Stress is our body’s way of responding to challenging situations. The purpose of stress is to protect organisms and ensure its survival and that of its species. Examples of this are the flight-fight or freeze methods.
There are two types of stress—eustress and distress. Eustress is the positive type of stress and is perceived as a ‘beneficial stress’ or ‘adaptive stress,’ which motivates one to continue working through the task at hand. Eustress can be psychological or physical (i.e., physical activity). Eustress is an important component of everyday life, as good amounts of stress motivates, challenges, and encourages productiveness. Furthermore, eustress often provides a sense of fulfilment when a task is completed.
Distress is the negative kind of stress, otherwise known as ‘bad stress,’ and occurs when something becomes difficult for an individual to cope with. In extreme cases, distress can result in anxiety and/or depression. Common causes of distress include excessive job demands, conflict with co-workers/family members, financial problems, fears (i.e., fear of public speaking/fear of heights), unrealistic expectations, and repetitive thought patterns.
Distress causes tension to build within the body and mind, and the task at hand suddenly seems daunting. Furthermore, it may seem as though distress is never ending and often results in poor decision-making skills. It is important to note that distress arises when a person perceives a challenging situation as being harmful, or if one believes that they are not capable of coping with the demands of a situation. In contrast, eustress is not simply a better ‘type’ of stress, but rather a more adaptive perception of, and reaction to, a stressful situation. Both types of stress are usually the way a person perceives and adapts to a situation. Stress affects the mind, body, emotions, and one’s behaviour.
Biological response to stress
When stress is triggered in one’s brain, the body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. Then there can be an increase in blood pressure and emotional anxiety while some bodily functions might reduce like the digestive and immune systems and sex hormones. It can also affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Stages of stress can include fatigue, relationship problems, negative emotions, aches, pains, or illnesses. Psychological disorders caused by stress include sleep disorder, anxiety, depression, and substance dependence among others. Medical disorders can include asthma, reproductive issues, heart disease, and reduced sex drive to mention a few.
Some risk factors are outlook, personality, perception, family pressure, helpers’ mentality, negative coping patterns, and the understanding of stress management skills.
How to manage stress
Using the stress management model, there are three ways or 3 A’s of stress management. The first one is to alter; this means to find out the source of the stress then asking oneself is there something I can do to change it? The second is avoid; asking oneself how can I get away from the stress? The last way to manage stress is to accept; how can I live with the stress and finding ways to adapt.
Written by Owa Daodu
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