Stress - An Awareness


Ms. E. Jeevitha
Ms. M. Jayanthi
Department of Management Studies
Tamilnadu College of Engineering
Coimbatore-641 659


The term stress has been derived from the Latin word "Stringer" which means 'to clutch',' compress', or 'bind'. In the 17th century the term stress was used to mean hardship, strain, adversity or affliction. In the 18th and 19 th centuries the term was used to mean force, pressure, strain or strong effort with reference to an object or person. The term stress was first introduced in life science by Hans Selye in 1936.

Which of these is stress?

* You receive a promotion at work
* Your car has a flat tyre
* You go to a party that lasts till 2.00 a.m
* Your dog gets sick
* Your uncle and aunt come to stay at your home for a week
* You get a bad case of cough and cold.

All of these are stress

If you are used to thinking that stress is something that makes you worry, you have the wrong idea of stress. Stress is many different kinds of things: happy things, sad things, allergic things, physical things, etc,.

Defining Stress in 3 ways:

Stress as stimulus:

Stress is considered as something which occurs in the environment and makes a demand upon the person. For example, stress of work.

Stress as response:

Stress is considered as the way people perceive and ascribe meaning to stress producing situations and the way they interact with events.

Stress as transaction:

Stress is considered as a transaction between the person and his/her environment and incorporate both stimulus and responses perspectives as part of a process.

Burn Out Stress Syndrome THE BOSS

Burn out is a syndrome of emotional, physical and mental exhaustive coupled with feelings of low self-esteem or low self-efficacy, resulting from prolonged exposure to intense stress, and strained reactions following from them (Greenberg). Burn out appears to be a response to interpersonal stressors on the job in which an overload of contact with people result in changes in attitudes and behavior towards them. When your body and mind are relentlessly strained, you can develop emotional and physical fatigue. Burnout is a physical, mental and emotional response to constant level of high stress. Burnout produces feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, cynicism, resentment and failure as well as stagnation and reduced productivity. These stress reactions can result in levels of depression and unhappiness that eventually threaten your job your relationships and your health.

Burnout is associated with some situations in which a person feels,

* Over work load
* Under appreciated
* Confused about expectations
* Concerned about job security
* Over committed with responsibilities

Five Stages of Burnout:

1. Honeymoon Stage: There is a euphoric feeling of encounter with a new job. There is excitement, enthusiasm, pride and challenge.

2. Fuel Shortage Stage: There is a vague feeling of loss, fatigue and confusion. The symptoms of job are dissatisfaction, inefficiency and sleep disturbances leading to a escape activities such as increased eating, drinking and smoking.

3. Chronic Symptoms Stage: The physiological symptoms become more pronounced and demand attention and help at this stage. Common symptoms are chronic exhaustion, physical illness, anger and depression.

4. Crisis Stage: When these feelings and physiological symptoms persist over a period of time, the individual enters the stage of crisis. One feels oppressed, there is heightened pessimism and self-defeating tendency dominates. Tension headaches, chronic back aches, high blood pressure and difficulty in sleeping are the symptoms of this stage. They may become acute.

5. Hitting the wall Stage: This stage is characterized by total exhaustion of one's adaptation energy which may mark the end of one's professional career. While recovery from this stage may elude some, others may be resourceful enough to tide over the crisis.


Babies, children and adults all experience stress. The sources of stress may change as people develop but stress can occur at any time throughout life. In order to eliminate or atleast control stress it is vital to klnow and understand the sources of stress. A stressor is that which causes stress. People can experice either internal and external stressors.

External stressors include adverse physical conditions (such as pain or hot or cold temperature) or stressful psychological environment(such as poor working conditions or abusive relationship)

Internal stressors can also be physical (infections, inflammations) or psychological. An example of an internal psychological stressors is intense worry about a harmful event that may or may not occur.

STRESS - Sources within the person:

Sometimes that sources of stress is within the person. Illness is one way stress arises from within the individual. Being ill creates physical and psychological demands on the person and the degree of stress depends on the seriousness of the illness and the age of the individual.

Major and Minor Life Events:

A major life event is any event which forces the person to face substantial change in his/her daily life and requires some readjustment or behavioral adaptation. This includes both positive and negative events. These range from cataclysmic events, such as the death of a spouse or being fired from a job, to more mundane but still problematic events, such as moving to a new home.

In contrast to the work on major stressful life events and illness, researchers are now exploring the role of minor stressful events or daily hassles and their cumulative impact on health and illness. Such hassles might include being stuck inna traffic jam, waiting in line, doing household chores, or having difficulty making a small decision.

Stress in the workplace:

A voluminous literature has examined the causes and consequences of occupational stress. Thirty to forty percent of adults report extreme stress at work. Stress at work leaves people exhausted, irritated and with little or no job satisfaction. From a managerial view point, strewss at work lowers company moral decreases company productivity and increases absenteeism. People who experiences excessive stress at work are more likely to quit their jobs and have higher rates of illness than other people.


There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice when you are experiencing stress.

Short term physical Symptoms:

These mainly occur as your body adapts to perceived physical threat  and are caused by release of adrenaline. Although you may perceive these as unpleasant and negative, they are signs that your bady is ready for explosive action that assists survival or high performance.

* Dry mouth
* Cool skin
* Cold hands and feet
* Increased sweating
* Rapid breathing
* Faster heart beat
* Tense muscles
* Feelings of nausea or 'butterflies in the stomach'
* Diarrhea
* A desire to urinate.

Long term Physical Sympotms:

These occur when your body has been exposed to adrenaline over a long period. One of the ways adrenaline prepares your for action is by diverting resources to the muscles from the areas of the body which carry out body maintenance. This means that if you are exposed to adrenaline for a sustained period, then your health may start to deteriorate. This may lead to 

* Change in appetite
* Sexual disorders
* Aches and pains
* Frequent colds
* Illness such as: Asthma, Back pains, Digestive problems, Head Aches.
* Feeling of intense and long term tiredness.

Stress and Illness:

In  pre historic times, the physical changes in response to stress were an essential adaptation for meeting natural threats. Even in the modern world, the stress responses can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events. If stress becomes pertinent and low-level, however, all parts of the body's stress apparatus become chronically over-or-under activated. This may produce physical or psychological damage over time. Acute stress can also be harmful in certain situations.

Stress-related conditions that are most likely to produce negative physical effects, include accumulation of persistent stressful situations, particularly those that a person cannot easily control (for example, high pressured work plus an unhappy relationship), persistent stress following a severe acute response to a traumatic event, an inefficient or insufficient relaxation response, acute stress in people with serious illness, such as heart diseases. Deviation from normal states of human functioning resulting from prolonged exposure to stressful events is called strain.


There are number of simple techniques that help your to anticipate the stresses that come with important performances and take early action to manage them. For big events it is worthy preparing a performance plan. This is a prepared plan that helps to deal effectively with any problems or distractions, that may occur and perform in a positive and focused frame of mind. When an event is important to you, this can make it very stressful. This is particularly true when you are operating at a high level or when many people are watching. It can also be true when there is the prospect of large financial reward, promotion, or personal advancement if you perform well.


If stress is a problem under the circumstances then think carefully about the event and take every opportunity to reduces its importance. If you focus on the correct performance of your tasks then the importance of the event will dwindle into the background.

Ms. E. Jeevitha
Ms. M. Jayanthi
Department of Management Studies
Tamilnadu College of Engineering
Coimbatore-641 659

Source: E-mail July 3, 2008


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