Meaning and Characteristics of Stress

Stress affects the human life for a long time. When we are dissatisfied, we come under stress and until we solve this problem, the situation of stress is same. Under the educational psychology, along with the strategies of understanding the process of stress, the measurement, coping and resolving of stress are also suggested.
Stress is a big problem of our society. It is known from modern researches that stress is the cause of the illness of 75% people. Even stress is the cause of dangerous disease like heart attack and cancer. The question is that, what is the meaning of stress? Psychologists have admitted different attitudes for defining stress.

  • Some psychologists have tried to understand the stress, as the factors of stimulus and have said that any event or situation that insists a man for doing abnormal responses is called stress. Events as- earthquake, leaving the job, destroy the business, death of loving person are the main events, which create stress in a man. Such materials, social and environmental factors, which create stress, are called stressor.
  • Some psychologists have tried to explain the stress as a response. Here psychologists have delivered physical and physiological responses done by man in the difficult situations. When a man shows this type of special psychological responses as – anxiety, anger, aggression and physiological responses as—stomach is not fit, do not take the sleep, shooting the blood pressure, we call that this man is under stress. A popular psychologist Hens Selye 1 , in 1979 of this field has said, defining stress in the form of response—“Stress refers to nonspecific responses of the body to any demand made upon it.” The main characteristics of this definition, stress has been defined as a non specific response, by which Selye means that such responses are not related to stimulus, which produce any specific stress, but same types of response can be produced by any stimulus of producing stress.
  • The third batch of psychologists, who defined stress not only as a stimulus not as a response but also tried to define it on the basis of its relationship. This approach is called transactional approach. Psychologists consider it that some events or situation are definitely such, which are stressful for men. There are some situations and events which can create stress in some men, hence stress cannot be defined meaningfully as a stimulus in the same way the responses of stressful events, even that physiological responses can be affected easily. So stress can be understood in the form of only stress. According to transactional approach, it is necessary to know that how does a man evaluate the events and situation in the form of present material for the solution of his needs or motives and similar situations. In the other words according to this approach stress reflects a specific relationship between man and environment (by which man feels fear and his materials get challenged. The followers of this approach are Lazarus and Folkman, 1984 and Taylor, 1991.

Morgan, King, Weize and Schopler 2 , in 1986 have given a good definition of stress by collecting the thoughts of Lazarus, Folkman and Taylor etc.” We will define stress as an internal state which can be caused by physical demands on the body (diseases, conditions, exercise, extremes of temperature and like) or by environmental and social situations which are evaluated as potentially harmful, uncontrolled or exceeding our resources for coping.” In the same way Wood and Wood 1999 3 have defined stress – “Most psychologists define stress as the psychological and physiological responses to a condition that threatens or challenges the individual and requires some form of adaption or adjustment.”
Baron (1992) has defined the stress in this way—“ Stress is manifested process that occurs in us in response to events that disrupt or threaten to disrupt our physical or psychological functioning.”

If we analyze above both extended definition of stress, the following characteristics about the nature of stress will be highlighted:

  1. Stress is a multi-faceted process, which is a process towards the evaluation of stressors which is done by stressors.
  2. Generally it is known that stress is the result of negative events and unfortunate events, but it the fact that it is also caused by the positive events, as – to get married in a high standard family, progress with a good job, and get some special reward or prize which creates stress in a man are some events. That’s why popular psychologist Hans Sally has divided stress into two parts- positive stress and negative stress. He has called negative stress, stress and Distress to the negative stress. So stress has been called multi faceted process.
  3. Whatever events happen in stress (which produce stress) those events are out of control of a man, if in any case, situation is under control of man, stress turns into relaxation. 
  4. There are both types of responses in stress as physiological and Psychological. In other words, a man feels disturbance psychologically and mentally in stress.
  5. Stress can be over after some time or can be lived for a long time. It is mostly dependent on the nature of events and situations which cause stress.

It can be concluded that stress is a special response, which happens towards the stress after the evaluation of events and situation of stress, in which a man finds his physical and mental work.

Reactions to Stress

When a man is under stress, he feels it and does response toward it. It is important to keep in mind the following points for understanding this type of response.

