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With the rising level of competition in the modern world, high economic standards and the ever dwindling income, we are faced with a serious need to put in more effort to sustain life. These challenges leave one in a state that is detrimental both to the physical and mental faculties of the human body. Work stress is brought about by several factors that are encountered on a daily basis at the workplace (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz & Drapeau, 2008). These include working longer hours to beat deadlines, trying to achieve set goals, striving to get a promotion just to name a few. All these activities require adequate planning which involves the mind. When one is faced with such task on a daily basis, the pressure is increased, which puts a strain on the mind (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz & Drapeau, 2008). This paper aims at showing the correlation that exists between stress at work and its effect on mental health. It also aims to show some disparities among those who work longer hours and those working fewer hours, or not working at all.
How Occupational Stress Affects Mental Health
Occupational stress is considered as a physical or psychological unrest that is brought about by the work surrounding. The stress concept was first advanced by a French physiologist Claude Bernerd in his concept milieu interieur (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz & Drapeau, 2008). He describes the principle of dynamic equilibrium in the internal body environment as vital for human survival. This would only be achieved by countering the outside forces such as oxygen, temperature and predators present. Neurologist Walter Cannon further recognized that stress could either be physical or emotional. He illustrates how the human body reacts to external stressors by releasing hormones, adrenaline and noradrenalin, in the nervous system. The release of these hormones in the nervous system tends to exemplify the relationship between stress and mental health.
Favorable working conditions are known to have a positive effect on the mental health of the workers (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz & Drapeau, 2008). However, with the growing population around the world, and the resources available for consumption remaining constant, every individual has been forced to work extra to make ends meet. Population growth has also increased the unemployment rate considerably. This has left the few available chances very competitive and requiring very highly skilled human labor which, in turn, has the pressure on the brain. These conditions also create a sense of job insecurity resulting in mental uneasiness on those affected (Wang et al., 2008).
In this research paper, therefore, I aim at:
- Showing how stress affects health
- Show symptoms of stress and anxiety
- Tell how to deal with stress and anxiety
- Describe the relationship between stress and mental health
- Show who is at risk of suffering from stress and anxiety
- Discuss the relevance of this knowledge to my career
Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
Stress as a physical or psychological disorder is accompanied by varied symptoms that affect the human body. These symptoms could resemble those of other ailments and, therefore, there is need to visit a medical practitioner to ascertain that they are stress induced (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
These symptoms are:
1. Physical symptoms (Smith et al., 2011).
These are symptoms that affect a stressed a person and can easily be recognized. This is because they act on the physical body of the person.
- Nausea - is a sensational feeling that makes a person feel like throwing up.
- Constipation - refers to a state where one has a reduced bowel movement as a result of stomach disorder. However, this disorder could also arise from the brain as a result of stress and thus hinder the proper functioning of the digestive system (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
- Loss of sex drive - this is the reduction of the urge to have sex with a partner. It is clear that the mind influences the body and vice versa. Therefore, when the mind is stressed and losses the urge to have sex, the body cannot be stimulated to do the same, hence, there is low libido (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
- Aches and pains - these are feelings in the body that are hurting and cause quite a discomfort to a person uncomfortable. These aches are more pronounced in the muscles and joints.
2. Emotional symptoms (Smith et al., 2011).
These are psychological experiences of the human mind as it interacts with the internal and external environments. This deals with the aspect of the moods and temperament of a person (Little, 2009).
- Depression - is an emotional condition where one feels sad or gloomy. Most of the time when one is stressed, the mind losses its focus and drifts into solitude, leaving the person depressed.
- Short temper - is a condition that describes a person who reacts to a stimulus in the fastest manner possible, but in a negative way (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
- Moodiness - is the unpredictable state of a person’s moods. As a result of stress, the mind is unsettled and, therefore, the affected person is unable to make a clear decision, hence is easily swayed, and this is translated to the mood swings experienced (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
- Isolation - is the state where a person chooses to detach himself from other people. This is because stress lowers a person’s self confidence, therefore, making them feel less worthy in front of others (Wang et al., 2008).
3. Behavioral symptoms (Smith et al., 2011)
These are symptoms that are portrayed by a stressed person by the way he carries out himself in front of other people.
