Factors which determine the levels of stress

Interplay between the following factors determines the level of stress in an individual :

  • Stressors
  • Thoughts
  • Physiological Responses
  • Feelings
  • Behaviour

James Thatcher is a design engineer working with an automobile firm. A perfectionist by nature James has been a part of many successful car models rolled out by the company. He is currently working on the crumple zone design of a proposed luxury car. Into the project for over ten months, he is about to submit the final design to the top management. In the mean time the head of engineering design decides to put on the responsibility of designing a sports utility vehicle to James. The proposal puts James in a stressful situation. He thinks that new car design will affect his performance in the existing project. He feels the management of time with two simultaneous projects will be a difficult task. A few days into the new project James starts showing symptoms of dystress like frequent headaches, irritability, body aches etc. At home, he gets irritated and shows no interest in day to day family affairs. His wife’s demand for time and attention adds on to his already stressful situation. His intake of alcohol and smoking has increased manifolds. He has started nursing negative feelings towards his boss and other colleagues.

Situations like this have become a part of our lifestyle. In correlation with the five factor model of stress, the new assignment is the external stimuli which is leading to stress in the case of James. Such external stimuli causing stress is known as Stressors.

The other four factors govern our response and reaction to such stressors. A situation becomes a stressor if you perceive it as one. In this example James thinks that the new assignment may interfere with his performance in the current assignment. The perfectionist nature of James makes him over conscious about the quality of his designs which adds on to his feeling of stress leading to excessive stress or dystress. The body responds to dystress through certain physiological responses like anxiety and depression. These physiological changes if allowed to continue for a long time may lead to heart and blood vessel disorders. The behavioral changes due to stress comes to light with the irritative response that James puts forth towards his family members. The way we respond to stressors may vary from individual to individual. The stressors which created a feeling of dystress in James may be perceived as eustress by a colleague who may recognize the new assignment as a reward for his good performance and therefore, the same stressor acts as a motivating factor.