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Causes and Types of Psychological Stress (16 Proven Strategies to Overcome It)
2 March، 2024
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 Psychological stress has negative effects on our lives, manifesting as severe burnout, discomfort, unpleasant emotions, reduced drive to work, and much more.

 

What is the concept of psychological stress, its impact on us, the importance of managing it in life and work, and what are the best strategies for managing psychological stress? All these ideas are the subject of our article, which we conclude with answers to the most common questions about this topic.

 

What is Psychological Stress?

 It is the emotional state experienced by an individual, resulting from events and matters that threaten their sense of happiness and cause anxiety when faced.

 

The term “stress” is used by many scholars as synonymous with anxiety, frustration, conflict, defense, and some emotions such as anger and fear. However, this term has become familiar and part of the terminology of this era. Psychological stress is a human phenomenon that results in painful feelings, affecting an individual’s behavior.

 

Generally, it cannot be said that a person is under stress unless there is a source of this stress and a negative response from the individual. Without these two factors, there are no stressful situations.

 

 The stress is a physical, mental, or emotional intensity or difficulty caused by demands or pressures from environmental or personal sources; for example, a woman may feel stressed when she is late for work due to a traffic jam and is anxious because she is late for an important meeting. There are stresses that last longer, such as illness or the death of a relative.

 

The Impact of Psychological Stress on Humans

Psychological stress usually leaves negative and sometimes destructive effects that threaten individuals’ lives and happiness. It is associated with different life experiences and the nature of individuals’ work and plays a key role in the occurrence of burnout, which is considered one of the most severe consequences of psychological stress. The effects of psychological stress are classified as follows:

 

Physical effects

These include loss of appetite, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal ulcers, digestive disorders, physical exhaustion, asthma, headaches, and skin allergies.

 

Psychological Effects

These include fatigue, exhaustion, boredom, reduced inclination to work, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

 

Social Effects

These include ending relationships, isolation, withdrawal, inability to accept and bear responsibility, and failure to perform usual daily duties.

 

Behavioral Effects

These include motor effects such as trembling, increased muscle contractions, stuttering in speech, changes in facial expressions and foot sizes, sleep habit disorders, and reduced enthusiasm and zeal.

 

Also, it includes anger, inability to concentrate, high blood pressure, and a pessimistic view of life.

 

Knowledge Effects

These include disruption and deterioration in attention, concentration, memory, difficulty in prediction, increased errors, and poor organization and planning.

 

Types of Psychological Stress?

Psychological stress can be divided into two basic types:

 

Positive Stress, which is motivating for the individual.

 Negative Stress, which causes distress to the individual. Stress is an individual phenomenon dependent on the individual’s response to events. Do we perceive stimuli as stressful events or not?

 

To answer the previous question, we say that a certain amount of stress helps us to perform effectively.

 

In this field, some have classified the stresses we suffer from into three categories:

1- Stresses that can be predicted in the future and can be controlled.

2- Stresses that can be predicted but cannot be controlled.

3- Stresses that cannot be predicted and cannot be controlled.

 

This means that there are stresses that occur unexpectedly, and we can work with the first and second types, and keep a journal for several weeks to identify the causes of stress such as people, situations, and different incidents. After identifying these stresses, it can be assessed whether it is necessary to plan to deal with them.

 

The variety of psychological stresses follows the diversity of schools of psychology and the specialization of psychologists as there are several types of them:

 

1- Non-acute stresses: Resulting in mild responses with a set of stress signs and symptoms that are easy to notice.

2-  Acute stresses: Resulting in very strong responses to the extent that they exceed the individual’s capacity to cope, and these responses vary from person to person and do not necessarily indicate the presence of mental or physical diseases, but are normal responses indicating the need for intervention.

3-  Delayed stresses: Do not always appear during the event but emerge after a period.

4- Post-traumatic stresses: Resulting from violent, severe, and high incidents, and they leave their effects on the organism in the long term.

 

 It is important to know that psychological stress has become a part of daily life, which necessitates us to identify the causes of psychological stress to mitigate its severity.

