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What is Stress? Meaning, Definition and Causes of Stress

square What is Stress? Meaning

Stress is a general term applied to various psychologic (mental) and physiologic (bodily) pressures experienced or felt by people throughout their lives.

stress meaning definition causes

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square Definition of Stress

Stress is defined as “a state of psychological and physiological imbalance resulting from the disparity between situational demand and the individual's ability and motivation to meet those needs.”

Dr. Hans Selye, one of the leading authorities on the concept of stress, described stress as “the rate of all wear and tear caused by life.”

Stress can be positive or negative:

  1. Stress is good when the situation offers an opportunity to a person to gain something. It acts as a motivator for peak performance.
  2. Stress is negative when a person faces social, physical, organizational and emotional problems.

Factors that are responsible for causing stress are called stressors.

square Causes of Stress

The major causes of stress at work or in organization:

major causes of stress

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  1. Career Concern: If an employee feels that he is very much behind in the corporate ladder, then he may experience stress. If he seems that there are no opportunities for self-growth, he may experience stress. Hence, unfulfilled career expectations are the significant source of stress.
  2. Role Ambiguity: It occurs when the person doesn't know what he is supposed to do, on the job. His tasks and responsibilities are not clear. The employee is not sure what he is expected to do. It creates confusion in the minds of the worker and results in stress.
  3. Rotating Work Shifts: Stress may occur in those individuals who work on different work shifts. Employees may be expected to work on day shift for some days and then on the night shift. That may create problems in adjusting to the shift timings, and it can affect not only personal life but also family life of the employee.
  4. Role Conflict: It takes place when people have different expectations from the person performing a particular role. It can also occur if the job is not as per expectation, or when a job demands a certain type of behavior that is against the person's moral values.
  5. Occupational Demands: Some jobs are more demanding than others. Jobs that involve risk, and danger are more stressful. Research findings indicate, job that cause stress needs constant monitoring of equipments and devices, unpleasant physical conditions, making decisions, etc.
  6. Lack of Participation in Decision-making: Many experienced employees feel that management should consult them on matters affecting their jobs. In reality, the superiors hardly ask the concerned employees before taking a decision. That develops a feeling of being neglected, which may lead to stress.
  7. Work Overload: Excessive workload leads to stress as it puts a person under tremendous pressure. Work overload may take two different forms:
    1. Qualitative work overload implies performing a job that is complicated or beyond the employee's capacity.
    2. Quantitative work overload is a result of many activities performed in a prescribed time.
  8. Work Underload: In this, case, too little work or very easy work is expected on the part of the employee. Doing less work or jobs of routine and simple nature would lead to monotony and boredom, which can lead to stress.
  9. Poor Working Conditions: Employees may be subject to poor working conditions. It would include bad lighting and ventilation, unhygienic sanitation facilities, excessive noise, and dust, presence of toxic gasses and fumes, inadequate safety measures, etc. All these unpleasant conditions create physiological and psychological imbalance in humans thereby causing stress.
  10. Lack of Group Cohesiveness: Every group is characterized by its cohesiveness, although they differ widely in its degree. Individuals experience stress when there is no unity among work group members. There are mistrust, jealousy, frequent quarrels, etc., in groups and this lead to stress to employees.
  11. Interpersonal and Intergroup Conflict: These conflicts take place due to differences in perceptions, attitudes, values and beliefs between two or more individuals and groups. Such conflicts can be a source of stress for group members.
  12. Organizational Changes: When changes occur, people have to adapt to those changes, and this may cause stress. Stress is higher when changes are significant or unusual like transfer or adoption of new technology.
  13. Lack of Social Support: When individuals believe that they have the friendship and support of others at work, their ability to cope with the effects of stress increases. If this kind of social support is not available, then an employee experiences more stress.

Certain factors outside the scope of an organization also cause stress.

The main causes of stress outside work or organization:

causes of stress outside work

Image credits © Gaurav Akrani.

  1. Civic Amenities: Poor civic amenities in the area in which one lives can be a cause of stress. Inadequate or lack of public facilities like improper water supply, excessive noise or air pollution, lack of proper transport facility can be quite stressful.
  2. Life Changes: Life changes can bring stress to a person. Life changes can be slow or sudden. Gradual life changes include getting older, and abrupt life changes include death or accident of a loved one. Sudden life changes are highly stressful and very difficult to cope.
  3. Frustration: Frustration is another cause of stress. It arises when goal-directed behavior gets blocked. Management should attempt to remove barriers and help the employees to reach their goals.
  4. Racial, Caste, and Religious Conflicts: Employees living in areas, which are often prone to conflicts among people based on differences seen in their race, caste and religion do suffer more from stress. In the case of a religion, the minorities and lower-caste people (especially in India) are subject to more stress.
  5. Personality: We can classify people as ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’.
    The ‘Type A’ people:
    1. They feel guilty while relaxing.
    2. They get irritated by minor mistakes of self and others.
    3. They feel impatient and dislike waiting.
    4. They also multitask and prefer to do several things at one time.
    The ‘Type B’ people are exactly opposite and hence are less affected by stress due to the above factors.
  6. Technological Changes: When there are any changes in technical fields, employees are under the constant fear of losing jobs or need to adjust to new technologies. It can be a source of stress.
  7. Career Changes: When a person suddenly switches to another job, he is under stress to shoulder new responsibilities adequately. Under-promotion, over-promotion, demotion and transfers can also cause stress.

Following habits can remarkably help to relieve stress:

  • Regular meditation,
  • Physical exercise,
  • Balanced diet,
  • Focused thinking,
  • Control of anger,
  • Managing Depression,
  • Maintaining calmness in stressful situations,
  • Having a positive attitude towards life,
  • Harmony towards self and others, etc.

1 Comment:

  1. Inderjit Gupta said...

    Information on Stress given in simple and clear expression is understandable. Motivational stress is stimulating and advantageous to an individual whereas bad stress affects his psychological and emotional behavior adversely. Developing some good habits to relieve stress has been emphasized. Surely, readers will be benefited through such short communications.

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