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Everyone is affected by stress in one way or another. Often, people around us complain of having too much to do but having little time at their disposal. In schools for instance, it's common to hear students mention that they experience conflicting pressures due to the demand of reading complex technical or theoretical material and handing in written assignments within deadlines. All these instances of stress do occur as people respond to various types of stressors within their environment. With stress being a common problem affecting almost everyone in life, learning to identify when one is under stress, what is stressing them, and the various effects of stress can improve both the mental and physical well-being of individuals in society.
The study of stress cannot be overemphasized since nearly all facets of human life are affected by it. If we mention of any environment, it would not be difficult to identify several stressors that cause stress to individuals. Champoux (2010) highlights that; stressors may be objects or events within the people's social and physical environment that can induce a stress response. With potential stressors available in almost every environment, studying their interaction and effect provide answers to a number of question regarding stress.
The understanding of stress is critical since stress is a common thing and occurs whenever people worry or react to pressures at home, work or in any environment they are in. The fact that stress affects people's moods and emotions makes it a relevant study since every individual is predisposed to the effect of stress at some point in their life. At home, people have to handle stress from time to time as they face challenges in resolving conflicts at the family levels as well as catering for increasing burdens in areas such as finances. With stress, negative consequences can arise which may contribute to degenerative physical and physiological problems in individuals.
The term stress has given various meanings by different people. To some, stress can be seen as a mismatch between demands facing individuals and their ability to handle and cope with these demands. However, a general definition of stress denotes stress as a state of psychological stimulation that results when extraneous demands tax or surpass a person's adaptive abilities in handling stressful conditions (Zajacova et al., 2005). With this definition, it can be noted that stress occurs when one fails to handle or adapt to the stressors which may be present and active in the environment. Additionally, this meaning of stress implies that no one is insulated against the risks of experiencing stress in their day to day life.
Stress is a natural way in which our bodies react to any form of demands that is placed on them from the environments we live in. These demands may sometimes be good or in some cases bad but in either case, the response from our bodies will determine whether we will be affected by stress or not and to what levels. The good or bad experiences we encounter in our environments put our bodies into developing responses aimed at coping and handling of such events. During such responses, our bodies react by secreting chemicals into our blood stream.
While the release of chemicals into the blood stream can help generate more energy and strength in individuals which is life-sustaining especially whenever we are in the presence of physical danger in the environment, these chemicals are also harmful in some ways. The chemicals in the blood stream can cause harm if the stress experienced by individuals is as a reaction to events which are emotional with no outlet of releasing the extra energy and strength. Nevertheless, when any form of stress occurs and no action is taken to address the stressors, it is more likely that an individual can experience chronic stress; a more harmful form of stress.
Leahy, Fuzy and Grafe (2004) confirm that chronic stress can lead to development of mental illness. By chronic stress, we mean stress experienced by individuals for a considerable length of time and whose effects are enormous. While individuals cannot cushion themselves from stress, addressing the stressors and reducing risk factors can help ease stress. However, for some reasons, individuals may fail to address stressors in their environment in time. Such failures can be attributed to the lack of necessary skills or attitudes essential in fighting stress. When stressors are not addressed, individuals go through stress for a longer period of time which predisposes them to several numbers of illnesses such as the mental diseases.
Numerous numbers of studies centered on stress show that, instances of stress often results in majority of illness affecting individuals. For this reason, people often associate stress with diseases especially those that affect the brain causing mental illness. The connection of stress and illness may therefore exist in the fact, the onset of stress makes the immune system weakened and thus in the long run predisposing individuals to numerous forms of diseases. For the case of mental diseases which is rife in individuals having chronic stress, its prevalence can be as result of harmful chemicals that damage the brain tissue.
Stress is often represented by mood dilemma which occurs whenever individuals are made to become moody and even snap at those they love most. Such change in the mood results when individuals are faced with stressful situation that put them on pressure. When mood dilemma is experienced by individuals, it makes them sad and withdrawn and even in some cases irritable and impatient. Such mood dilemmas caused by stress affects one's relationship as the individuals face difficult to react to the stressors while at the same time carry on the association with other members of the society.
While it may be clear that humans experience stress, many people may fail to recognize that, the physical environment we live in also goes through a period of stress. As defined by Kornblum and Smith (2008), environmental stress is a universal term often used when referring to man's collective effect on the natural environment. An example of this is the increase of man's pursuit of industrialization which leads to pollution of the environment. Understanding this particular type of stress is crucial for whatever happens to the environment does affect us too. With more of societal growth and development, there has been an increase in man's destructive effects which has been amplified by technology. As a result, our environment has continued to experience increased levels of stress that are harmful to both the flora and fauna.