Stress can vary and take forms that encompass all aspects of human life, which can be categorized into the following types:

 

Work Stress:

 Resulting from the exhaustion and troubles of work. The primary psychological outcomes are cases of fatigue and boredom leading to psychological anxiety depending on the intensity or weakness of the pressure on the individual; and the effects of these results on adaptation at work and production. If this feeling intensifies in the worker, the results will affect the quantity of production, its quality, or working hours, leading to the deterioration of the worker’s physical health and often leading to poor professional adaptation. The primary symptoms are increased accidents at work and possibly fatal, in addition to increased absenteeism or tardiness at work, and may lead to quitting and leaving work altogether.

 

Economic Stress:

Plays the greatest role in distracting human effort and weakening his ability to concentrate and think, especially when financial crises, losses, or job losses strike him as a source of livelihood. This reflects on his psychological state, resulting in his inability to cope with life’s demands.

 

Social Stress: Society’s standards require full compliance by the individual, and deviation from them is considered a deviation from social norms and traditions, thereby creating problems for these violations that become pressing forces on the individual and cause crises and imbalance affecting his social interactions and relationships.

 

Family Stress: With its educational factors, exerts severe pressure on the head of the family and affects family upbringing. Most families governed by learned educational behavior result in commitment; otherwise, the family structure is disrupted, standards of control disintegrate, and the family disintegrates.

 

Academic Stress: Places severe pressure on the school student at various educational stages if he does not respond to the regulations of the school, institute, or college. He is required to achieve success in his studies, to satisfy his personal self-ambition first, and to reciprocate his family that allocated part of its income as study expenses second, in addition to the educational institution that spent funds represented in providing specialized teachers and scientific material needs.

 

Emotional Stress: In all its psychological and emotional aspects, represents one of the essentials of human existence. Emotion in humans is an instinct that God has endowed humans with unlike other creatures. When a person is hindered in seeking marriage and family stability due to economic needs or disagreement with a life partner, and his efforts to stabilize marriage are thwarted, this forms emotional stress, resulting in psychological outcomes, causing confusion in his daily life, interactions, and work as well.

 

What are the Causes of Psychological Stress?

The causes of stress can be classified into:

 

  • Internal Causes: Such as organ functions and personal nature of the mind and the thoughts it carries.
  • External Causes: Such as personal matters, living conditions, and environmental circumstances. Stress triggers depend on previous experiences, personality type, and prior programming of consciousness.

 

Stress can be divided into the following factors:

 

Internal Psychological Events and Problems

Emotion in reasonable degrees protects a person from danger, mobilizes his energies for work and activity, and pushes him to resist dangers and enemies to face the future. This is an acceptable function of the adaptive and healthy functions of emotion. For example, the fear in a diabetic patient pushes him to pay attention to his weight and monitor his food well and take the required amount of insulin daily. The fear of exams pushes the student to study early and attend lectures regularly.

 

Health Conditions and Problems

 Illness is considered a primary source of psychological stress and also a logical result of feeling an increase in stress, which explains the increased rate of exposure to mild or severe diseases during times of crisis, exams, travel, or increased burdens that require additional work and intense concentration.

 

Social Conditions, Daily Life Events, and Problems

 Living with a group and belonging to a group of friends or a network of organized social relationships are the main sources that give life meaning and thus generally direct us towards health, struggle, and satisfaction.

 

Work and Academic Achievement Conditions and Pressures

 Stress in its academic and educational aspect hinders efficient learning and leads to academic failure and an inability to achieve, hatred of study, and accompanying psychological frustration and emotional and mental disorders.

 

Technological and Media Developments and Globalization Requirements

Media and its sensory, auditory, and visual inputs, and the availability of modern technology necessities with its devices and equipment such as computers, videos, the Internet information network, and open cultural flow have all become sources of psychological stress for the individual, whether he uses them or is ignorant of their use.

 

Personality Types

 It seems logical that our personality will affect – if not determine – how we fully respond to stressful events, and most evidence about the effects of personality on stress supports the belief that personality’s importance or how it affects psychological stress in our lives and there is a substantial body of literature on stress-prone personality types versus stress-resistant personalities.

 

Prominent Strategies for Managing Psychological Stress in Life and Work

 1- Understanding Stress in the Work Environment: Understand the sources of work stress and identify them. Learn how to deal with stressful situations and provide strategies to address them.

 

2- Time Management and Organization: Learn how to organize and manage your time effectively to achieve goals and reduce stress. Look for tips to develop an effective time plan that suits you.

