The Impact of Stress on Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle Essay
It is widely acknowledged that nowadays stress arises due to a person’s vulnerability to certain conditions or situations that occur in the daily routine. There is a tremendous amount of researches dedicated to stress that aim at identifying the peculiar strategies that are helpful in reducing its possible risks. The studies are closely tied up with the nature of stress, revealing causes and effects of the underlying psychological state. Thus, the purpose of this research paper is to review the literature connected with the impact of stress on maintaining a healthy lifestyle in accordance with age and gender, to shed light on the factors contributing to stress in the workplace and to provide viable solutions and strategies for overcoming stress. Presumably, although the nature of stress imposes a threat to every person, affecting the lifestyles of men, women, and children in diverse conditions, there are peculiar strategies of stress management that stave off its danger.
The Nature of Stress
Not surprisingly, the nature of stress has always been an object of researches due to the reason that people have always been badly in need of the alternatives that would help eliminate their resilience and vulnerability to stressful situations. It would be reasonable to remark that there are various definitions of stress and its causes. Probably, the generally accepted and vivid one concerns the interaction between the individual and the situation. According to Michie (2002), “It is a psychological and physical state that results when the resources of the individual are not sufficient to cope with the demands and pressures of the situation” (p. 67). It can be easily assumed that the response of every individual to stress is idiosyncratic, owing to the differences in human nature and the mirror of inner world in particular. Thus, a person should stick to the definite alternatives of avoiding stress at the level of self-understanding.
Specific behavioral responses to the situations are closely tied up with the underlying meaning that the perceiver attaches to the situational context. Explicitly, a person who is under the influence of the situation is marked with a specific reaction if it stimulates the processing of previous reactions. Therefore, it is worth noticing that these reactions manifest themselves due to the encoded information in a person’s mind. Seemingly, the nature of stress is always subjective and individual. Bearing in mind the previous points, cross-situational consistency varies according to the person’s relation to the particular situation. This assumption brings into focus the changing nature of reactions and provides explanation why the responses differ across a number of people with different experiences. Apparently, a person’s mediating processes affect behavioral peculiarities. This particular phenomenon is called emotional intelligence.
The maintenance of a healthy lifestyle requires strength and resilience in terms of avoiding stressors and adapting to the environment in a way that ensures understanding of factors that contribute to stress. First and most importantly, these factors manifest themselves in the living conditions. Children are likely to have misunderstandings with their parents and schoolmates. The conditions at school may also exert deleterious effects on a child’s psychological state, thus intensifying negative attitudes to society. As to the adults, they mostly encounter stress in the working conditions. In this case, stress occurs because of the endless responsibilities that may convert themselves into a burden.
It is worth mentioning that stress results from emotional vulnerability to certain conditions and the inability to cope with the environment that surrounds an individual. The current research focuses on the psychobiological mechanisms that characterize an individual’s response to the environmental peculiarities. There is no doubt in the assumption that the nature of stress relates to psychological and physiological state of a human being. In this context, it is necessary to mention Charney (2004), who relates eleven mediators of psychobiological response to the concepts of vulnerability and resilience in terms of stress. The researcher aims at facilitating the treatment of stress-related psychopathologies and reviews the eleven mediators and their exposure to stress. Interestingly, Charney (2004) focuses on the role of stress in childhood and adolescence, thus backing up evidence that stress is less likely to affect an individual if the one is marked with “good intellectual functioning, effective self-regulation of emotions and attachment behaviors, a positive self-concept, optimism, altruism, […]”. All these features are closely tied up with the active and cooperative lifestyle. The above-mentioned characteristics usually indicate a person’s ability to cope with stress on his or her own.
However, it is reasonable to view the nature of stress through the prism of adolescent resilience in certain professions. For instance, it is a widely accepted fact that firefighters and police officers are mostly susceptible to stress because of the situations they tend to experience. Although the working environment in these particular professions is bewildering, the workers are resilient to stress because of being capable of working in a group with a common mission. Moreover, firefighters and police officers are marked with the features of altruism and the capacity to overcome fear. The adolescents tend to be more resilient to stress due to the reason that they already know the nature of stressors that mostly affect them.
