In fact, there are some people who thrive on stress. They take stresses as challenges to be overcome otherwise life would be very boring. Stress is the feeling we experience when under pressure. A stressor is a stimulus that causes stress. Prolonged exposure to loud noises is an example of a stressor. Unreasonable customers are stressors. Going for a blood test could be a stressor for some.
Other stressors we encounter every day are traffic jams, crowded trains and buses, or not being able to find a parking lot when you are already late for an appointment.
Natural Responses to Stress
How one responds to a challenge is also a kind of stress. When faced with a threat, one’s body reacts to protect the person. It has to decide whether to run away or to fight. This is called the fight or flight response. If a robber confronts you in a dark back lane, you have to decide whether you can overpower the man or run to the main road as fast as your legs can carry you.
This fight or flight response is embedded in our body’s sympathetic nervous system that reacts to a stressful situation. The body produces quantities of the chemicals—adrenaline, cortisol, and noradrenaline, which trigger a faster heart rate, tensed muscles, sweating, and alertness. All these factors help to protect us from danger.
Common Causes of Stress
Not all persons react to stressful situations in the same manner. What is stressful to one person may be normal to another. We observe that the most common causes of stress are:
Bereavement: when a close relative or friend leaves for the other world.
Family problems: when in-laws interfere with how children should be brought up; when children do not do well at school; or when the monthly spending exceeds the earnings, for example.
Financial matters: when the credit card bills keep on increasing faster than can be paid; or when the mortgage payments accumulate.
Poor health: when we or a family member have to be hospitalised or contract a serious disease. Caregivers are among the most stressed people in society.
Issues at the workplace: these could be fear of impending retrenchment; fellow workers undermining the hard work of an employee; or bosses who do not appreciate the contributions of the subordinate.
Effects of Stress
When we are stressed, our blood pressure tends to rise. Our breathing becomes more rapid and our pulse rises. The muscles tense up and because of the heightened state of alertness, we suffer from insomnia.
Many negative situations take a toll on our health. Have you ever gone for a test for cancer and have to wait for many days before results are available? The waiting period is a torture and can be very stressful. In your mind, you are prepared for the worst-case scenario. Many use prayers to wish for good health.
Changing jobs can also be very stressful. You are venturing into new territory and leaving familiar surroundings and colleagues. What if you can’t make it in the new company, would it be very embarrassing to return to your old job?
Going to the airport for a business trip can also add stress to a person. They are worried that the pre-arranged transport does not come on time. They are worried that there may be a bad traffic jam along the way. They are worried that they might have forgotten to bring some important documents. I know of an executive who realised that he had brought his expired passport only when he was at the immigration counter.
Dealing with Stress
If the stress is getting you down, consult a doctor. Do not try to self-medicate. For mild cases, the doctor may prescribe some sleeping tablets. For more serious cases, anti-depressants may be prescribed to treat the anxiety.
Many make use of exercise to reduce stress. It can have a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical state. Reducing the intake of caffeine also helps. Restrict yourself to one cuppa a day. For managers, try to delegate some of your responsibilities to others. You will have more time to relax a little in between tasks. Don’t be over-obliging and say yes to all requests for projects that involve your department. If your department is already overloaded, be prepared to turn down new projects until your schedule is lightened.
It is a great idea to learn some relaxation techniques in the form of meditation, yoga, or spa treatments.
When you feel very stressed and think that the world is coming to an end, change what you are doing to another task. Or find a quiet place with a wonderful view to calm you down. Some like to go shopping to reduce stress. Others like to have a good meal at an expensive restaurant with their close friend(s). Go and celebrate life as we don’t know how much time we have left in this world.