What is Stress?
Stress, according to the dictionary, is characterized as a mentally or emotionally disruptive and upsetting condition that occurs in response to adverse external influences which is capable of affecting an individual’s physical and mental health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability, and possibly depression. Peace and Healing would like to add that it is a perceived adverse stimuli or influence. One can argue the fact that stress does not exist. Psychoneuroimmunologists have concluded that it is not necessarily the event that causes the stress, but how one approaches the event. Carl Hammerschlag, M.D. from www.healingdoc.com speaks extensively on this.
Stress is clearly a subjective perception that causes very objective signs and symptoms that can also lead to very blatant disease states. People are equipped with a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Some are excellent coping mechanisms, and some very poor. We do know that events that individuals perceive as stressful do produce very real physiologic symptoms such as tachycardia, diaphoresis, fine motor tremors, increased gastric acid, and an increased need to urinate or defecate. These symptoms are classic for anxiety. As the perceived stress becomes more frequent and an individual’s coping mechanisms fail, individuals can fall into a depressive state, which may include insomnia or hyper somnolence. Also, you see very argumentative behavior with possibly explosive episodes.
Type A personalities, one can argue, deal with stress quite well since they can multi-task so to speak, and have many things going on at one time. However even Type A’s have difficulty at times balancing all they have on their plates. All individuals including Type A personalities, deal with stress differently. Some cope with it well and some do not. When coping mechanisms are inadequate or fail, stress may become symptomatic. That is the point individuals frequently seek out treatment—when their levels of stress begins to interfere with their activities of daily living and they become somewhat dysfunctional at their daily job or in their family life. One will see an increase in arguments at home among family members, and argumentative situations that occur at the workplace.
As we will discuss in Stress Relief, it is not so much as the event itself that is causing the stress, rather it is how individuals cope with the stress. There are many techniques that can be used to alleviate the symptoms. However if one does not learn how to decrease stressful events, or increase their coping mechanisms with respect to how they deal with the event, then all we are doing is alleviating the current symptoms. Subsequently, the patient is not learning anything at the time to completely alleviate the syndrome.
What are Stress Symptoms?
Stress symptoms, from a psychological standpoint, can present as depression, isolative behavior, distancing behavior, argumentative behavior, irritability, spontaneous crying episodes, insomnia, and hyper somnolence. Physical symptoms show up as tachycardia, diaphoresis, nausea, increased urgency to urinate or defecate, increased flatulence, fine motor tremors, coughing while sleeping, which can be secondary to gastric acid or GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disorder), gastric ulcers, and duodenal ulcers. Asthma attacks have frequently been associated with stressful events.
Stress can also be displayed as acute anxiety attacks, and/or panic attacks. Sweating, racing heart, shortness of breath, and fear of death or impending doom.
Secondary effects of stress: In severe situations, if these physiological symptoms are not taken care of, they can definitely increase the risk for stomach cancer, episodes of suicide attempts, suicide ideation, divorce, and poor relationships at the home and at the workplace.
What is the treatment for stress or stress relief?
The treatment of stress and stress relief is a multi-factorial approach. There are numerous sites on the Internet and individuals out there who, when they target the treatment of stress, are literally only targeting the symptoms. Meditation techniques as well as certain medications definitely alleviate the symptoms and allow individuals to feel like they are in control. However they are not addressing how these individuals deal with or perceive a stressful event, and we are not then modifying the behavior or teaching them anything. The medication and the meditation techniques are literally a Band Aid to decrease the symptoms one is feeling when they perceive stress. This author is not suggesting that they not be implemented. They should be implemented. However they should be an adjunct to having the individual focusing and looking at what their coping mechanisms are. Do they perceive the stressful event accurately? Are they distorting it, embellishing it or blowing it out of proportion? What can they do as they approach an event they perceive as stressful, to approach it differently than they have in the past?
There are hundreds of self-help books out there, and there are hundreds of friends, peers, and family members who feel they have the answer and know how to take care of your situation. It is this author’s experience that by doing that, frequently one becomes confused and actually becomes stressed out from so many different types of advice and so many treatment modalities. If the stress advances to the point where it has reached physical symptoms or disrupts your life, you definitely need to seek a professional who has a multi-faceted approach for treatment. For this author, the multi-faceted approach would include spiritual, physical, and psychological modalities.
The coping mechanisms we use to deal with stress are definitely learned in part from our parents and upbringing, and how they dealt with stress. Whether they were successful or unsuccessful is somewhat irrelevant. We do take what we learn from them and we apply it. As we begin to mature, if the coping mechanisms we use tend to be successful, we should hopefully implement those and keep those in our repertoire. If they are not and fall short, then we will fail when stressful events occur, and become more symptomatic.