It is crucial to realize that emotional intelligence does not always presuppose protection from the stressors. Bearing in mind the previous points, one should admit the diversity of the stressors and their unpredictability. As the nature of stressors varies according to the situation, a person should be aware of the potential consequences that the stress may have on the psychological and physiological health of a person. According to Hogan (2013), “It is now known that stress is a major cause of illness, especially cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and psychiatric disease, both directly and indirectly, due to the harmful behaviors through which people seek to relieve their distress” (p. 543).
In general, stress exerts an impact on a person’s power of apprehension that contributes to the psychological health. Not surprisingly, stress that results from early adversities is also known to exert a negative influence on the physical well-being. It is necessary to bring into focus the impact of stress on children, men, and women.
The Impact of Stress on Men, Women and Children
Substantially, the health outcomes that result from stress depend upon the level of stressors, their severity, and an individual’s perception. As the stressors are different in all the age periods and the nature of perception is ambiguous due to the developmental processes, emotional intelligence, and even gender, it is paramount to shed light on the sources and consequences of stress in adolescence and childhood, narrowing the research to gender. Scholars pursued research related to stress and viewed it from different perspectives, applying their knowledge to different variables.
Social and emotional developments in early and middle childhood manifest themselves in certain milestones that children should overcome in their way to adolescence. Specifically, early childhood relates to the motivational, intellectual, and resolute readiness to learning. Learning becomes the most important aspect for a child as well as the recognition of a teacher as the most reliable person. Middle childhood period concerns the psychological necessity for self-identification and intimate relationships. It relates to the need in communication with peers. With the changes peculiar for the period of childhood, it is reasonable to admit that all the age periods are associated with definite stressors. Therefore, the impact that stress exerts on children is controversial. Among the stressors, one may find school, the relationships with parents, friendship, communication, etc. The relationships with the family in early and middle childhood periods seem to be on the primary position due to the reason that children pertaining to both periods strive for communication and socialization processes. It is evident that family influences constitute a huge amount of attention in early childhood, while middle childhood is also marked with peer relationships that become important at school.
Although the stressors in childhood may originate from the failures to understand certain situations, in the context of modernization of the society, one may see special cases where the impact of stress goes beyond the limits in children activities. A vivid example of such a case is presented in the article of Anshel and Delany (2001). The authors view the influence of stress in sport psychology of male and female child athletes. They confirm that “acute forms of stress are a particular problem in sport among younger athletes as opposed to their older counterparts” (p. 330). In fact, there is data to back this assumption up and verify it.
The evident source of stress is associated with parental behavior, and it constitutes a background for thorough research. The aspects of parental behavior are very important in stress studies as they oftentimes become the factors that radiate stress. The researchers study this particular problem through the lenses of parental stress and suggest that “parenting stress negatively influences parenting behaviour, which in turn has been shown to impact children’s development” (Anthony et al., 2005, p. 133).
Gender differences in the context of stress should be also differentiated due to the reason that men’s and women’s responses to stress are not of idiosyncratic nature. There is no doubt in the assumption that emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in avoiding stress. However, even nowadays, women are more susceptible to stress, owing to their position in the society. It can be explained by the feministic traditions that every woman has to face on her way to success. The underestimation of women’s rights is an obvious trigger that leads a healthy woman to stress. In contrast, male representatives of certain professions are marked with higher levels of resilience. It is one of the reasons why males occupy certain positions that are not suitable for females.
Taking into account the matter of age, one should also pay attention to the impact of stress on older people. Concerning older adults, it will suffice to say that stress is mainly associated with the stereotypes. Seemingly, the reason is that stereotypes seem to exert considerable effects on the people’s cognitive and balance performance that are usually treated as pervasive if the objects of researches are narrowed to older adults. The threatening aspect of age presupposes the formation of age stereotypes that generate expectations. Seemingly, the expectations consist of the older adults’ incapability to take care of themselves. Such foregone conclusions direct psychological responses to the body that slackens its pace with age. Age-related expectations result in plausible changes in balance performance such as muscle weaknesses and fallings. Thus, age stereotypes disturb the main aspect of a person’s physical functioning.