 

 3- Positive Communication and Interaction: Understand the importance of productive communication with colleagues at work, and how to build positive relationships and interact constructively.

 

 4- Focus on Mental and Physical Health: Learn how to take care of your mental and physical health in the work environment. Practice exercise and understand the importance of healthy food.

 

 5- Develop Stress Management Skills: Learn stress management skills and how to handle tasks and problems in ways that ensure the best results. 

 

6- Create a Positive Work Environment: Work on improving the work environment to make it more positive and less stressful, and promote cooperation and appreciation in the team.

 

 7- Seek Professional Help: Learn how to seek help from professionals in mental health or life coaches to help you overcome challenges. 

 

8- Engage in Physical Activity: Regular exercise helps improve your mood and increase your energy. Maintain your exercise schedule and make it a part of your daily or weekly routine.

 

 9- Enjoy Breaks and Recreation: Understand the importance of taking regular breaks and enjoying personal and family times. 

 

10- Set Realistic Goals: Some may mistakenly believe that stress is entirely a product of external situations or environmental circumstances, and thus they may build another result based on this type of thinking, which is that stress relief must be linked to a complete change in the situation. To alleviate stress, it must be treated promptly as the accumulation of stress multiplies the effort in solving it, and negative problems increase when we are surprised that we must deal with a number of them in a tight time. There is also another way to build realistic goals, which is to adopt achievable goals in a reasonable time frame. For example, it is not realistic for a student to aim to complete an entire subject in three days or rely on the last week of study to achieve success. Certainly, a student who adopts such an unrealistic goal will be in a much worse situation than a student who allocates each hour of his time to complete reasonable parts of a specific subject and then moves on to other parts, completing what is required within a well-studied and pre-planned schedule. 

 

11- Train Social Skills, including: Apologizing for unreasonable requests, reducing work conflicts and hostility in behavior with others, asking for help and assistance from others, being ready to negotiate and exchange views in cases of disagreement or conflict with others. Social skills require the ability to assert oneself, which includes skills of expressing feelings and positive assertiveness.

 

 12- Learn to Say “No” sometimes to unreasonable requests and even reasonable requests, but this does not mean saying “no” just for the sake of disagreement and creating a hostile atmosphere; rather, it means being able to recognize your needs, the available time for you, work priorities for you, and acknowledging and announcing your inability to meet the demands placed on you.

 

 13- Control Organic Indicators or Tensions Accompanying Stress and pay attention to specific muscle tensions associated with work performance such as: Types of psychological and organic tension that affect a person when feeling an increase in stress, including:

  • Muscle tension, acceleration in heart rate due to increased hormonal activity, i.e.
  • , increased adrenaline pumping in the blood, change in breathing rate or rapid succession in the breathing process. In such cases: Reduce the rush of adrenaline responsible for accelerating heartbeats by taking a deep breath, Take a break and reflect, organize your daily schedule.

 

 14- Reduce Hostile Feelings: Stress management requires us to look for a better way to solve our problems, conflicts, or daily disagreements with others. The more you control your aggression; the less emotional behaviors that ignite matters further and the less hostility from others, which will leave better feelings for both mental and physical health.

 

 15- Learn Problem-Solving Techniques by developing an appropriate approach to nurture the cognitive skills necessary to solve the problem for the counselor facing a level of psychological stress. This is an effective method for self-regulation, increasing awareness, self-confidence, and adapting to different life situations.

 

 16- Learn Time Management when there are multiple important issues, and the first step in time management is setting goals for our lives that help us reduce stress because they provide us with a structured organization of our times and tasks. The goal is the basis of planning and time use, requiring us to create a schedule for what we want to do.

 

Final Advice from Masarat Initiative for Empowerment and Psychological Support

We often do not notice the impact of stress on our behavior, so we ignore it and disregard its effects, but when its results appear in the form of diseases and entering into social follies, and when we find it has consumed our health, relationships, personal pleasures, and our ability to exert energy for success and excellence, we may then go to experts and specialists to seek advice and treatment.

