Meaning & Definition of Stress

Detailed information on stress including its meaning, definition, causes and stress types are given.

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What is Stress? Stress is the mental, physical and emotional reactions you experience as a results of demands of your life. You must have experienced stress at one time or another.

What is Stress?

The word stress is derived from the Latin word "stringi", which means, "to be drawn tight". Stress can be defined as follows:

  1. In medical terms stress is described as, "a physical or psychological stimulus that can produce mental tension or physiological reactions that may lead to illness." When you are under stress, your adrenal gland releases corticosteroids, which are converted to cortisol in the blood stream. Cortisol have an immune suppressive effect in your body.
  2. According to Richard S Lazarus, stress is a feeling experienced when a person thinks that "the demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize."

Your body tries to adjust to different circumstances or continually changing environment around you. In this process, the body is put to extra work resulting in "wear and tear". In other words, your body is stressed. Stress disturbs the body's normal way of functioning.

Without stress, there would be no life. However, excessive or prolonged stress can be harmful. Stress is unique and personal. A situation may be stressful for someone but the same situation may be challenging for others. For example, arranging a world level symposium may be challenging for one person but stressful to another. Some persons have habit of worrying unnecessarily.

Stress is not always necessarily harmful. Hans Selye said in 1956, "stress is not necessarily something bad, it all depends on how you take it. The stress of exhilarating, creative successful work is beneficial, while that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental." Stress can be therefore negative, positive or neutral. Passing in an examination can be just stressful as failing.

Sometime we know in advance that doing a certain thing will be stressful, but we are willing to doing that. For example, while planning a vacation to a hill station you know that it would be stressful at certain times. But you are willing to face those challenges.

People often work well under certain stress leading to increased productivity. Many times you do not know in advance and the stress periods may be sudden. The situation may not be under your control. Too much stress is harmful. You should know your level of stress that allows you to perform optimally in your life.

Types of Stress

Three types of stress may be distinguished:

  1. Acute stress

    Acute stress is usually for short time and may be due to work pressure, meeting deadlines pressure or minor accident, over exertion, increased physical activity, searching something but you misplaced it, or similar things.

    Actue Stress Symptoms

    are headaches, back pain, stomach problems, rapid heartbeat, muscle aches or body pain.
    Acute stress is common in people who take too many responsibilities and are overloaded or overworked, disorganized, always in a hurry and never in time. These people are generally in positions of importance at their workplace and stressful lifestyle is inherent in them.
  2. Chronic Stress

    This type of stress is the most serious of all the 3 stress types. Chronic stress is a prolonged stress that exists for weeks, months, or even years. This stress is due to poverty, broken or stressed families and marriages, chronic illness and successive failures in life. People suffering from this type of stress get used to it and may even not realize that they are under chronic stress. It is very harmful to their health.

Causes of Stress

Whenever our body feels something not favorable, then it tries to defend itself. If this situation continues for a long time, then our body is working overtime.

There are several causes of stress. For example, you are under stress when you are worried about something, worried about your children, worried about the illness of your father, worried about your job security, or worried about your loans or similar things.

You may be under stress due to several causes. Look at the following causes of stress.

  1. Stress at Home

    • Death of spouse, family, near relative or friend.
    • Injury or illness of any family member.
    • Marriage of self or son or daughter or brother or sister.
    • Separation or divorce from partner.
    • Pregnancy or birth of a new baby.
    • Children's behavior or disobedience.
    • Children's educational performance.
    • Hyperactive children.
    • Sexual molestation.
    • Argument or heated conversations with spouse, family members or friends or neighbors.
    • Not sufficient money to meet out daily expenses or unexpected expenditure.
    • Not sufficient money to raise your standard of living.
    • Loss of money in burglary, pick-pocketed or share market.
    • Moving house.
    • Change of place or change of city or change of country.
  2. Stress at Work

    • To meet out the demands of the job.
    • Your relationship with colleagues.
    • To control staff under you.
    • To train your staff and take work from them.
    • Support you receive from your boss, colleagues and juniors.
    • Excessive work pressure.
    • To meet out deadlines.
    • To give new results.
    • To produce new publications if you are in research area.
    • Working overtime and on holidays.
    • New work hours.
    • Promotion or you have not been promoted or your junior has superseded you.
    • Argument or heated conversations with co-workers or boss.
    • Change of job.
    • Work against will.
    • Harassment.
    • Sexual molestation.
  3. Other Causes of Stress

    • Fear, intermittent or continuous.
    • Threats: physical threats, social threats, financial threat, other threats.
    • Uncertainty.
    • Lack of sleep.
    • Somebody misunderstands you.
    • Setback to your position in society.

If you are under stress, then you should know how you can get stress relief.

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