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Saturday, 26 April 2014

What is stress?

So what is stress? It is one of those terms that mean so many things to different people. For the purposes of this book, it may be a good idea if we have a common understanding. In this chapter we shall provide you with a definition of stress, highlight the difference between pressure and stress, and explain the biology of stress.

Simple definition

There are many definitions of stress. The one we have found useful is:
Stress occurs when pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope.
So it is not just external pressure, such as reaching deadlines, that triggers stress, but whether you believe that you can cope with a situation that you perceive as important or threatening.

Obviously, the more experienced or skilled you are at a particular activity, such as giving presentations or completing projects on time, the less likely you are to become stressed.

But in many jobs there is constantly high pressure to perform, and no breathing space at all. Under pressure employees start working longer hours, taking work home, and in extreme cases work in their holidays to achieve work targets and deadlines. A time may come when, literally, the person passively accepts one project too many and then realizes he or she just can’t cope any more. We often hear the phrase, ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’, but this is very relevant to the field of stress prevention, as we will highlight shortly.

Of course, if you do not perceive that the problem is important or threatening, then even if you do not successfully deal with it, you are unlikely to become stressed.


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