Topic 2 Stress

2.1. Definition: normal and abnormal stress

  • Stress is a normal human reaction. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When a person experiences changes or challenges (or stressors), their body produces physical and mental responses.
  • These stress responses help people adjust to new situations. Therefore, stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger. For instance, if you have to prepare an important exam, a stress reaction can help you to concentrate and be more focused on the task.
  • However, when your stress response is disproportionate to the stimulation received, when you are exposed to stressors for a longer time, or you do not find any relief or periods of relaxation, it can be a problem.

2.2. Type of stress: Acute, episodic acute and chronic stress

If you notice that lately you are feeling more frequent and more intense the following symptoms:

Acute stress

It happens in the short term and usually disappears quickly. For instance, a day with a lot of work pressure with several lessons and online meetings. This helps the individual to better manage these “dangerous” situations. On the other hand, acute stress appear when doing something new or exciting.

Episodic acute stress

It occurs when someone gets frequent bouts of acute stress. People who suffer from this type of stress frequently have too much work, too many commitments and too many things to, they are always in a hurry (but they are always late) and their lives are messy and chaotic.

Chronic stress

It occurs when a person is in a stressful situation for a long time, such as a dysfunctional family, domestic violence, poverty, or working in a disliked job. This stress appear because the person cannot find a way out of an unpleasant situation.

2.3. Workplace stress: burnout

  • Burnout is defined as physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others (APA dictionary of psychology).
  • Burnout looks different for everyone, although it can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally. The main symptoms of burnout are: feeling of exhaustion, low self-esteem, low self-actualization, difficulty in concentration, headaches, insomnia, low performance, boredom, work absenteeism, irritability, feelings of incompetence and failure.
  • This syndrome usually occurs in the so-called “service professions”, which are those professionals who care for or provide some other kind of service to another person, such as health professionals or teachers.

-> You might recognize burnout once it has really taken hold. That’s why is important to pay attention and react to the early symptoms.

2.4. Early and warning signs for seeking help 

If you notice that lately you are feeling more frequent and more intense the following symptoms:

Mental symptoms: tension, irritability, concentration problems, excessive tiredness, sleep problems, worry, sadness, etc.

Physical symptoms: dry mouth, increased heart rate, upset stomach, frequent urination, sweaty palms, back pain, muscle tension that can cause contractures and pain, dizziness, breathing problems, etc.

Then, use some strategy to cope with it or contact a mental health professional (psychologist and/or psychiatrist) to find a solution as soon as possible. Mental health is important as it is physical health.