Interestingly, the dominating influence of stress should be viewed through the prism of the consequences that it presupposes. The devastating effects that stress may exert on an individual concern changes in the psychological state of a person in particular. Stress often results in the problems with sleeping such as insomnia; it can be the cause of chronic headaches. Concerning the United States of America, it is of utmost importance to mention that stress causes overeating disorders that may result in obesity. Recently, obesity has reached the level of a considerable problem that has a tendency to reflect itself in the state of children’s health. Unfortunately, the turning point within the context of obesity is in its prevailing status among the diseases that affect the development of diabetes, premature deaths, arthritis, and shortness of breath. These health issues are inherent to people who have eating disorders and consume excessive amounts of food. In addition to the above-mentioned health problems, researchers put emphasis on high blood pressure and heart problems.
Apart from eating disorders, it is important to put an emphasis on the injurious habits that stress induces such as smoking and the abuse of alcoholic drinks. As certain people explain their craving for the above-mentioned problems, they suggest that cigarettes and alcoholic drinks make them feel a sense of relief. Although some people believe that these are the good ways of reducing stress, they should admit that they only prevent them from healthy life. Paying attention to the impact of stress on women, it will suffice to say that female representatives are nowadays more inclined to smoking because of their vulnerability.
Stress in the Workplace
Undoubtedly, every organization conducting business deals with the concept of stress management in the workplace. Stress in working conditions is an everyday experience practically for all the employees and their employers. The matter is that the trigger for the situations that cause stress in the workplace may concern diverse working projects, facing uncertainty about the future, overwhelmingly difficult and tiring working conditions, etc. One may find a set of distractions that exert a negative impact on the person’s will to do the work. Michie (2002) determines the workplace factors causing stress and the degree of stress. Regarding the latter, two physiological mechanisms are of great importance when evaluating stress in the workplace: alarm reaction and adaptation. Thus, different theories of stress management were elaborated in order to avert and illustrate potential risks in terms of mental health in the workplace.
Researchers that take into account the subject of stress management mostly put an emphasis on its theories. However, there are contemporary articles that consider personal ways of improvement the overall condition of mental health and promote personal treatment of such problems. Goudreau (2013), who is a contributor to the world famous magazine Forbes, mentions twelve steps to eliminate stress at work. These steps concern everyday life obstacles that are so common and evident in the workplaces. She cites a business psychologist, Sheron Melnick, who is the author of a famous book Success under Stress (2013), where she offers the ways of dealing with difficult people through the prism of workflow. Both authors agree that a businessperson has to follow certain rules in order to avoid stress. Specifically, these are action vs. reaction, deep breathing, eliminating interruptions, scheduling, eating right and sleeping well, taking an objective view, cooling down quickly, building self-confidence, defining what is truly important, etc. (Goudreau, 2013).
R. S. Lazarus (1995) carried out a study that dwells upon the psychological stress in the workplace. He determined three strategies that may be helpful in reducing stress at work. The first strategy concerns altering work conditions so that they are less stressful. However, one has to admit that while relieving some workers, such a strategy may be harmful to the others, “providing a less competitive or evaluative atmosphere may be just what some workers need, but others will experience even more distress” (Lazarus, 1995, p. 11). This strategy only works when there is a widespread concern about the working environment. The second strategy that may be implemented into reducing stress is the help to those who have different problems in terms of adapting to the working conditions. Although this particular approach is relevant nowadays, it is very expensive to address everyone individually. Unfortunately, not all the organizations have such a possibility in terms of their income. Eventually, the third approach takes a person or a group as a single analytical unit. There is no individual manipulation, and this strategy aims at creating a “better-person-environment fit” (Lazarus, 1995, p. 11).
As well as Lazarus, a tremendous amount of researchers presents this topic through the prism of cross-cultural interactions in the workplace. The globalization processes led to the evolution of personnel and multiple changes in the workplace. These particular changes consist in the integration of workers with certain peculiarities or from different cultures into one office. Thus, they have created a need for the careful treatment and encouragement of successful cross-cultural communication in so-called multicultural workplaces, as the multi-cultural personnel may become a driving force regarding the appearance of stress.
In addition, there appeared the notion of diversity in the workplace. To put it plainly, diversity deals with interpersonal skills, race, gender, mental and physical abilities as well as other minor characteristics such as rope, lifestyle, etc. Diversity also encompasses work experience, educational background, parental status, and other things that Human Resource experts have to cope with. The stress may increase because of the potential misunderstandings concerning verbal and non-verbal communication.
