In today’s society, we thrive on performance, competition and perfection, which leads to an insidious increase in stress. Stress causes damage that is often underestimated, and it is a social phenomenon that should be closely examined and evaluated.
Stress: the bane of modern existence
Our ancestors used to say that “work is health,” but we now realize that this way of thinking is not so true anymore. These days, society and the workplace put an unparalleled level of pressure on people. The signs of stress are omnipresent, and its consequences are numerous. The stress that we experience every day is essentially caused by several phenomena that are inherent to today’s society, including, among others:
- intensified workload to increase productivity gains;
- constant search for perfection;
- obsession with competition;
- difficulty balancing work, personal life and family life;
- major changes in values and social standards.
Stress touches all social groups and all age categories; no one can truly escape it. However, some people are more deeply affected by its consequences, depending on their personal, psychosocial, professional and health background.
Why are we stressed? Stress is the body’s normal reaction to daily events. There are several sources of stress and as many ways to react to it. Fundamentally, stress is a human defense mechanism, but it is important to not let it take over.
Stress comes from various sources of a different nature, such as physical, psychological, emotional, social, etc. A stressful event can either be a happy one (wedding, birth, travel, etc.) or an upsetting one (getting fired, going through a divorce, the loss of a loved one, etc.). The stimulus can be either minor or very significant, and either temporary or chronic. We don’t all react the same way to sources of stress, so it is important to identify what your stress triggers are to better face them.
Signs of stress
When faced with stressful situations, the human body reacts by releasing various hormones, including adrenaline. In its initial phase, stress can cause symptoms such as palpitations, lump in the throat, anxiety, distress, etc. These symptoms are usually short term. But after a long period of time, uncontrolled stress can be harmful to one’s well-being and health; symptoms can then be of a physical, emotional, psychological or behavioural nature. Here are a few examples:
- sleep disorders;
- muscular tension;
- digestive disorders;
- increased isolation;
- relationship problems;
- work absenteeism;
- lower performance;
- loss of self-esteem.
In addition to such observable short-term effects, stress contributes to the development of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, vascular disease and cancer.
Obviously, stress has very negative effects. However, when it is properly managed, it can also have a good side. Indeed, it can be useful to increase one’s concentration, it contributes to creativity, increases productivity and helps develop new skills. But for that, you must learn to control it and better manage it.
How to manage stress
Because we all react differently to stress, there is not only one right way to manage it. Each person has to find the method that suits him or her. Here are a few ways to find helpful solutions:
- Recognize the types of events that cause you stress. Be attentive to the symptoms of stress and take note of the things that affect you the most.
- Figure out the problem. When you identify it, it is easier to face it.
- Talk about your problems with people you trust. By expressing your feelings, your stress will be reduced. Don’t hesitate to consult a professional if you feel the need.
- Get informed about stress-management techniques. You can consult a health professional to help you or read books on this topic.
- Release tension by exercising.
- Discuss your issues with your work superior or colleagues. They may be able to help you find strategies to reduce your level of stress or your workload.
- Learn to delegate and to establish priorities.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Stress is a problem that infiltrates our society in countless ways. It manifests itself at the office, at home and in our relationships with others, and it can also affect our loved ones. We should all take the time to re-evaluate our stress level for the well-being of our society and ourselves.