National Stress Awareness Day

National Stress Awareness Day takes place annually on 7 November, it was founded in 1998 by Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE, the Chairperson of ISMAUK (International Stress Management Association of the United Kingdom. Stress Awareness Day’s 20th anniversary takes place in 2018.

Physiological or biological stress is an organism’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition such as a threat, challenge or physical and psychological barrier. Stimuli that alter an organism’s environment are responded to by multiple systems in the body. The autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are two major systems that respond to stress.

The sympathoadrenal medullary (SAM) axis may activate the fight-or-flight response through the sympathetic nervous system, which dedicates energy to more relevant bodily systems to acute adaptation to stress, while the parasympathetic nervous system returns the body to homeostasis. The second major physiological stress, the HPA axis regulates the release of cortisol, which influences many bodily functions such as metabolic, psychological and immunological functions. The SAM and HPA axes are regulated by several brain regions, including the limbic system, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus, and stria terminalis.

Through these mechanisms, stress can alter memory functions, reward, immune function, metabolism and susceptibility to diseases. Definitions of stress differ. One system suggests there are five types of stress labeled “acute time-limited stressors”, “brief naturalistic stressors”, “stressful event sequences”, “chronic stressors”, and “distant stressors”. An acute time-limited stressor involves a short-term challenge, while a brief natural stressor involves an event that is normal but nevertheless challenging. A stressful event sequence is a stressor that occurs, and then continues to yield stress into the immediate future. A chronic stressor involves exposure to a long-term stressor, and a distant stressor is a stressor that is not immediate.

Chronic stress and a lack of coping resources available or used by an individual can often lead to the development of psychological issues such as delusions, depression and anxiety. Chronic Stress depletes the body’s energy more quickly and usually occurs over long periods of time, especially when these microstressors cannot be avoided (i.e. stress of living in a dangerous neighborhood). When humans are under chronic stress, permanent changes in their physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses may occur. Chronic stress can include events such as caring for a spouse with dementia, or may result from brief focal events that have long term effects, such as experiencing a sexual assault. Studies have also shown that psychological stress may directly contribute to coronary heart disease morbidity and mortality.

The theme for National Stress Awareness Day 2018, is Does Hi-Tech Cause Hi-Stress? There are two sides to technology: on the one hand, technology can make a positive contribution giving people access to information, services, shopping and communication which they would not otherwise have and help us manage our lives better. On the other hand the 24/7 lifestyle that technology has brought, has had some stressful effects. Modern technology is having a greater impact on peoples lives, and the ISMA is involved in a debate about the positive and the adverse effects it can have, and how technology can be used advantageously without causing increased levels of stress.

Another aim of Stress Awareness Day is to promote wellbeing in the workplace. occupational stress in the workplace which is often caused by the complex interactions between a large system of interrelated variables, (i.e a work place with lots of people and machines to deal with) hence The workplace can often be a very stressful environment, and these Strains can be mental, physical or emotional. Occupational stress can occur when there is a discrepancy between the demands of the environment/workplace and an individual’s ability to carry out and complete these demands. Occupational stress can also be a response to imbalance between demands of one’s job and the resources he or she has to deal with those demands. It can be caused by either too much work and no proper facilities or too little work. Stress can also be bought on by the physical, psychological, social, or organizational demands of a job that require sustained physical and/or psychological effort or skills. Therefore, it is associated with expenditure of time and energy.

Occupational Stress can be caused by a lack of decent work environment, attitudes, facilities or resources in the workplace. The worker must also have an aptitude for that particular job, otherwise it can cause stress. For healthy conditions, it is also necessary that employees’ attitudes, skills, abilities and resources match the demands of their job, and that work environments should meet workers’ needs, knowledge, and skills potential. Lack of decent environment, attitudes, facilities or resources can cause problems, and the greater the gap or misfit (either subjective or objective) between the person and their environment, the greater the strain as demands exceed abilities, and need exceeds supply. These strains can relate to health related issues, lower productivity, and other work problems. Defense mechanisms, such as denial, reappraisal of needs, and coping, also operate in the model, to try and reduce subjective misfit”. can be caused by lack of Job resources: these are the physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of the job that aid in achieving work goals; reduce job demands and the associated physiological and psychological cost; proper resources can stimulate personal growth, learning, increase job satisfaction and development

Stress can be caused by an Imbalance in the relationship between efforts and rewards at work. “More specifically, the ERI Model claims that work characterized by both high efforts and low rewards represents a reciprocity deficit between high ‘costs’ and low ‘gains’, which could elicit negative emotions in exposed employees. The accompanying feelings may cause sustained strain reactions. So, working hard without receiving adequate appreciation or being treated fairly are examples of a stressful imbalance. Another assumption of the ERI Model concerns individual differences in the experience of effort-reward imbalance. It is assumed that employees characterized by a motivational pattern of excessive job-related commitment and a high need for approval (i.e., overcommitment) will respond with more strain reactions to an effort-reward imbalance, in comparison with less overcommitted people.”

Reducing occupational stress and increasing job satisfaction in the workplace pays dividends and can increase productivity and prosperity.

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