Small organizations or businesses that are interested in the stress-free labor environments should create an atmosphere of mutual respect for different cultures. As a matter of fact, it is an ideal way to broaden the horizons of their employees. Mazur (2010) provides a credible explanation for this point of view: A diverse workforce is a reflection of a changing world and marketplace. In the laboratory research, diverse work teams bring high value to organizations and respecting individual differences will benefit the workplace by creating a competitive edge and increasing work productivity. Diversity management benefits associates by creating a fair and safe environment where everyone has access to the same opportunities and challenges. Management tools in a diverse workforce should be used to educate everyone about diversity and its issues, including laws and regulations. Most workplaces are made up of diverse cultures, so organizations need to learn how to adapt to be successful. (p. 16)
Employees should have a common understanding of culture. Stone and Stone-Romero (2008) suggest that HR managers have to use scenario-based trainings (SBT). It is a practical way to interest employees by means of trigger events, stimulations, and role-playing exercises. Unfortunately, sometimes, cultural differences hinder the successful development of a company, thus creating conflicts that cause stress.
Additionally, there has been an increase of interest in the theoretical frame of the relationships between stress and a working environment. These theories mainly present a transactional approach. It means that stress is considered as a dynamic process that operates between an individual and his or her working environment. Melanie Bickford (2005) provides theoretical explanations of the workplace stress. She puts an emphasis on the three most influential theories of occupational stress: the person-environment fit theory, the framework of occupational stress, and the demand control-support model. The first one deals with “the misfit between the person and environment” (Bickford, 2005, p. 8) while the second presupposes the subjective perception of the working environment that may be misleading. Finally, the demand control-support model deals with the role of content of the work in stress. Here arises quite a thought-provoking theory known as the three-eye theory of stress management (2008) that was elaborated by John Townsand. It involves an interesting aspect of perception,
It is not surprising therefore that two people gazing at a large sea swell can see it in quite different ways. One sees the swell as excellent for surfing while the other sees it as a danger to be avoided at all costs. (Townsand, 2008)
Therefore, the author of the article concludes that the effective stress management always involves the third eye of perception. It means that an employee should always ask the opinion of the other about a particular situation. Oosthuizen and van Lill (2008) investigated a salutogenic approach of coping with stress in the workplace. The research presents a sense of coherence and locus of control as the main triggers for stress. “The salutogenic approach accepts the inevitability of stressors in daily life generally and the workplace specifically, and the fact that human beings have to cope with the ensuing stress in some way or another” (Oosthuizen & van Lill, 2008, p. 65). Hart and Cooper (2001) discuss a cognitive-rationale approach and the dynamic equilibrium theory. The following table explains their main points of view.
Coping with Stress
Therefore, successful stress management is concerned with changing the environment or dealing with an individual or a working group. All the researchers believe that it is a key to preventing the personnel from stress. The elimination of stress can also be seen from the perspective of a personal treatment system where the HR managers’ actions are not taken into account.
It is not a secret that some organizations conduct business through stress. Accordingly, it may be explained by the fact that these companies shift responsibilities for the mental health of their employees. Such a treatment to the personnel may lead to the breakdown of the staff, various misunderstandings between its members, and the decrease in labor productivity. Consequently, people will not be keen on working for the employers that tend to neglect finding solutions to the stressful situations and conditions. The employers should never fancy that the pressure will reduce itself and the working environment will change without interference.
Potential implications in the workplace usually occur due to the neglectful behavior that affects managers as well as the employees. If the disturbing situations are not met properly, certain adverse effects take place. They regard physical, emotional, intellectual, and behavioral peculiarities. If the stress is not controlled, people may face sleep disturbances, raised blood pressure, anxiety, loss of concentration and memory, lack of motivation, inappropriate display of behavior. However, stress is also a driving force when it comes to the organization’s integrity. It experiences poor performance, as well as increased employee complaints. The number of incidents tends to augment.
