From what has been discussed earlier. We may draw a number of inferences s to the nature of stress. Stress is what we feel when we have to respond to a demand on our energy. Stress is a natural part of life, and occurs whenever there are significant changes in our lives, whether positive or negative. It is generally believed that some stress is okay (sometimes referred to as “challenge” or “positive” stress) but when stress occurs in amounts that individuals cannot cope with, both mental and physical changes may occur (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2000). We are all different in the events that we perceive as stressors and the coping abilities at our disposal.
However, there are a number of situations which are generally identified as being stressful, and include financial worries, work overload, unemployment, relationships, parenting, balancing work and family, care giving, health problems, losses, Christmas, competitiveness, peer pressure, exams, and not having enough time (Canadian Mental Health Association)
Stress is caused by various factors – not all of which are work-related of course, (which incidentally doesn’t reduce the employer’s obligation to protect against the causes of stress at work). Causes of stress – known as stressors – are in two categories: external stressors and internal stressors.
- External Stressors – physical conditions such as heat or cold, stressful psychological environments such as working conditions and abusive relationships, e.g., bullying.
- Internal Stressors – Physical ailments such as infection or inflammation or psychological problems such as worrying about something.
From the above, it is easy to see that work can be a source of both external and internal stressors. Stressors are also described as either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
Short-term ‘acute’ stress is the reaction to immediate threat, also known as the fight or flight response. This is when the primitive part of the brain and certain chemicals within the brain cause a reaction to potentially harmful stressors or warnings (just as if preparing the body to run away or defend itself), such as noise, over-crowding, danger, bullying or harassment, or even an imagined or recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to normal, which is called the ‘relaxation response’. (NB The relaxation response among people varies; ie., people recover from acute stress at different rates.)
Long-term ‘chronic’ stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurized work, ongoing relationship problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries. The working environment can generate both acute and chronic stressors, but is more likely to be a source of chronic stressors.
Stress is a normal, adaptive response to stressors in our environment. Our bodies are designed with a set of automatic responses to deal with stress. This system is very effective for the short term “fight or flight” responses we need when faced with immediate danger. The problem is that, physiologically, our bodies have the same reaction to all types of stressors.
Experiencing stress for long periods of time, such as lower level but constant stressors at work, activates this system. For many people, every day stressors keep this response activated, so that it does not have a chance to “turn off.” This reaction is called the “Generalized Stress Response” and consists of the following
- Physiological responses
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased metabolism (e.g., faster heartbeat, faster respiration)
- Decrease in protein synthesis, digestion, immune & allergic response systems
- Increased cholesterol and fatty acids in blood for energy production systems
- Localized inflammation (redness, swelling, heat, and pain)
- Faster blood clotting
- Increased production of blood sugar for energy
- Increased stomach acids
When this set of reactions is continuously activated, individuals begin to display signs and symptoms that indicate they are having difficulty coping with the stressors in their lives. These symptoms can be physical, psychosocial, and behavioral in nature.
Causes of Stress
Both positive and negative events in one’s life can be stressful. However, major life changes are the greatest contributors of stress for most people.
- If people have to travel a lot and have to move from place to place, it can cause stress.
- Individuals can also be under stress if they are about to enter some new environment. They may be going to a new colony. To a new college or they may be joining a new organization.
- Some events, which are generally once in a lifetime can also cause stress. The social institutions of marriage or divorce can cause stress. Pregnancy can also generate Stress.
- Some of the untoward incidents like critical illness or death of a relative can also cause stress in individuals.
These are some of the major events in the life of the individual that cause stress. It is also supplemented by the environmental factors that act as catalyst cause increment in stress.
- Time pressure
- Financial problems
For citing this article use:
- Rani, A. S. (2012). Workplace stress among women in IT sector.