Stress Management


Back to Family and Human Development Page


What is stress?

Stress may be described as anything that stimulates an individual and increases his level of alertness. Life without stress would be very dull and boring. Yet, with too much stimulus, it becomes taxing, tiring and unpleasant. It may even cause damage to our health. Too much stress can seriously alter one's ability to perform effectively.

Three main types or causes of Stress:

Survival Stress:

This may occur where one's health, safety or survival is threatened, or when one is put under pressure. It can also occur when one experiences some unpleasant or challenging event. When we are in a physically or emotionally threatening situation our body reacts to help it more effectively meet the threat. At these times adrenaline is released in the blood stream and the body experiences all the symptoms of "fight or flight." Prolonged exposure to adrenaline (long term stress) can cause ill-health.

Internally Generated Stress:

This can result from anxious worrying about events beyond one's control, a tense, hurried approach to life, or relationship problems brought on by one's own behavior. It may even result from one's addiction to and enjoyment of stress, e.g., Type A people. Other examples of this type of stress would be among perfectionists. Excessive self-effacement, in which constant attention to the needs of others leads to dissatisfaction when no-one looks after your needs, and anxiety.

Environmental and Job Stress:

Stress may be caused by one's job or environment. These may include: crowding and invasion of personal space, insufficient working and living space, noise, dirty, untidy conditions, pollution and badly or run down environment.

Chemical and nutritional stress may include; caffeine - raises level of stress hormones and makes it difficult to sleep, bursts of sugar from sweets and chocolate - produces a sugar "high" which triggers release of large amounts of insulin leading to serious energy dip, too much salt - raises blood pressure and places body under excessive stress.

Job and lifestyle stress may result from: too much or too little work, having to perform beyond your experience or perceived abilities, unnecessary obstacles, time pressures and deadlines, changes in procedures and policies, unclear role expectations, career development stress, personal and family stresses.

Fatigue and overwork leads to under performance, which leads to frustration and feeling of failure which causes more stress, leading to an inability to relax, then more stress and the cycle goes on.