Stress management in the workplace is an issue that cannot be neglected. The promotion of different theories and strategies to deal with the exasperating situations is an important step in Human Resource Management. Further researches are needed in order to fill the gaps of proper actions in case of managers’ reluctance to improve the working conditions. Often, the employers’ disinclination to deal with the causes of stress results in further complications that touch mental health of the employees. That is why there has been an increase of interest in the aspect of stress management in conducting business.
Stress Management: The Symptoms of Stress and Coping Mechanisms
Presumably, the research related to the stress management is very rich in the peculiar hypotheses that encompass different strategies that may be helpful in determining the signs and symptoms of stress and addressing such issues properly. The recognition of the signs and symptoms of stress is the most important step in managing stress. It is not a secret that stress management implies the strategies of coping with the emotional breakdowns that are likely to affect health. “Coping consists of a person’s conscious attempt at managing the demands and intensity of events perceived as stressful or improving one’s personal resources in attempting to reduce or manage one’s perceived stress intensity” (Anshel & Delany, 2001, p. 330).
The signs and symptoms of stress may be recognized with the help of analyzing the reactions and responses to particular situations and the consequences that adaptation to stressful environments encompasses. Not surprisingly, the matter of adaptation to the stressor is the worst strategy that an individual may choose in order to cope with stress. The most evident sign of stress regards emotional disorders that manifest themselves in the behavior of a person. The awareness of the stressor and the efforts related to avoiding it contribute to the healthy lifestyle of an individual. There is no doubt in the assumption that the recognition of stress constitutes the initial stage of copying with it.
Along with the above-mentioned strategies that help reduce stress in the workplace, it is important to shed light on the indispensable role of technological advances in managing stress. Bunce and West (1996) put an emphasis on the significance of innovation interventions and bring into focus the traditional and organizationally-oriented stress management programs. “The intervention promoting innovative responses to stressors was associated with improvements in work-related stress” (Bunce & West, 1996, p. 209). It means that new strategies should be applied to finding the ways of reducing stress. They should be directed towards viable solutions.
Among the traditional strategies, one may find relaxation and time management programs. In addition to these, a person may be counseled by helpers after the stressful event. In the context of work interventions, it is worth mentioning the most effective alternatives for coping with stress. Sidle (2008) brings into focus the viable interventions, classifying them into primary, secondary, and tertiary. The matter is that managers apply different strategies to make their employees feel more comfortable. The cognitive-behavioral approach manifests itself in hiring the professional that tries to help the employees. However, the underlying approach has certain drawbacks due to the reason that not every employee confesses that some problem exists. For instance, men are unlikely to make such confessions due to their pride. Nevertheless, a multimodal approach to managing stress is the most vivid one as it encompasses different strategies at once.
The application of stress management strategies promotes healthy lifestyles. In order to prevent someone from the excessive stress, one should take into account the external and internal strategies that may be used in any case apart from the workplace. The external stress management encompasses aroma- and music therapy along with acupuncture and pharmacotherapy. Internal strategies are marked with the essence of positive imaging, relaxation, and other treatment that a person may elaborate within himself or herself. Exercising and diet are also significant in this context. Therefore, there are numerous ways of managing stress that proved their effectiveness long ago.
Implications for Future Research
Although a tremendous variety of studies exists in the context of stress nature and its management, the empirical data lacks evidence concerning the peculiar professions, thus revealing a gap in literature. The subjectivity and individuality of every stress event is not properly researched, which means that the topic of stress impact on maintaining healthy lifestyles is limited. There are numerous studies that concentrate on the issues of stress in the workplace. However, they are narrowed to business organizations. Thus, further research is needed in order to demonstrate the nature of stress through the prism of its subjectivity.
To sum up the foregoing, it is important to admit that stress exerts deleterious effects on the life of everyone to some extent. Resilience and vulnerability to stress mainly depend upon the levels of emotional intelligence, altruism, and self-understanding. The nature of stress is ambiguous due to the reason that every person provides his or her own response to the stressful disagreeable situations. One should bear in mind that apart from the individual features, psychologists draw attention to the situational contexts of stress. Specific situations closely tied up with stress get their reflection in the personalities and form the responses in accordance with person’s individual peculiarities. This research paper examines the role of stress in the life of men, women, and children, taking into account specific age peculiarities and periods. Although stress negatively affects human health, the process of coping with it may help reduce its devastating effects.
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