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A consensual yet approximate view of stress is that it is a depressing experience involving painful mental pressure. It occurs when a person perceives that the expected demands of a project or a situation exceed their existing physical and mental resources. Both employers and employees, especially in the financial sector, can become stressed because of ever-expanding financial targets and competition in achieving them before the deadline. It is human nature to become stressed when people cannot cope with the demands put upon them.
Our Biological Response to Stress
Our stress response depends partly on our instincts and partly on the way we intellectually perceive them. Our instinctive stress response can be of two types. One is the short term ‘fight or flight’ response. The second type is the long term ‘general adoption syndrome’. While the short term response is generated by the immediate survival instinct, the long term response exposes us to stress. Both these response mechanisms are affected by the way we think and interpret the situation.
Fight or Flight Response
The fight or flight response is generated in the form of shock from the situations occurring suddenly. In such situations, the biological system releases neural and hormonal messages that initiate a chain of changes in the body. The heart beats faster and with more force. Blood pressure and breathing rates rise. Fat and sugar levels in the blood increase. Fortunately all these changes are adaptive in the short term, in that they occur only to provide fuel and oxygen to empower the muscles to either fight the danger or take flight from the situation. They thus prepare the body for physical action. The process may increase sweating in an effort to cool the muscles so that they can work efficiently. The hormones divert blood supply from the skin to the core of our body to recoup the blood if it is lost due to some accidental damage. These hormones help us focus our attention to the cause of the threat to the complete exclusion of everything else. These actions spend out the energy from the stress response and the body returns to its normal state.
The Positive Side of Stress
Strangely enough stress, though invariably associated with negative connotations, has its positive side also. Any creative process can be happily stressful. Participation in sports can be stressful for the competitors and theatrical performance can be stressful for the actors. It can be stressful for magicians enthralling the audiences with their tricks, creative designers and copy writers in ad campaigns or clowns in the circus who send the spectators in peals of laughter. Delivery of a baby may be a stressful yet a beautiful experience for a mother.
Stress--an Individual Response
While one activity becomes a source of enjoyment for one individual, the same activity becomes a cause of stress for the other. The fear of stepping upon the stage of a theatre, a sports arena or even delivering a baby can force a person to spend sleepless nights.
The same situation becomes a painful obsession and acquires the characteristics of what is popularly known as stress. The fear of failure even in the so called happy activities of sports and theatre may generate stress of detrimental nature. It therefore follows that the same project may not evoke the same response from all the persons engaged at its execution. Some persons may take the project sportingly and creatively, while others feel stressed and worried. It, therefore, establishes that stress is only an individual response to a given situation. It is not generated by the situation itself. Some people straightway plunge into the tempestuous and turbulent tides of a raging ocean while others keep mulling anxiously whether or not to jump across one foot wide drain in a by lane across their house.
Long Term Exposure to Stress
Long term exposure to stress takes the form of general adoption syndrome. It occurs in response to the long term exposure to the causes of stress. This phenomenon is a commonly visible both in the employers and the employees of the corporate sector where the new challenges emerge on daily basis. The projects have to be executed in time. The sales targets have to be met. Statistics have to be presented in the board meetings. This results in continuous arousal of the body. When this arousal becomes chronic the stress related problems appear.
Mental Effects of Stress
Stress occurs when a person finds that he is incapable of mobilizing his intellectual, physical and social resources to meet the demands of a situation. Most of the stress is generated from the work overload, competing priorities, conflict with colleagues, unhappy work environment, anomalous values and over demanding deadlines.