Stress is defined in terms of how it impacts physical and psychological health;
mental, physical, and emotional strain. Stress occurs when a demand exceeds
coping ability and disrupts his or her psychological equilibrium. Stress occurs
in the workplace
when an employee perceives a situation to be too strenuous to handle, and
threatening to his or her well-being.
Mental, physical, or emotional strain caused by a demand that challenges or
exceeds the individual’s coping ability.
Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in
physical, emotional and intellectual responses.
Stress is a natural feeling of not being able to cope with specific demands and
events. However, stress can become a chronic condition if a person does not
3. WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is the body’s natural defense against predators and danger. It
causes the body to flood with hormones that prepare its systems to
evade or confront danger. People commonly refer to this as the fight-
When humans face a challenge or threat, they have a partly physical
response. The body activates resources that help people either stay
and confront the challenge or get to safety as fast as possible.
• The body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol,
epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These trigger the following
• increased blood pressure
• heightened muscle preparedness
These factors all improve a person’s ability to respond to a potentially
Environmental factors that trigger this reaction are called stressors. Examples
include noises, aggressive behavior, a speeding car, scary moments in movies,
or first day in school or work. Feelings of stress tend to increase in tandem
with the number of stressors.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s annual stress
survey in 2018, average stress levels in the United States were 4.9 on a scale
from 1 to 10. The survey found that the most common stressors
were employment and money.
Stressors can be of two types:
1. Physiological (or physical) stressors
These are stressors that put strain on our body(i.e.: very cold/hot
temperatures, injury, chronic illness, or pain).
Physiological stress can be defined as any external or internal condition that
challenges the homeostasis of a cell or an organism. It can be divided into
three different aspects: environmental stress, intrinsic developmental stress,
and aging. Throughout life all living organisms are challenged by changes in
the environment. Fluctuations in oxygen levels, temperature, and redox state
for example, trigger molecular events that enable an organism to adapt,
5. 2. Psychological Stressors
These are events, situations, individuals, comments, or anything we interpret
as negative or threatening (i.e.: not being able to find a babysitter for your
sick child when you cannot take time off work).
Some other common stressors are:
1. Crisis / Catastrophes: This type of stressor is unforeseen and
unpredictable and, as such, is completely out of the control of the
individual. E.g. Natural calamities
2. Major life events: The events, either positive or negative, can create a
sense of uncertainty and fear, which will ultimately lead to stress. E.g.
Marriage, birth of child, divorce, death of loved one.
3. Daily hassles: This category includes daily annoyances and minor hassles.
E.g. making decisions, meeting deadlines at work or school, traffic jams,
encounters with irritating personalities, etc.
4. Ambient stressors: These are global (as opposed to individual) low-grade
stressors that are a part of the background environment. E.g. pollution,
noise, crowding, and traffic.
5. Organizational stressors: Stress due to bad organizational practices
6. TYPES OF STRESS
Psychological stress can be of:
• Acute stress – This type of stress is short-term and usually the more
common form of stress. Acute stress often develops when people
consider the pressures of events that have recently occurred or face
upcoming challenges in the near future. For example, a person may
feel stressed about a recent argument or an upcoming deadline.
However, the stress will reduce or disappear once a person resolves
the argument or meets the deadline.
Acute stressors are often new and tend to have a clear and immediate
solution. Acute stress does not cause the same amount of damage as
long-term, chronic stress. Short-term effects include
tension headaches and an upset stomach, as well as a moderate
amount of distress. However, repeated instances of acute stress over
an extended period can become chronic and harmful.
7. • Chronic stress - This type of stress develops over a long period and
is more harmful.
Ongoing poverty, a dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage are
examples of situations that can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a
person can see no way to avoid their stressors and stops seeking
solutions. A traumatic experience early in life may also contribute to
Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to a normal level
of stress hormone activity, which can contribute to problems in the
A constant state of stress can also increase a person’s risk of type 2
8. STRESS MANAGEMENT
Stress management refers to a wide spectrum of techniques
and therapies that aim to control a person’s levels of stress,
especially chronic stress, to improve everyday functioning.
Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress
has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more
Stress management can help by:
• removing or changing the source of stress
• altering how a person views a stressful event
• lowering the effects that stress might have on the body
• learning alternative ways of coping
9. TECHNIQUES IN STRESS MANAGEMENT
People may find that the following lifestyle measures can help
them manage or prevent stress-induced feelings of being
• Exercise: A 2018 systematic reviewTrusted Source of animal
studies found that exercise can reduce memory impairment in
subjects with stress, although studies on humans are necessary
to confirm this.
• Reducing the intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine: These
substances will not help prevent stress, and they can make it
• Nutrition: A healthful, balanced diet containing plenty of fruit
and vegetables can help maintain the immune system at times
of stress. A poor diet can lead to ill health and additional
10. • Priority management: It may help to spend a little time organizing a daily
to-do list and focusing on urgent or time sensitive tasks. People can then
focus on what they have completed or accomplished for the day, rather than
on the tasks they have yet to complete.
• Time: People should set aside some time to organize their schedules, relax,
and pursue their own interests.
• Breathing and relaxation: Meditation, massage, and yoga can help. Breathing
and relaxation techniques can slow down the heart rate and promote
relaxation. Deep breathing is also a central part of mindfulness meditation.
• Talking: Sharing feelings and concerns with family, friends, and work
colleagues may help a person “let off steam” and reduce feelings of
isolation. Other people may be able to suggest unexpected, workable
solutions to the stressor.
• Acknowledging the signs: A person can be so anxious about the problem
causing the stress that they do not notice the effects on their body. It is
important to be mindful of any changes.
• Felman. A & Sampson. S (2020), Why stress happens and how
to manage it, Medical news today.
• Kagias K, Nehammer C, Pocock R. Neuronal responses to
physiological stress. Front Genet. 2012 Oct 26;3:222. doi:
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• Robinson. L, Smith. M & Segal. R (2020), Stress management,