Stress, as defined by stress researcher Hans Selye in Organizational Behavior, is "the nonspecific response of the body to any demands made upon it." J. Clarke defines stress in Stress in management as any "internal state or reaction to anything we consciously or unconsciously perceive as a threat, either real or imagined." Stress can be either negative, when it evokes feelings like fear, anger, loneliness or sadness, or positive, when something evokes intensive feelings of joy and happiness. Stress can be also emotional or physical. Emotional stress usually appears in tough or challenging situations while physical stress occurs as a reaction of the body to triggers. Physical stress is often a reason for emotional stress.
To manage stress means to control the tension that comes in stressful situations by making physical changes or changes in emotions. Stress can have a negative impact on work, causing people to perform ineffectively. To manage stress effectively, first the sources of stress have to be found, and then strategies for solving the problem have to be devised.
Some of the stressors are external. These can be major life changes - positive or negative - or environmental such as noises, family or workplace. Ways to manage external stressors can be lifestyle factors such as eating healthy food, being physically active and sleeping enough. Other strategies include asking for help from others, using humor, learning to be confident and to solve problems, and practicing time management. However, not all stress is caused by an external trigger. Thoughts that cause tension and unrest in one's head are considered internal stressors. These include fears, such as fear of flying, fear of heights, uncertainty about the future, beliefs such as certain attitudes and expectations.
Although people are able to control their thoughts, it takes more time and effort to change attitudes and expectations which have been in place for a long time. Strategies for effective management of internal stressors include changing particular stressful thoughts, challenging negative thoughts, implementing relaxation techniques, and talking with a good friend or advisor.
Stress affects the body, thoughts, feelings and behavior. Recognizing stress symptoms can be the first step toward managing them. If stress is not managed, it can result in health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Common stress symptoms within the body can include headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue and sleep problems. Mood symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, sadness and depression. Stress can affect the behavior of a person and some of the symptoms of stress include overeating or undereating, anger, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use and social isolation.
Events that cause stress are part of life. Stress management is aimed at finding out what the cause of stress is and learning ways to take control of some stress-triggering circumstances. Programs for stress management include doing exercises regularly and getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques, fostering healthy friendships, and asking for professional help.
Stress management is important at the workplace. Stress management programs should help both the employees and the company, as personnel costs for employees under stress are higher. Any program should first identify the major cause of stress. Then, clear and specific goals for the program are to be set so that the program is effective. The top management should also support the program. Before learning how to manage stress, employees have to know which stressors affect them. For that purpose, companies can carry out health risk appraisals which are meant to check the employees' levels of stress. Useful methods for identifying stressors and symptoms are self-report measures such as interviews and surveys, behavioral measures such as observation and performance measures and physiological stress measures, including heart rate and blood pressure.
Employees' individual needs should be considered when developing a stress management program. Employees can also implement some strategies including relaxation techniques, meditation, developing a good support system, practicing outside hobbies, learning to set targets, managing time and learning when to reject more tasks at work.
Companies should also reduce or remove the causes of stress if this is possible. Organizations can develop strategies aimed at reshaping employees' jobs, improving the recruitment and orientation of new employees, providing more information, necessary education and training. Work pressure can be reduced and work plans modified to meet employees' demands. Time management programs have to be conducted, work roles defined and opportunities for career development provided.
The most used stress management techniques are exercise and a nutritious diet. Organizations can help employees deal with stress by providing information and access to physical recreation facilities.