Man's social system can be blamed for causing stress in the environment which if not addressed can lead to more adverse secondary effects that are potentially dangerous to the existence of man. The environment is supposed to exist in a more stable posture with several variables adjusting themselves accordingly when expected changes occur. For instance, plants or animals have a unique way of adjusting to seasons or change to feeding patterns. While man may have little control over this phenomenon, the study of environmental stress helps one to engage in positive activities aimed at minimizing the impact of man activities on the environment.
Much of today's environmental stress is as a result of man's use of technology which has led to destabilization of the environment through pollution. Pollution is one form of environmental stress affecting the world today. Other forms of environmental stress such as global warming have led to significant harm to the environment as a whole. For instance, global warming has led to harmful effect that disrupts our environment balance due to heat rise.
Global warming has been a hot topic with debates about it taking place across the world in both social and political arena. Biello (2010) asserts that global warming has become more prevalent since its emergence in the 1990s and those recent figures reveal that the world is warming up as a result of increased buildup of heat, a phenomenon called global warming. Key indicators as humidity levels, shrinking sea ice, and glacier and springtime snow cover, increasing temperatures over land and sea, as well as the rising levels of ocean water show that the world average temperature is on the rise. To date, scientist attributes the global warming to the emission of greenhouse gases that traps heat in the earth's atmosphere. As a result of this stress, the environment reacts by eliciting responses which have negative effects such as the decrease in glacial cover.
Ecological stress is another form of stress that the environment goes through due to the reaction of man and other organism which changes in the environment. Ecological stress may result from the scarcity and over utilization of resources which in turn affects man's activities as well as the life of different living organisms. This type of stress deals with how organisms react to stressors that affect the environment in attempt of maintaining their survival. Ecological stress may also result in fights for resources such as vacant lands, dispossession of land from others and forced settling of people. Furthermore, ecological stress has been known to cause devastating deaths to fish in areas where there has been an imbalance in fish-plant-oxygen relationship. Such death of fish has been experienced in areas such as Wisconsin lakes as due to the use of snowmobiles (Kornblum & Smith, 2008).
Stress is often associated with events or occurrences that make people to react to these situations in order to minimize the effect of the events or eliminate their effects. While these events also called stressors come about due to hardships or challenges, it may appear that American's are free from stress due to the well-being of the nation. However, this is not the case as American's are under same conditions that exposes them to stress just like the rest of the world. For this reason, America is affected by stress just like the other nations. In fact, recent developments that have taken place in America have all created new forms of stress that ware not experienced before. Up to date, Americans have gone through stress due to the economic recession, work demands, terrorist attacks, wars and challenges of parenting.
The economic recession hit America with a devastating blow which left many people in bad financial shape. This recession started in 2007 and was responsible for many financial woes that befell on the Americans (Mirza, 2010). As a result of the economic recession, many American families experience great deal of stress as they were forced to cope up with economic challenges. These challenges meant that the American had to find ways of catering for their needs amidst the difficulties associated with the economic downtown caused by the recession. This left many people struggling to pay bills and other needs necessary things. Children were not spared either as the stress affecting the parents extended over to the children. This meant that children were subjected to stressful situation by being forced to bear with the lack of resources in the families due limited finances and other necessary resources.
The American people have also faced a lot of stress both at home and abroad due to acts of terrorism. Since the September 11 attack, both the federal government as well as the citizenry of America have gone through a lots of stress since many people lost their loved ones, other were hurt and maimed under the cruel hand of the terrorists. The devastating attacks in New York created a lot of fear that in turn created a lot of stress to the American who were regarding their lives to be in danger. Often, the question of being secure came into people's minds with many people being too worried of their safety while at home and in diaspora. Indeed, this has made life for American has new security measure had to be put in place. Additionally, the Americans who are Muslims came under stress as the attacks were associated to terrorist with Islamic inclination. This was Muslim American were treated with suspicion making their social life difficult and unbearable. Indeed the catastrophic event elicits stress whenever people remember the agony they went through.
The involvement of America in war such as the War in Iraq and in Afghanistan has caused immense stress to the soldiers sent to war as well as those that remain at home. At the same time, the families of the soldiers sent to the battle feel have also had their share of stress. Many times, the families of the soldiers in war zones such as Iraq go through a lot of stress as they worry about the safety of their loved ones.
Death of soldiers usually leave relatives in pain and agony thereby inducing stress on the. The soldiers deployed in the fields are also bound to be under stress. Stress is caused by the fear of the unknown as places like Iraq is filled with suicide bombers, snipers in head outs and mines. The stress that the soldiers experience also results from the demand of the job. Sometimes, they are forced to work for longer times to fight or hold back insurgents attacks in order to protect lives and repulse the attacks at all times while on duty.
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