Everyone in today’s workplace is under pressure. We are living in an era of
uncertainty, with widely fluctuating markets and fiercely competitive business
conditions. Organizations are determined to get more and better work out of fewer
people, and most employees are routinely told they must work smarter, faster, better,
longer and harder. It is no wonder that study after study shows that stress is a growing
In general, we tend to think of stress as something negative; but in fact, it does have
tangible benefits. Stress generates action. It creates a psychological boost that gives
you increased energy and clarity with which to perform well. If channeled correctly,
stress can enhance your performance and the performance of those you manage. Of
course, if channeled incorrectly, stress can be overwhelming and performance will
Stress is derived from the Latin word stringere, meaning to draw tight, and was used
in the 17th century to describe hardships or affliction. During the late 18th century,
stress denoted “force, pressure, strain, or strong effort”, referring primarly to an
individual or to an individual’s organs or mental powers ( Hinkle, 1973 ).
Early definitions of strain and load used in physics and engineering eventually came
to influence one concept of how stress affects individuals. Under the meaning of this
concept, external forces are seen as exerting pressure on an individual, producing
strain. Proponents of this view claim that we can measure physical strain on a
machine or bridge or any physical object.
Although this first concept looked at stress as an outside stimulus, a second concept
defines stress as a person’s response to a disturbance. In 1910, Sir William Osler
explored the idea of stress and strain causing disease when he saw a relationship
between angina pectoris and a hectic pace of life. The idea that environmental forces
could actually cause disease rather than just short-term ill effects, and that people
have a natural tendency to resist such forces, was seen in the work of Walter B.
Cannon in the 1930s ( Hinkle, 1973 ). Cannon studied the “fight-or-flight”
reaction. Because of this reaction , people and animals will choose to stay and fight or
attempt to escape when confronted by extreme danger. Cannon observed that when
his subjects experienced situations of cold, lack of oxygen, or excitement, he could
detect psychological changes such as emergency adrenaline secretions. He described
these individuals as being “under stress”.
One of the first scientific attempts to explain the process of stress-related illness was
made by Horns Selye in 1946, who described three stages an individual experiences in
stressful situations. The first stage is called “alarm reaction”, in which an initial phase
of lowered resistance is followed by countershock, during which the individual’s
defense mechanisms become active. The second stage is called “resistance”, and it is
a stage of maximum adaptation and, ideally, successful return to equilibrium for the
individual. If however, the stress continues or the defense mechanism does not work,
one will move on to a third stage. The third and last stage is called “exhaustion”, and
this stage tripped when adaptive mechanisms collapse.
Newer and more comprehensive theories of stress emphasize the interaction
between a person and his or her environment. Stress was described by researchers in
the 1950s as a “response to internal or external” processes.
It is well-known that if an individual cannot face his or her stress this is very
dangerous and it is possible to develop a disorder. Disorder which is related with
stress, is Generalized Neurotic Disorder. Also, people with stress can suffer from
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