 

Because this happens in late stages, it may be difficult to treat its tragic results on our lives, hence the importance of early attention to psychological stress before it turns into an additional source of stress and tension. Therefore, psychologists, doctors, and professionals interested in individual mental and physical health always support the idea that psychological and social stresses cannot be treated with traditional methods used in the field of mental illnesses. It is better to be aware of them to prevent their dangers and negative results on our behavior and life.

FAQs About Psychological Stress and Its Management

How can you tell if someone is under psychological stress?

  • Verbal aggression
  • Physical aggression
  • Withdrawal and low self-esteem
  • Chaotic behavior (inappropriate speech and actions)
  • Social immaturity (behavior inappropriate for one’s age)
  • Psychological disorders: increased symptoms of anxiety and fear, such as fear of failure, mood swings, increased feelings of depression, and feelings of helplessness in doing usual activities – emotional intensity (anger over trivial matters)

Physical disorders include:

  • Poor digestion, stomach pain, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, increased heart palpitations, sleep problems, susceptibility to colds, allergy diseases, muscle tensions and strain, such as shortness of breath, headaches, and rapid fatigue.

Mental and cognitive disorders include:

  • Misinterpretation of others’ actions and intentions, avoidance of topics requiring thought and concentration, inability to make even small decisions, quick forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty remembering.

Behavioral disturbances include:

  • Impulsiveness, severe tension, excessive smoking, use of sedative or stimulating drugs, loss of appetite, sexual problems, increased social conflicts, and decreased academic performance.

What is the most effective strategy for managing stress?

  • Exercise or walking
  • Healthy eating
  • Time management
  • Allocating time for rest
  • Engaging in enjoyable activities
  • Delegating some tasks to others
  • Adequate sleep and avoiding late nights
  • Prioritizing tasks from most to least important

What are the dimensions of mental health that help reduce stress?

  • Physical dimension: Maintaining the body with exercise and healthy behavior.
  • Social dimension: Building relationships with others and sharing love and affection, participating in joyous and sorrowful occasions.
  • Emotional dimension: Honestly expressing emotions.
  • The mental intellectual dimension: Analyzing and compiling information, solving problems scientifically, and flexible thinking.
  • Spiritual dimension: Belief in Allah, taking initiative, and relying on prayer in all conditions.

Environmental dimension: Functioning in the environment of school, neighborhood, and among friends and neighbors.

How do you relieve academic stress?

Learn how to study in a way that guarantees better results, your school may provide training to develop study skills or offer other resources that help you learn study techniques and exam strategies.

You will feel more relaxed if you study systematically and practice the material you will be tested on.

Study early and in similar places. It’s better to study a little over time rather than cramming all study material at once.

Also, spending your study time in the same places where you take your exams or in similar settings helps you remember the information you need during the exam.

Establish a consistent routine before exams, find out what works for you, and follow the same steps each time you prepare for exams. Doing so will help reduce your stress levels and ensure you are well-prepared.

Talk to your teacher: make sure you understand what each exam entails and how to prepare for it. Moreover, let your teacher know if you are anxious about taking exams, as they may have suggestions that can help you succeed.

Learn relaxation techniques: To maintain calmness and confidence before and during the exam, engage in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressively relaxing your muscles, or closing your eyes and visualizing positive outcomes.

Don’t forget to eat and drink: The brain needs fuel to function. Eat appropriate food on the exam day and drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary drinks such as sodas that might cause blood sugar spikes and drops or caffeinated drinks like energy drinks or coffee, which could increase your anxiety.

Engage in some physical exercises; doing aerobic exercises regularly and being active on the exam day can help reduce stress.

Get plenty of sleep: Sleep is directly linked to academic performance. Pre-teens and teenagers need a regular and consistent amount of sleep; adults also need peaceful sleep at night to perform their best during the day.

Do not ignore learning difficulties; anxiety about exams might improve by addressing the underlying medical condition that interferes with the ability to learn or concentrate, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. In many cases, a student diagnosed with a learning disability deserves support during exams, like being allowed extra time to complete the exam, taking the exam in a less distracting room, or having the questions read aloud.

Why is managing stress important?

Many psychologists and behavioral experts have found that stress is a major factor affecting people’s productivity at work, as well as their creativity and ability to perform through mastering and controlling their reactions to stressful situations.

Thus, managing stress effectively allows individuals to handle life’s challenges with a logical, optimistic outlook and overcome negative emotions.

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