What is Stress?

Many people feel as if they can define stress. In reality, stress is often ambiguous and misunderstood. To understand work stress, one must understand the broad concept of stress and relate various aspects of stress to the individual in the workplace.

Definition of Stress

Stress is complex. It is uniquely understood by individuals’ reactions to situations or stimuli. Stress is caused by either a psychological or a physical stimulus. Hence, stress is a person1s adaptive response to a stimulus that causes an excessive psychological or physical demand on the individual.

The term “stress” can be defined in many different ways. Therefore, the meaning different people associate with stress will vary considerably. Stress can be defined as a cycle of events characterized by an individual’s attempt to accommodate and respond effectively to the stressor. Stress is defined as the demands of life. Demands can be interpreted to be “stressors” and the negative impact on the body is the “stress.”

Certainly, the demands can originate from the environment. Demands can also start in one’s inner thoughts and internal struggles. When one perceives his or her demands to increase, the result may be excessive stress. Stress may be the result of an individual1 s perception of a situation rather than of the situation itself. In this case, the solution may be to alter the person’s thinking and not to attempt to change the environment.

Given the variance in the definition of stress, it is important to examine the individual components of stress. Stress has three components:
1) adaptation,
2) role of the stimulus, and
3) demands placed on the individual.

The first component of stress is an adaptation. Once stress is perceived, the individual reacts and adapts. Adapting to a change is basically a matter of attitude and the adjustment of established values to a new situation. Individual response to stress is varied. What is perceived as stressful to one individual may not appear as a negative stimulus for another?

Second is the role of the stimulus. The stimulus, which may also be referred to as the stressor, is anything that induces stress.

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