Stress: A Pervasive Experience in the Lives of Most People

Stress is most often defined as an adaptive response to a situation that is perceived as challenging or threatening to a person’s well-being. Stress is typically described as a negative experience, known as distress - the degree of physiological, psychological, and behavioural deviation from healthy functioning. 

Stress takes a toll on the human body. Tension headaches and muscle pain are two common problems related to the stress response. Stress also produces psychological consequences such as job dissatisfaction, moodiness, depression, and lower organizational commitment. Behavioural outcomes related to persistent stress include lower job performance, poor decision making, increased workplace accidents and aggressive behavior. Increased absenteeism is another outcome of stress. 

One particular stress consequence, called job burnout, occurs when people experience emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment. 

The first phase, emotional exhaustion, is characterized by tiredness, a lack of energy, and a feeling that one’s emotional resources are depleted. 

This is followed by cynicism, which is an indifferent attitude toward work, emotional detachment from colleagues and students, a cynical view of the organization, and a tendency to strictly follow rules and regulations rather than adapt to the needs of others. 

The final stage of burnout, called reduced personal accomplishment, includes feelings of diminished confidence in one’s ability to perform the job well. It is here that employees feel that their efforts no longer make a difference. 

Some level of stress or eustress, is a necessary part of life because it activates and motivates people to achieve goals, change their environment, and succeed in life’s challenges. 

Where do you sit on the stress spectrum? Do you relate to any of the above indicators of stress, or stages of job burnout? What things do you do to alleviate stress? It is important to recognize when stress is becoming persistent and act to change your response to stress. You can also work toward changing your environment in order to reduce and manage stress.

When faced with ongoing stressors, we often feel helpless and that there is nothing we can do. This is not true! You can talk to someone, a trusted colleague or confidant, or person in leadership. Chances are, if you are feeling overwhelmed, your colleagues are too. You have personal or discretionary days available for you to take in times of emotional or physical exhaustion. You have a benefits plan that covers counselling, and a leave of absence policy if more time is needed to recalibrate and regenerate. You also have the greatest source of power available to you, Jesus Christ, who sees you, cares for you, and will guide and walk alongside you every step of the way, bringing you back to whom He created you to be. If you need help, please contact your physician. Christian Educators of BC is also here to help support you in your distress. Please feel free to call us if you need support.

 Source: McShane, Steven; Tasa, Kevin; Steen, Sandra L. Canadian Organizational Behaviour, 10th ed. McGraw Hill Education, 2018, pp. 112-114. 

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