plummets and illness develops.
CAUSES OF JOB STRESS
Job stress may be caused by a complex set of reasons. Some of the most visible causes of job stress are:
- Lack of Control Feeling as if you have no control over your work or job duties is the biggest cause of job stress. People who feel like they have no control at work are most likely to get stress-related illnesses.
- Increased Responsibility Taking on extra duties in your job is stressful. You can get more stressed if you have too much work to do and you can’t say no to new tasks.
- Job Satisfaction and Performance Do you take pride in your job? If your job isn’t meaningful, you may find it stressful. Are you worried about doing well at work? Feeling insecure about job performance is a major source of stress for many people.
- Uncertainty about Work Roles Being unsure about your duties, how your job might be changing, or the goals of your department or company can lead to stress. If you report to more than one boss, juggling the demands of different managers can also be stressful.
- Poor Communication Tension on the job often comes from poor communication. Being unable to talk about your needs, concerns, and frustrations can create stress.
- Lack of Support Lack of support from your boss or coworkers makes it harder to solve other problems at work that are causing stress for you.
- Poor Working Conditions Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions, such as crowding, noise, or ergonomic problems, can cause stress.
- Job Insecurity Organized workplaces are going through metamorphic changes under intense economic transformations and consequent pressures. Reorganizations, takeovers, mergers, downsizing and other changes have become major stressors for employees, as companies try to live up to the competition to survive. These reformations have put demand on everyone, from a CEO to a mere executive.
- High Demand for Performance Unrealistic expectations, especially in the time of corporate reorganizations, which, sometimes, puts unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee, can be a tremendous source of stress and suffering. Increased workload, extremely long work hours and intense pressure to perform at peak levels all the time for the same pay, can actually leave employees physically and emotionally drained. Excessive travel and too much time away from family also contribute to an employee`s stressors.
- Technology The expansion of technology, computers, pagers, cell phones, fax machines and the Internet—has resulted in heightened expectations for productivity, speed and efficiency, increasing pressure on the individual worker to constantly operate at peak performance levels. Workers working with heavy machinery are under constant stress to remain alert. In this case both the worker and their family members live under constant mental stress. There is also the constant pressure to keep up with technological breakthroughs and improvisations, forcing employees to learn new software all the times.
- Workplace Culture Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be intensely stressful. Making one adapt to the various aspects of workplace culture such as communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most importantly working and behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers, can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to workplace cultures may lead to subtle conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases office politics or gossips can be major stress inducers.
- Personal or Family Problems Employees going through personal or family problems tend to carry their worries and anxieties to the workplace. When one is in a depressed mood, his unfocused attention or lack of motivation affects his ability to carry out job responsibilities.
- Job Stress and Women Excessive workload demands and conflicting expectations, for example, are key sources of job stress. Other sources may include infrequent rest breaks, long work hours and demanding work shifts ,hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, lack of family-friendly policies, interpersonal relationships-poor social environment, lack of support or help from co-workers and Supervisors, work roles- conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility, too many “hats to wear”, career concerns – job insecurity, lack of growth opportunity, rapid changes for which workers are unprepared, environmental conditions-unpleasant physical conditions , ergonomic problems.
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
Early Warning Signs that coping with job stress is becoming difficult for an employee are
- Muscle Tension or Headache
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
- Social withdrawal
- Irritability and short temper
- Difficulty in concentrating,
- Job dissatisfaction
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drug to cope
- Low morale
STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING JOB STRESS
While many of the methods of preventing job stress need to be developed and supported by the organization, there are things that workers can do to help you better manage job stress. Here are 10 tips for dealing with the stress from your job:
1. Put it in perspective Jobs are disposable. Your friends, families, and health are not. If your employer expects too much of you, and it’s starting to take its toll on you, start looking for a new job/new employer.
2. Modify your job situation If you really like your employer, but the job has become too stressful (or too boring), ask about tailoring your job to your skills. And if you got promoted into a more stressful position that you just are not able to handle, ask about a lateral transfer — or even a transfer back to your old job (if that’s what you want).
3. Get time away If you feel the stress building, take a break. Walk away from the situation, perhaps walking around the block, sitting on a park bench, taking in a little meditative time. Exercise does wonders for the psyche. But even just finding a quiet place and listening to your iPod can reduce stress.
4. Fight through the clutter Taking the time to organization your desk or workspace can help ease the sense of losing control that comes from too much clutter. Keeping a to-do list — and then crossing things off it — also helps.
5. Talk it out Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone close to you. The act of talking it out – and getting support and empathy from someone else — is often an excellent way of blowing of steam and reducing stress. Have a support system of trusted people.
6. Cultivate allies at work Just knowing you have one or more co-workers who are willing to assist you in times of stress will reduce your stress level. Just remember to reciprocate and help them when they are in need.
7. Find humor in the situation When you – or the people around you — start taking things too seriously, find a way to break through with laughter. Share a joke or funny story.
8. Have realistic expectations While Americans are working longer hours, we can still only fit so much work into one day. Having unrealistic expectations for what you can accomplish sets you up for failure — and increased stress.
9. Nobody is perfect If you are one of those types that obsess over every detail and micromanage to make sure “everything is perfect,” you need to stop. Change your motto to performing your best, and leave perfection to the gods.
10. Maintain a positive attitude Negativism sucks the energy and motivation out of any situation, so avoid it whenever possible. Instead, develop a positive attitude — and learn to reward yourself for little accomplishments (even if no one else does).
Time Management for Reducing Job Stress
- Create a balanced schedule: Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.
- Don’t over-commit yourself: Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “should” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
- Try to leave earlier in the morning: Even 10-15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day. Don’t add to your stress levels by running late.
- Plan regular breaks: Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. Also try to get away from your desk or work station for lunch. Stepping away from work to briefly relax and recharge will help you be more, not less, productive.
Task Management for Reducing Job Stress
- Prioritize tasks: Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps: If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Delegate responsibility: You don’t have to do it all yourself. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Be willing to compromise: When you ask someone to contribute differently to a task, revise a deadline, or change their behavior at work, be willing to do the same. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned.
For Citing this article use:
- Konka, S. (2015). A study on job stress and job satisfaction among faculty members belonging to krishna and guntur districts andhra pradesh.