- Alcohol and drug abuse - in most cases people with stress try to get out of the situation by using the easiest way possible. For this reason, most of them resort to alcohol and drug abuse. This is known to be a short time relief, as the problem still remains once sobriety is achieved.
- Peculiar sleeping patterns - those suffering from stress either spend much time sleeping to try and keep the mind away from the stress or sleep very little due to inability of the brain to be fully relaxed and get asleep (Wang et al., 2008).
- Loss of appetite - stress being a mental discrepancy affects the morale of a person to eat or lowers the urge to take food. This, eventually, has an effect on the person’s health as it lowers the body’s immunity against diseases.
- Irresponsibility - when one is stressed, there is a sense of lack of belonging, and the urge to live is lost. It, therefore, makes a people to be reckless in whatever they do.
4. Cognitive symptoms (Smith et al., 2011).
These are symptoms that relate to the disarray in the thinking process. As a result of stress, one’s thinking is altered, and faults are bound to be noticed in the least expected situations.
- Restlessness - is evidenced by a stressed person’s inability to be settled at a single point as the brain is uncomfortable.
- Pessimism - a stressed person tends to always think in the negative at all times and sees all plans as bound to fail (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
- Memory lapse - stress also makes a person suffer from memory lapse. This is a situation where someone is not able to fully recall what has been said o done, therefore, being quite forgetful.
- Lack of concentration - stress while affecting the mental status of a person, leads to lack of concentration as the brain is deep in thought over the problem at hand (Wang et al., 2008).
How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety
Coping with stress in a positive manner is a sure way toward success. However, there are other means that relieve pressure albeit just for a short while and with far reaching negative implications. Some of these ways are:
- Use of pills
- Drinking excessively
Given the adverse harmful effects of the above relief techniques, it is advisable to learn healthier ways of dealing with stress so as to avoid any mental health risk. This could be done through:
- Raising self esteem - having a low esteem is known to impart negatively on a person. It is, therefore, advisable to raise your self esteem, as this will give you an elevated morale to carry out and accomplish tasks that might otherwise have looked tricky (Smith et al., 2011)
- Regular exercise - exercise is known to relieve physical tension, as the muscles are relaxed when taking part in exercise. This effect is further felt as a relaxed body will translate to a relaxed mind, thus reduction of stress in the mind (Smith et al., 2011)
- Adapt to your stressors - some stress causes cannot be avoided as they are a part of our lives. We just need to change how we view them and learn to live with them, because by viewing them positively we reduce the stress effect on the mind (Smith et al., 2011)
- Eat a healthy diet - sticking to a healthy diet boosts the immune system and guards the body against attack by diseases. Some foods are also health hazards, as they cause coronary diseases, hypertension and diabetes, all of which, eventually, put strain on the brain (Smith et al., 2011)
- Create conducive environment - always have an environment that shields you from unnecessary stresses. These include having positive friends whom you can share with your tribulations and seek advice whenever you find yourself in a tough position (Smith et al., 2011)
Why Stress Affects Your Health
Stress is both a physical, as well as psychological problem. The above signs of stress have a great impact on a person’s health in the aftermath. Since stress leads to a loss of appetite, this influences negatively your health as it lowers your immune system. Moreover, this destabilizes flow of blood into the brain, which is the center on the nervous system; hence mental health is put at risk (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
When a person is stressed, the brain has to think more, this has a strain on the human body, which leads to fatigue and in extreme cases, can lead to mental breakdown.
It is lucid that stress forms a part of human life and, therefore, cannot be avoided by whichever means. Nevertheless, one can learn how to live with it in a positive manner, thus moderate its effect.
Stress affects each and every person, only that how much a person suffers from stress is what differs. However, those in the human service occupation are at a higher risk of stress, as they have to deal with different people with different behaviors (Smith, Segal & Segal, 2011).
Learning about work stress is also a major boost against suffering from stress. With the acquired knowledge you are able to avoid some stressors and, at the same time, be able to judge on the best way of handling certain problems. It is also of great help to learn about work stress, as it gives you an upper hand at a workplace, since you find it easy to cope with other people when you understand how and why they behave in a certain manner.