Friday, 17 June 2016

What is Stress?

Stress is the way our body reacts to physical, mental or emotional pressure. Modern living conditions involve some level of pressure to which our body attempts to adjust. Every individual has a pressure threshold above which pressure turns into stress. The human body is equipped to develop coping mechanisms which attempt to limit the effects of pressure on the psyche and prevent it from turning into stress. Stress is therefore a result of failure of existing coping mechanisms or the inability of the individual to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms.

Causes and manifestations of stress

Stress can be triggered by a number of factors which may range from the ridiculous to the sublime, depending on the threshold of the individual. A situation one individual finds stressful and debilitating may be a source of motivation for another individual. Work and relationship related factors are common causes of stress. Inability of the individual to get on with work colleagues or bosses at work may lead to a stressful breakdown. A difficult marriage, divorce, loss of job, retirement, bereavement, a serious illness such as cancer are all recognised triggers of stress.

Stress can manifest in several ways, but the more common are headaches and sleep disturbances. These can sometimes be so debilitating that the individual may be unable to cope with ordinary tasks of daily living. Other forms of its manifestation include mood swings, appetite changes leading to weight loss or weight gain, palpitations not occasioned by any specific situation. In severe cases, stress may lead to depression, a medical condition which requires urgent medical attention.

As previously mentioned, stress is not always a bad thing as it can be a source of motivation for greater performance. However, when stress becomes harmful, it would be advisable to make an attempt to get rid of the stress factor. When this is impossible and the body is unable to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms, it is best to seek professional help.