Stress may be defined as a stimulus, as a response, and as a transaction. The effects of stress encompasses the whole person. Stress affects the person emotionally, intellectally, socially, spiritually, and physically.
Stress may be a stimulus or a life-changing event that causes a disrupted response. Examples of life-changing events are divorce, pregnancy, job promotion, or retirement. Stress, in this sense, may be positive or negative. Retirement is considered stressful but so is a job promotion.
When stress is defined as a response, however, it becomes a disruption caused by a noxious stressor. The term noxious can never be positive or neutral so when stress is viewed as a response, it remains to be harmful and injurious to the individual. This definition of stress was developed by Hans Selye. In his General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), Selye proposes that no matter what the stimulus, an individual goes through a response characterized by a pattern of events: Alarm Reaction, Stage of Resistance, and Stage of Exhaustion.
- Alarm Reaction-> the sympathetic nervous system is activated (fight-or-flight response); examples are increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, heightened alertness, etc.
- Stage of of Resistance--> the body begins to adapt to the noxious stimulus and employs a combination of coping mechanisms to deal with stress
- Stage of Exhaustion--> the body's resources are depleted and if the stress continues to be excessive, death may be the ultimate consequence
The definition of stress as a transaction was developed by Lazarus. In his transactional stress theory, Lazarus says that the person and the environment are inseparable and that the individual responds to stress through adaptive or coping responses that are mental and psychologic in nature. Lazarus' concept of stress is "cognitive" in contrast to Selye's focus on the physiologic responses to stress.
However, no matter how you view stress, what I would like to emphasize is that stress affects the totality of a person. Emotionally, stress may cause you to become irritable and anxious. Physically, you may experience headaches and muscle pains. Socially, you may lose meaningful relationships with people which may lead to social withdrawal. And mentally, stress may result in poor concentration. Thus, there is a need to manage stress positively. Below are ways to manage stress.
- Eat a well-balanced diet--> watch your intake of sweets, caffeine, and foods high salt and fat
- Have enough rest and sleep--> promotes relaxation
- Identify your stressors--> will let you have more control of stress-producing circumstances
- Employ a combination of coping strategies--> regular exercise, meditation, yoga, guided imagery, counseling
- Maintain meaningful relationships--> a social support system (family, friends, mentors) will help you cope with stress