Stress in all aspects of life

"Stress is a modern epidemic; the 21st Century's 'back pain' ". Discuss.


Modern life equals fast life and is one of the most important factors which people get stressed not only in their workplace but also in all aspects of their lives. According to Mark Jackson, Director of the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, "The concept of stress as a determinant of persistent disease has found recognition in the mid-20th Century, both within psychology and clinical reaction. The terminology of stress has thus achieved a powerful presence in everyday communication as a means of explaining the impact of work, personal history and emotional experience on health." Many researchers characterize stress as a physical, psychological, or emotional reaction to events that causes physical or mental pressure. The increase of stress levels in these days is caused generally by the fast rhythm of life. In order to have a full view of the concept of stress we must take into consideration that the stress concept arose just a few decades ago. Recent results from the Bristol Stress and Health at Work study showed that about 20% of the workers reported very high or extremely high levels of stress at work. The occupational stress is a major problem in the work environment today because it leaves persons with no proper plan of action.

Definition of stress

The condition which came to be identified as 'stress' was first explained in 1936, by the Hungarian scientist Hans Selye. The discoverer of the concept of Stress, Hans Selye (1907-82), provided to humanity a new scientific language with which to explain disappointment and disease (Viner, 1999). As it was published by the International Institute of Stress of University of Montreal in Canada, "stress has its own feature form and composition but there is not any particular cause. Furthermore a "different" situation can cause stimulation to the body in order to face this situation."

Stress cases through out history

Throughout the history there are some cases which were related to stress. One of these cases is the shell shock and the case of Harry Farr. Shell shock was the name of what we called these days as post-traumatic stress and it was first shown in World War I soldiers. One of the most popular cases of shell shock is the case of Harry Farr. Private Harry Farrwas aBritishsoldierwho at age 25 wasexecuted forcowardice. This soldier who suffered from shell shock had the following symptoms: he could not stand the noise of the guns and despite the fact that he could write perfectly well, but couldn't hold the pen because his hand was shaking. In general people who suffered from this type of stress have recurrent nightmares, depression, overreactions to sudden noises and flashbacks to the traumatic scene.

Causes of stress

Researchers divide stress into 3 categories: the "Acute" or "Short Term Response", the "Post-traumatic Stress" (also called shell stress in the period of First World War) and the "Chronic Stress".

Acute Stress or Short Term Response is the most common and usual type of stress. A competitive examination or test, a narrow miss of an accident, an illness, a job interview or a small or large change in our life can cause this kind of stress. This is a regular 'Fight or flight response' to the problems and the effects can be visible only at the time we deal this problem. By the termination of the problem or the problematic situation the stress will stop to emerge.

The 'Post traumatic stress disorder' is caused by extremely stressful circumstances in which the person feels completely helpless. It is caused by exceptionally stressful conditions in which the person feels helpless, like a natural disaster, death of a person, war or rape. The effects of this type of stress are arising after the traumatic situation and its effects could be visible throught the years.

Chronic stress can be identified in a workplace, home or on financial conditions of a person. When the strain is recurring not allowing the body to return to regular.

The situation in old days

In older days people were facing less stress in their lives. In the past (before the presence of stress) people were living in a world that help them to fulfill only their primary needs leaving apart the idea of luxury life we all seek in these days. Their only occupation was to gather food for their families. Agriculture and livestock-farming were the most common occupations in the past. The problem of stress occurred after the First World War and the industrial revolution. After these important facts in human history the lifestyle of people changed. The new job openings and the need for innovation assisted people to change the standard of living. We can observe that throughout the years and the high standard of living had helped people to live in a luxury environment but also gives the feeling of being able to achieve many goals in life that in previous years, people did not even think about them.

What happens today?

We cannot deny that stress is a massive problem that people are facing these days. Furthermore the fact that stress is arising from recent years in people, we understand that is arising from the habits and the rhythm of life, people have nowadays. Many researchers and doctors agree that stress cannot be controlled and can be really harmful not only to the person who is having stress but also it can be destructive for the society as well. According to Chrousos and Gold (1992) "stress involves a number of human health problems of enormous impact to society." This malfunction of the body can harm badly a human being and at the end it could leave him incapable to provide his services to the community.

At the present time, the way of life expects human beings to be perfect in all aspects of their lives (work, family, social issues etc). People should come across their daily responsibilities and the overload of a daily schedule equals to high level of stress during the day. "A brief inspection of any newspaper or magazine will expose that Stress has become a worldwide justification for human behavior, failure and disease in the stories told about life not only by the police but also from politicians, doctors, athletes, the business world and ordinary people. Even scientists agree that Stress is a part of modern consciousness, a modern explanation of the interaction of mankind with its environment. Every up to date library and bookstore holds large records of books offering guidance on how to deal with the Stress in everyday life." (Viner 1999)

Incongruously, as a person is being implemented in the modern world, with much more fashionable devices to make life easier, the stress is invading in our lives. Normally, when man invented all those new devices and services, his only aim was to help people make their lives easier and comfortable and hence they should reduce the amount of stress they encounter in their daily routine. On the other hand modernization reverses this aim and the problem of stress continues to exist and is being increasing.