  • Man responses properly for stress. It means that stress not only creates one type of reaction but also both types of reactions as psychological and physiological. Stress affects many part of nervous system of man, as- autonomic nervous system, which controls the psychological types of body as emotion and motives which include the function of internal excretion gland. The stress affects the both types of actions of man as physiological psychological.
  • Whether stress is physiological or psychological for a man, the reaction of the mind and body of man toward stress is not same. Every source of stress creates a specific type of coping reaction. A general reaction creates in the mind of man toward all types of stress, which depends on the response of internal relationship, as: automatic, adrenal gland and the sympathetic system. 
Man does two types of responses in stress, which is following:
 (a) Psychological Reaction
 (b) Physiological Reaction
The details of both types of reactions are following:

(a) Psychological Reactions—There are many kinds of physiological and psychological reactions in stress. In other words, disruption is found in the physiological works of man in stress. All these disruptions are divided into two parts.

1. Cognitive Impairment—Clear cognitive impairment is found in stress. The capability of concentration is less in man. And he does not organize his rumination logically. The role of anxiety increases in rumination, and he does not observe the different prospects properly. The expeditions of hindrances are less. And ephemeral increases in concentration. Memory gets weak by it. In other words, abnormality comes in the cognitive woks of man it has been identified from the psychological researches that in the stress situation a man shows something that practical pattern as that is done by him in the past. As the man, who have the tendency of caution and awareness for a long time, they become more caution and aware in the situation of stress. And the men who are aggressive, their aggression grow more in the time of stress, and the clear proof of aggression are found in their behavior. the cause of it has been said that this type of cognitive impairment causes because of stress that man does observe the alternative means of the solution of problems and shows rigidity in his behavior.

2. Emotional Responses—A man does different types of emotional response especially negative response in stress. Such emotional responses are following:
  • Anxiety—When a man surrounds with stressful situations, whichever emotional responses occur in him during the first time, is called anxiety. Anxiety is such an unlovable stage in which fears, doubts and troubles are found in man. There are two types of anxiety–normal and neurotic. The nature of general anxiety is adaptive, and this type of anxiety helps man in adapting with the situation, causing stress. In the neurotic anxiety a man fears from the situation causing stress or comes in doubts, by which the capability of resolving it or coping with the situation is finished and he feels himself alone. According to Freud, “the reason of anxiety is unconscious conflict.”
  • Anger and Aggression—There is also one another emotional response towards the situation causing stress. After that a man does aggressive behavior, it is identified by the study of researches done on the animals and men that in the starting, anger generates in the man towards the stimulus and situation causing stress. If such types of stimuli are kept in front of man for a long time, then he starts aggressive behavior towards them.
Sometimes goal or sources, that create frustration in a man, are not clear. In this situation man does not know that he should attack on the things, but he is under anger. In this condition, showing his aggression he searches for proper things. Sometimes it happens that the source of arising frustration is powerful therefore man does not show aggression towards it. In all these situations, the aggression of man is towards any special person and things, not towards the real things or person. This type of aggression is called displaced aggression.

  • Empathy and Depression—Some people do not have the feeling of aggression and anger but on the contrary the feeling of empathy and depression developed in them. Generally it has been observed that if the stressful situation is presented in front of a man and he does not succeed in resolving it, the feeling of empathy and depression is developed in him, which creates depressive tendency in him. It has been identified from the psychological studies that a man learns the reaction, which is done towards the stimulus causing frustration, like other behaviors. As the man, who does not get success by showing aggression towards the situations causing stress, he learns the responses of living in distress towards it, and gradually tendency, shown in it becomes powerful. It is also identified from the researches that are done on animals and men, that a man is surrounded with the situations he finds himself helpless. The concept of learned helplessness is also developed by these studies, in which the contribution of Seligman is important.
(b) Physiological Reaction—A man does physiological reactions towards the situation or stimulus causing stress. Often it is seen that after surrounded by the stressful situation, the stomach of man is disturbed and heart beats become abnormal and changes in nerves system. All these are the example of physiological reactions. Such physiological reactions can be studied by dividing into two parts:

1. Emergency Responses—There are some of these responses that happen in the body of man towards the stimulus causing stress, they are called emergency responses. By the medium of such responses, liver create more quantity of sugar in the body, by which the muscles of body got more strength. Some hormones start to grow in body, which turn fat and protein into sugar and man gets enough energy for the physical works and there is growth in the heart beats, blood pressure and nervous system of man. There is stress in the muscles of body. And there is enough consumption in the quantity of mucus, so that there is no hindrance in the way of entering of more air in lungs. Perhaps that’s why man feels dry in his mouth in the stressful situation. Endorphin, which is an antipathy, the quantity of it grows in body. And the blood tubes, which are found in the lower part of body, are shrieked in body, by which the resolving of stressful situation, if there is cutting in the body of man, less blood comes out of the body of man. And the spleen of body creates red tissue in the blood in a great quantity. So that body can get more oxygen. Therefore there is more creation of white blood tissues than bone marrow, so that body can face any kinds of infection properly.

There is only one motive of all kinds of emergency responses to face properly with the situation that causes stress and make adjustment with them. All these physiological responses are controlled with the help of autonomic nervous system, endocrine gland and specially pituitary gland. Often in this condition autonomic nervous system does his work under hypothalamus. The pattern of this physiological responses, are complicated and innate. Canon has said ‘fight and flight responses’ because such responses prepare man for fight or flight. Seyle has called it ‘Alarm responses’. Because such responses prepare a man for fighting and flighting.

2. General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS—Selye has delivered the concept of GAS. Selye has described the physiological changes that happen in the body of animals in the stressful situation. Although this types of changes are found in the animals, yet Selye thinks in this way that such types of changes are also found in the human body. If they are surrounded with the stimulus, causing stress for a long time. The changes that happen in GAS are divided into three stages that are following:

  1. Stage of Alarm Reaction.
  2. Stage of Resistance.
  3. Stage of Exhaustion.
All these stages are described in this way:

  • Stage of Alarm Reaction—When a man is surrounded with the situation or event causing stress, which is called stressor. And affected by it the changes that happen in his body, the first time, that are called alarm reaction. In this stage the human body is always ready for doing immediate response towards the stressor. Sympathetic nervous system gets excited and man is ready for fighting with the challenges and threatens of stressor. There are two sub stages of this stage. Shock stage and counter shock phase. In the shock stage, on the time of facing obstacles, a man feels physical shock. Which causes physical temperature or blood pressure low, heart beats are low and muscles are inactive? After this stage counter phase is started, in which body increased his protective nature and all kinds of emergency responses as -swiftness come in heart beats, blood pressure and nervous system. The result if it that the resistance capability of fighting with the stressor is growth, as in the above curve, which is known from the original stressor. It is identified from the picture that in the counter stage phase curve is started to increase upside.
  • Stage of Resistance—If stressor is presented in front of man, the second stage of GAS is started. Where body stops the effect that arises with the continue presentation of stressor. Some Harmone arises in the body of man in this stage. Which increases the quantity of hormones, means by the medium of these hormones, body after making itself powerful, protects itself from the effect of stressor. In the blood line of body, a special hormone, in which adreno corticotropin is important, is created by some cells of pituitary gland. The excretion of ACTH which is called another kind of corticotropin releasing factor which is arisen by hypothalamus is controlled by it. Consequently CRF are sent into pituitary gland in more quantity, which increases the quantity of ACTH in blood. The effect of stressor can be prevented when the more quantity of ACTH will be presented into blood. In this way the level of resistance is increased. Not only this ACTH excites the cortex of adrenal gland by which cortisol named hormone mingles in the blood of body and the capability of fighting with the effect of stressor is increased, but the maximum level of this hormone is harmful for the body.If new stressor comes in front of man in this stage, the resistance power of man towards the stressor is reduced. As that in the picture, it has been shown by the curve.
  • Stage of Exhaustion—The third stage of GAS is the stage of exhaustion. In which there is enough reduction in the capability of responses toward new stressors and original stressors. And stability increased in the creature. And he becomes inactive. And falls ill. It is also seen that the level of stressor induced hormones. There is possibility of stomach ulcer, asthma, high blood pressure and cancer etc. and diabetes because of stress. And there are more possibilities of the death of man. It is identified that a man does not only psychological but physiological reactions toward the stressors because stress that caused by stressors is harmful for health. So it is essential to highlight its causes and the strategy for coping with them.
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