We live in the most stressful and demanding country in the world. We are constantly in fierce competition with others. Stress manifests physiological changes in the body.
Psychological stress is a result of many factors and should be dealt with very carefully. Stress can be defined as a set of interactions between the person and the environment that result in an unpleasant emotional state, such as anxiety, tension, guilt, or shame (swin pg 1). Another way of putting it, is that there are somethings that put certain demands on us. The effects of stress should not be limited to unpleasant emotional states. Many studies have concluded that the effects on our physical health from stress can be extremely detrimental. These adverse physical effects include heart disease and formations of cancer. There are also some societal issues that psychological stress can hamper.
There are numerous elements that trigger the effects of psychological stress. Frustration is one of these elements that will trigger stress. Frustration is one of the most prevalent sources of stress in my life at this moment. A lot of different events will cause frustration. Frustration occurs from something blocking our attainment of certain goals or needs (Corey 207). All of the little things that frustrate us include waiting in lines or traffic, sense of failure or inadequacies, bad relationships, deaths, and loneliness. Self-defeating thoughts are a way in which we almost deliberately block attainment of our needs. If in our heads, we have this preconceived notion that we are incapable of obtaining something that we want or that others could not possibly love us, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I used the word “deliberately” in describing self-doubt because we have the ability to change these misinformed thoughts.
Major life changes whether it be positive or negative can lead to very stressful situations. In our society, many people fall into a rut of everyday life and fear change to their daily routines. When any kind of change occurs it is very traumatic. There are many changes in ones career that can cause stress. Starting a new career or getting a new job is a major change that will produce stress. The feeling of being accepted in the organization and learning the companies ways of doing things are stressful. Other changes in one’s life resulting in stress include a change in a personal relationship or financial changes. You might think that hitting the lottery and being a multi-millionaire would relieve any possible stress in one’s life. That fact is that it is a major change and you are going to have many different issues that you never had before. There are issues of what to do with the money and how to invest it.
Pressures that are brought about in our society are imposed by ourselves and by others. If one has too high of expectations for oneself it is inevitable that they will burn themselves out. These expectations are derived out of our gender roles as men. Men are thought of in our society to be the provider of money and security to their families. It is one way we measure or “manlyhood”. Unrealistic pressures such as this, and pressures from school, work and social life will lead to high levels of stress.
Conflict happens when two or more incompatible motivations or behavioral impulses compete for expression. There are three classifications of conflict; approach/approach, avoidance/avoidance, approach/avoidance. Approach/approach conflicts occur when we have two attractive options from which we have to chose. This can happen when we have two group of friends going out for New Year’s Eve, both with exciting plans. It is tough to decide which group of friends you want to hang out with. Avoidance/avoidance is the opposite of approach/approach. When you have to decide between two unattractive choices or goals, stress sets in. This has occurred to me this past month or so in deciding what I am going to take for my accounting elective. All of my options are very unappealing. Decisions may arise where both objects that you are to chose from have both attractive and unattractive components. This type of conflict can be categorized as approach/avoidance conflict. An example of this type could be in finding a house. If you have found the house of your dreams for an amazingly low price but it is very far away from your place of employment, you have approach/avoidance conflict (Corey pg. 207-208).
Other sources of stress include ambiguity in a certain situation. If you are unsure of what to do or how to act in a situation it can cause stress. If you get into a fight with someone it can cause stress. Contradictions to your value systems can produce some unwanted stress.
I have never before in my life been under so much stress that it has caused serious questions of hopelessness. Throughout my entire life, I have been very good with coping with stressful situations, but something happened on October 12 that will change my life forever. A couple of policeman came to my door with a complaint. Apparently, a friend of mine and I had been accused of a crime that we did not commit. The threat that we could possibly get expelled from school or even worse get put in jail for a very long time comes with a very high level of stress. The investigation has been going on ever since they first came to our door. They have decided to postpone the investigation over the winter break which has caused a great deal of anxiety and ambiguity for me. If I had committed this crime than I would have no problem facing the consequences. The fact is, that I did not commit the crime and this has left me very angry and upset. This situation has caused a lot of pain and money for my parents that I caused. Having to tell them and seeing how upset they are have left me extremely stressful and full of unnecessary anxieties.
About a month or so after this incident in October, I received a call from a friend of mine. He had just found out that my roommate from sophomore year and very good friend was found in his grandmothers barn dead. Two days later, a friend of the family lost his battle to lung cancer. Some other frustrations that I am having include school. I have only five options left for classes next semester. I am having trouble getting in to some of the classes that I want. I have yet to start looking for a job for many reasons. I feel pressure from my parents and peers to start the process of finding a job. Many of my friends have already received offers and I have yet to begun writing my resume. Those are just some of the major issues, but there are many other everyday demands in my life that cause unwanted stress.
The effects of these stresses have left me emotionally bewildered. I am chronically depressed and a short time after the incident I had a panic attack. My heart started racing frantically and I could not stop shaking. My best friend was on the couch across from me watching a movie. I was so afraid of what was happening that I couldn’t speak. I have been emotionally scarred for life.
This incident has left me with serious issues of trusting others. This lack of trust has hurt my ability to form interpersonal relationships. When we go out into Boston I have a lot trouble talking to other people. Normally, I am the one out of my friends that like to go out and meet new and interesting people. Ever since that incident, I have not been able to figure out what is wrong with my social skills. I have become very shy around people that I do and don’t know. I have lost contact with a lot of my friends because of this.
It has also been found that prolonged stress can cause many disorders from minor to life threatening. Some of the minor reactions from the body to stress are headaches, asthma, digestive disorders and sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation was a major problem for me right after this all occur but it is no longer a problem. One of the effects it has had on me is weight loss. Before the incident I was eating very healthy foods and lifting weights at the gym. I have lost almost fifteen pounds and have trouble eating well.
Doctor Abbot in I Never Knew I Had a Choice states that about 75 percent of ailments that he treats are related to stress (Corey pg. 209). It has been found that stress activates the body’s hormone system. This in turn has an effect on our immune system’s capabilities to fight of infectious diseases including cancer. There have been cases were people who have experienced the loss of a loved one shortly after develop cancer (cancernet). Stress and its impact on breast cancer has received a lot of attention as of late. Studies have shown that an alarming number of women with breast cancer had experienced some sort of traumatic life experience or loss several years before their diagnosis (cancernet).
It is no coincidence that heart disease is one of the highest causes of death among Americans. We live in the most stressful and demanding country in the world. We are constantly in fierce competition with others. Stress manifests physiological changes in the body. The evidence that stress causes coronary disease has yet to be conclusive but most professionals believe there is a direct correlation. There are many different hypothesis including Blascovich and Katkin. The examine many studies to the effects of stress on the heart in their book, Cardiovascular Reactivity to Psychological Stress and Disease (www.apa.com).
The best way to cope with the many stresses that we have throughout a day is to have different attitudes towards life. I must slow down and question many of the beliefs that this country has instilled in us. Many people believe that work and money are the most important things to obtain through life. People have got understand the importance of leisure time and rest. Developing a sense of humor goes a long way in dealing with stress. Proper time management is something that I, in particular, must employ to remain less stressful. I must also continue my old eating habits. Food can give us the energy needed to deal with stress. Exercise is a very important part of reducing stress. There is actual physical evidence that exercise helps people recover from stress. According to Professor Kubitz of Kansas State University, stress releases hormones that cause the heart to beat faster. If we exercise, our heart will become stronger and will be better able to deal with stress.
I Never Knew I Had a Choice, 6th ed. Gerald and Marianne Corey. Brooks/Cole Publishing 1997.