In this stage of the mankind, stress is inevitable not only because of the external factors that we came across in a daily basis but also the nature of humans which we are all full of greediness. We are never happy of what we already have and we always asking for more. However in order to achieve "more", we have to deal with more circumstances in our lives, and this is the case which we get more stressed that ever. So for certain we are able to say that consumerism equals to stress.

By the time the highly paid occupations like singers, actors, football players, executives, arise in the world of jobs people are willing to earn a lot of money in order to live a luxury life. By this time everyone among us is investing everything in jobs and careers and targeting to reach the top of their career; which means more money to our pocket. Moreover the career stress is the most common form of stress that people face in these days. According to James Tighe who wrote on, "Stress that is caused by work is the second biggest job-related health problem in the UK." In addition, he wrote that there are many conditions in work that can lead to stress. The most popular is the case which the boss is really unsupportive to the employees. In addition to that the poor relationship with the other colleagues as well as the overscheduled days and the unrealistic deadlines or targets, very demanding or difficult work to do, poor working conditions leading to the same situation; stress.

Occupational stress

Hansen et al (2003)wrote about occupational stress: "Jobs that are very demanding and offer low control over how the work should be done are related with the highest levels of stress and are called high strain jobs." Work under high-strain conditions is really unfavorable for the employee and its health, and gives an unrewarding experience. In contrast, jobs that provide significant control over how the work is done are related with lower levels of strain and are perceived by employees as challenging and presenting chances for professional growth. Jobs of this type are called active jobs".

The main causes of stress at work could be the following:

  • Hostile environment in the workplace
  • Difficult work shifts (usually night shifts)
  • Work hours and load
  • Risk and danger in work

The problem seems to be getting worse than what it used to be several years ago and manipulate in a negative way not only the employees with their performance levels but also the employers.

Walker vs. Northumberland County Council (1994) case

A recent case about occupational stress is the Walker vs. Northumberland County Council (1994) case. John Walker sues his employer (Northumberland County Council) because he was having high levels of stress and anxiety because of his work pressures. This winning claim against his employer, Northumberland County Council, for stress and the £200.000 damages from the case, has led some companies to reconsider their employee responsibilities. It is probable to note that Mr. Walker in February 1988 he was sent home by his employer on the grounds of permanent ill-health. That was due to the fact that the high levels of stress he had two mental breakdowns which have left him incapable of working in a similar job in social services or others.

Disadvantages of stress

Stress is the ultimate disaster "machine".it can possibly raise our heart rate as well as weaken the immune system of the organism. The symptoms of stress vary from person to person. Usual warning signs about stress can be anger, restlessness and loss of concentration, sadness and poor health. Stress hormones can be stream into our bodies for events that create no actual danger to our physical survival. Also, in a daily basis, it can be a factor in unfortunate decision making because under the control of stress we may not be able to think reasonably or think about the cost of the options we take.

Advantages of stress

In order to understand better the advantages of stress we must take into consideration that people are different and can deal with stress differently. According to various personalities and strength to deal with the problems, stress situations can help each person differently.

Certainly if we ask people about stress, for sure most of them will answer that stress is really harmful in the life of a person and it would be advisable to dismiss the actions that bring people in these situations. To one extent everyone should agree with that case but there is one aspect about stress that we refuse to admit. This is because the negative effects of stress occur in the majority of stress cases. The words 'stress' and 'positive' may not often occur mutually and although people would reasonably have the preference to avoid pressure and stress, we cannot refuse that there some advantages in a stressful situation and we can use it for our own benefit.

One of the most important advantages that we encounter from stress is that it makes us to take action. Experts tell us that stress, in reasonable measure, are crucial in our living. Stress reactions are one of our body's best protection systems against external and personal threats. Stress is giving us the advantage to know that an action should be taken immediately in order to succeed in an aspect; the specific problem which is letting our mind and body to destruct us. It would be unattainable to go all the way through living without feeling stressed out. Sometimes stress makes us to take some decision that in normal circumstances we would not imagine that we will take them. Furthermore these actions could turn to be more favorable from the standard decisions.

Additionally Stress can be a motivator. There are many examples everyday proving that stress can work for our benefit and motivate people to work harder. One paradigm is the case which a student has an assignment and the deadline is really soon. Instead of leaving it for the last minute, he will be motivated to start writing it immediately and eventually complete it in time. In a case of a job, if an employee is stressed about the fact of being fired, he will put his best effort to keep the job. In that case, stress can encourage people to raise their own standards and make improvements they most likely would not have made without the risk of being without a job.

Furthermore in the history there are millions of examples of what men can do from stress. Millions of trials, experiments and error in thelifedevelopment have brought man to stress. Dealing with events to stay alive has led men to invent and discover extraordinary technologies, beginning with the fire and continue to inventing millions of other new technologies in order to reach the point we are today.


Conclusionally, it is obvious that stress is flooding into our lives. In a daily basis everyone of us unexceptionally, we are interfering with difficult conditions which lead us to stress. We understand that in the modern days this is a physical phenomenon, but if we do not act immediately to avoid stress conditions, human beings can be suffering for the rest of their lives with stress consequences. Occupational stress can be avoided if we know exactly how to deal with difficult conditions in the workplace and control this unwanted problem.

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