Everyday life exerts exigencies on people. Work, school, parenting, making ends meet, and job hunting for graduates and non-graduates continually pile pressure on individuals. The pressure to perform and make something out of life inevitably leads to stress. The cognitive-transactional model defines stress as the dynamic relationship between people and their environments, wherein a stimulus upsets the individual’s balance triggering a response with all available resources (Acosta-Gómez et al. 1). the occurrence of stress means evaluating the demands in relation to the resources available to counter the demands. In this case, therefore, the more the resources, the less stressful the situation (Acosta-Gómez et al. 1). The finite availability of resources, however, means that there will always be some levels of stress in everyone. While some people consider stress as healthy; a motivation towards better performance, the truth, however, is that stress has a plethora of negative health, cognitive, performance, and physical effects. It is for this reason that it is necessary to implement measures to resolve stressors.
One of the major causes of stress is low socioeconomic status. Family poverty comes with a lot of stressors such as overcrowding and financial insecurity, which then increase parental stress (Bøe et al. 2). Research has shown that parental stress does major harm to children’s mental health due to the adverse effects it has on the children’s physical and psychosocial surrounding (Bøe et al. 2). Bøe et al. further inform that exposure to cumulative stress during childhood has adverse behavioral, psychological, and health outcomes. Research points an accusing finger at stress for such negative outcomes among children exposed to parental and life stress. Such children have a high potential of getting depression and chronic illnesses by age 25 or 26, with dipping mental health by 17 years.
Stress’s effect on mental health does not stop at children exposed to cumulative stress but goes up to parents and adults. A study on the effect of stress on adults showed that stress not only affected the mental health of the adults but also affected the efficacy of emotional control among adults. According to the study by Raio et al., stress impaired emotional regulation due to the impairment of cognitive regulation. Under normal circumstances, cognitive regulation hinges on perfect executive functioning and engagement of the prefrontal cortex (Raio et al. 15139). Both are, however, impaired by stress, making it difficult for individuals to use their cognitive techniques for controlling fear and anxiety, as well as “going off the rails” under the mildest of stress. It is the impairment of cognitive functioning that under stress individuals easily go into fits of rage and anger, easily saying and doing harmful things, some of which may be impossible to repair.
Certain aspects of interpersonal relationships often suffer because of stress. The fits of rage and anger easily drive fear into friends and relatives, especially when they have never experienced such incidents. More important, however, is the effect of stress on intimacy. People under extreme stress or those without stress coping mechanisms have witnessed drastically decreased levels of intimacy with their partners in addition to an almost nonexistent sex life (Armeli et al. 896). While sex is a great reliever of stress, it (stress) also has a way of getting individuals out of the mood, easily impeding any form of intimacy or sexual arousal. Yet its effect on interpersonal relationships does not stop at sex alone but transcends to negative effects such as affecting body weight, testosterone levels, and sexual desire. Stress additionally causes performance anxiety in men, which has the potential of causing impotence.
Stress also causes individuals to start on potentially dangerous habits. Research on stress has shown that stress easily initiates both men and women into alcohol consumption, later developing into alcohol addiction and dependence (Armeli et al. 896). By depending on alcohol as a stress reliever, many of these individuals do not cultivate any stress coping mechanisms, deeply engraving their alcohol addiction. Research indicates that men with stronger positive alcohol-outcome expectancies tend to drink more of high-stress days in addition to becoming increasingly irresponsible, having little concern for doing things well, and what others think of them (Armeli et al. 898). Alcohol dependency as a stress coping mechanism is catastrophic given the potential harm it has on cognition and health. The potential of developing chronic diseases such as liver cancer put individuals on a dangerous path given not only the financial but also the emotional implications of such a disease on both the individual and the society at large.
The potential negative effects of stress call for means for stress management. One of the means is maintaining a positive attitude, which then buffers the individual from getting carried away by the sweeping wave of stress. According to Armeli et al. maintaining a positive attitude as a skill is especially effective for within-person processes as such training equips individuals with the right tools to respond more effectively to high-risk situations.
Having, and in instances of its absence, developing social support is one of the key stress coping resources. Research on stress indicates that coping resources such as personal and social coping resources help buffer the individual from the negative psychological effects of stress (Leon-Perez et al. 442). As a coping resource, social support provides emotional, informational, and practical assistance to the individual undergoing stress. The effectiveness of social support as a coping resource lies on its ability to protect the individual from “the potentially pathogenic influence of stressful events” (Leon-Perez et al. 443). Social support, thus provides an individual with a strong buffer, giving the individual a strong footing despite stressful events.
The American Psychological Association (APA) advises that taking a break from the stressor goes a long way in the management of stress. In suggesting taking a break from the stressor, APA is well aware of the seeming impossibility of getting away from a project or growing debt. However, it is important to note that getting away from the stressor helps one to gain a new perspective on the project or stressor, in addition to developing mechanisms to cope with the stress (APA n.p.). Taking a break to exercise, meditate, or do something that someone loves helps get the mind off the stressor, refreshing the mind, and giving the individual rejuvenated impetus to tackle the stressor.
In everyday life, stress is an inevitable factor. The infinite nature of resources, unavailability of jobs, pressure for academic, social and career attainment, and general life living constantly put pressure and stress on individuals. While stress can act as motivation, cumulatively exposure stress has a negative impact on both physical and psychological health. It is for this reason that coping mechanisms including a positive attitude, social support, and breaks from stressors go a long way in mitigating the negative effects of stress.
Acosta-Gómez, Maria, G. et al. “Stress in High School Students: A Descriptive Study.” Journal of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-10. https://openaccesspub.org/jcbt/article/706.
APA. Five Tips to Help Manage Stress. APA, 2019. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.
Armeli, Stephen, et al. “Daily Interpersonal Stress and the Stressor-Vulnerability Model of Alcohol Use.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, vol. 26, no. 8, 2007, pp. 896-921. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/224860018?accountid=1611, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2007.26.8.896.
Bøe, Tormod, et al. “Cumulative Effects of Negative Life Events and Family Stress on children’s Mental Health: The Bergen Child Study.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 53, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-9. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1967235004?accountid=1611, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1451-4.
León-pérez, Gabriela, et al. “Effects of Stress, Health Competence, and Social Support on Depressive Symptoms After Cardiac Hospitalization.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 39, no. 3, 2016, pp. 441-452. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1785958524?accountid=1611, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9702-x.
Raio, Candace, M. et al. “Cognitive Emotion Regulation Fails the Stress Test.” PNAS, vol. 10, no. 37, 2013, pp. 15139-15144. https://www.pnas.org/content/110/37/15139.abstract.