Old habits that we have learned are hard to break. We need to be willing to looking into the mirror and acknowledge what we are doing that is not helpful to our own bodies and to our daily routine. Once we are able to do that, we can definitely venture into new territories and become much more successful at alleviating the perceived stress in our lives.
Good luck and explore many options.
What is workplace Stress?
Workplace stress is somewhat different than other stressful events that we perceive. Part of the reason for this is that we need to work and we need to go to our job daily. We feel somewhat forced into that situation since we have to bring home a paycheck and continue to pay our bills, and hopefully have some money left over to perform some type of recreational activity to de-stress, if you will. If we allow the stress at our workplace to become too great, we then decompensate, displayed by either aggressive episodes, acting out, or alienation of your peers at work and/or it is taken home and it disruptive your home life.
There needs to be an area of sanctuary where one can go to be at peace. This can literally be in your vehicle, on your way back and forth from work. It can be at your home. But this is necessary in order to de-stress. Many individuals have stressful jobs. People who work in the field of psychology, in psychiatric hospitals or in forensics, on the police force, and healthcare workers may experience particularly intense cases or situations, after which they need to de-stress. There are literally de-stress meetings, where individuals sit around in groups and discuss episodes that have occurred, what they have learned or what they can do better the next time. Or in the event of a death on the job, there would be group discussions regarding how that event has affected them. This has been shown to be very, very effective, and also that process allows individuals to feel closer to each other individually and as a team. We can use this same analogy in any workforce. In Japan, they use a very similar method in terms of de-stressing in corporations. They have found these methods to be very effective. It facilitates teamwork and allows for greater productivity on-site.
Problems become more persistent when a team leader or boss is perceived in a certain situation as less than caring, unwilling to not only be a team player, but also unwilling to recognize the stress that other employees may be experiencing. When this occurs, one then feels very alienated and isolated. So how does one de-stress at the workplace, or approach the workplace in a way that they can work more efficiently and get along with their peers? This is very complex and depends on your role at the workplace.
- Reframing is a great technique, where one actually reframes in their head their job and their job duties. This does not mean they change their job duties, this means that in their head, they have some type of phrase or statement they are stating to themselves that gets them through the day. This usually works in the short term, but does not work in the long term, but can get you through a certain perceived stressful event.
- Remembering back to when you first got your position or your job. You may have been very excited at that point in time. Try to remember those feelings and how excited you were about obtaining the position that you have, and obtaining a paycheck. Again, this is usually very transient, but does help to get one through a stressful moment.
- It is strongly advised to talk to a professional counselor or therapist in terms of how to approach your boss. There are numerous effective ways that individuals can present issues that are non-threatening and effective. Surprisingly they can have a good outcome and actually may elicit change.
- Remember, everyone always has choices. This is very important.
After a few of the abovementioned tasks have been tried and you feel they have failed or fallen upon deaf ears, and you feel that your life is going no where and you are extremely stressed with the job you have, apply for different positions or elsewhere. Many times, a change in a job, perhaps every 5-7 years, can be a very healthy move. Statistics do show that when individuals do change jobs every 5-7 years, on average they increase their salary anywhere from 5-15%.
The difficult boss. At some point in their lives, everyone has had a boss who is perceived as not being altruistic, grossly condescending, usually very narcissistic and self-absorbed. A few points to remember. These individuals have reached their level of achievement usually in their third or fourth decade of life because they have been very successful at what they have been doing, and they may have been putting people way down on the list in order to achieve their financial success. With that in mind, YOU ARE EXPENDABLE. Secondly, you are mostly likely not going to change that individual’s personality. In their eyes, they have been successful with their personality based on where they have gotten, and there is no use fighting this war. You will lose the battle if you attack and point out to the boss their shortcomings. It is not uncommon for these individuals to be socially inept. That does not mean they are not successful in other areas of their lives. Many of the interventions we have discussed in treating stress in general are effective in treating stress in the workplace. The dynamics are somewhat different, and one needs to recognize all the aspects of workplace stress before one falls into a depression and impulsively quits their job.
Remember, never quit a position without having something to fall back on. A safety net is extremely important. Individuals who impulsively quite their jobs usually end up falling right back into a very stressful pattern, which leads into depression and low self-esteem. Give it 24-72 hours to think about a large change of this nature. Please talk to an objective counselor or therapist.