Stress can be defined as an adverse reaction to exogenous irritants accompanied by fear. It can also bring a feeling of loss, lack of control, confusion, and aggression. Stress is manifested on both – physical and emotional levels. It can even touch mental abilities – stressed people can not concentrate on anything, lose the ability to ratiocinate. Health problems often accomplish stress. Sometimes people experience pressure and other health problems, which follow it but do not even know about that. Anxiety can be treated somewhat like a state of being than an illness and should be treated accordingly.
There are different signs of stress, such as panic, suspicion, and pain. It can be accompanied by feelings of aggression, anger, and depression. The sense of fatigue and suppression also can often become a sign of depression.
There are many reasons which can cause stress. Many changes in our life can cause stress. Any impact, even positive can become a reason of stress. Besides, stress can become a reason for many physical illnesses and psychological problems. When a person experiences stress his most essential living functions fall to lower levels, he tends to start using alcohol or drugs, suffered from insomnia and decreased the concentration of memory, and logical thinking could even have constant headaches and nervous tic, some cases also lead to suicide attempts (Achmon 1989, 160).
Individual differences have a significant influence on the stress level of an individual. As states Masters: “Two people may be affected quite differently by the same stimulus. It identifies differences in the physiological and psychological responses resulting from perceiving a situation as threatening or noxious… As a result of viewing people as cognitive creatures, a sociological approach sees human needs as shaping perceptions of situations and therefore as an important factor in understanding stress. Needs are learned and sustained through social encounters. Those who are unable to meet demands involving important needs experience stress.” (Masters 2002, 164).
Such factors as age, gender, ethnicity, genetic predisposition, history of trauma and abuse, personal history, coping skills, physical shape, and social support influence on the type of reaction to stress shown by different people. Also, a social and physical environment has a powerful influence on human physiology and behavior. These factors also have a substantial impact on the process of adaptation. Adaptation is one of core issues when we speak about dealing with stress. Good adaptation abilities give people more opportunity to fight stress. Adaptation ability can depend on age, genes, early development, present lifestyle, experience. All these factors taken together make core differences in the impact stress has on different individuals.
Turner, Beidel and Larkin give very bright examples of different reaction to stress in their article called “Individual Differences in Stress Responses.” They describe the reaction of two men after the Hurricane Andrew. Two men were in similar conditions after the hurricane. Their houses were ruined, but nobody from their families was hurt. The first man cried and told that he had lost everything, while the second man was quiet and said he was happy that all the members of his family were alive. Examples like that give very vivid illustrations how people of the approximately same age and social standing, under the same conditions, can demonstrate completely different reactions to stress factors. Scientists tried to define the measure of the impact of stress on individual and bodily reactions on it. They measure the way human body responds to stress and its ability to adaptation in “allostatic load.” The study of physical reactions should combine different sciences, such as biology, physiology, sociology and political science. “These fields provide a description and analysis of the social and cultural institutions and economic forces that affect individual human health. Specific examples of shared concepts and terminology are given to illustrate progress towards consilience in the study of socioeconomic determinants of health” (Turner, Beidel, Larkin, 2008).
There are many classifications of specific factors which influence attitude to stress. The most common classification divides individual difference variables to three groups. The first team includes demographic and historical development factors. These factors and stable during the entire life of an individual and can not be changed. The next group consists of psychological variables. These factors can be influenced and modified through the intervention within an individual behavior. The last team consists of social variables which are conditioned by the environment and can be changed in the other situation.
It becomes more and more evident that for many people the place of their work or other social institutions became the primary source of stress, which they later spread to different spheres of life, leisure, and family. “Two people may be affected quite differently by the same stimulus. ?? identifies differences in the physiological and psychological responses resulting from perceiving a situation as threatening or noxious… As a result of viewing people as cognitive creatures, a sociological approach sees human needs as shaping perceptions of situations and therefore as an important factor in understanding stress. Needs are learned and sustained through social encounters. Those who are unable to meet demands involving important needs experience stress.” (Masters 2002, 165).
Despite all people are different and have different living conditions, but at the same time, there are frequent problems, which are typical for everybody. Most people express the same period of stress at work and in the family. Unfortunately, most people react with stress and can not cope with pressure in the family and at the office. At the same time, there are different factors, which make different people perceive stress differently.
For somebody his work would be the most crucial part of his life, somebody would risk his career development for the same of some family values.
Gender factor is one of the factors that can explain different reactions and responses to stress. Maternal care which is characteristic of the female behavior is responsible for the individual differences in stress. “Maternal care also influences the maternal behavior of female offspring, an effect that appears to be related to oxytocin receptor gene expression, and which forms the basis for the intergenerational transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity. Patterns of maternal care that increase stress reactivity in offspring are enhanced by stressors imposed on the mother” (Turner 2008). For women, any problems connected with their family are more stressful than for men. Divorce or loss of a child can lead to long-lasting depression among women. Women’s natural function is this factor can explain the perpetuation of oneself and women’s response to stress. Men, in their turn, is aimed to make a successful career, are more fragile if they have problems in this sphere. The effect of stress in connection with the professional field is higher for men than for women.
Stress in families is usually connected with the impossibility to combine different gender and social roles.
Gender is an essential factor, which influences the ability to meet stress and human reaction to it. About 80 % of people say that they mostly have stress because of lack of balance between work and family and about 32 % of working mothers are “highly-time stressed,” which is, of course, a substantial number (Clark 1983). There is a familiar source of stress often associated with stress. This source of the stress is a conflict between work and family. It is essential to keep in mind that men and women react differently to this kind of stress. Besides not all families can afford some high-quality childcare. In the year 1995, there was a survey done, which proved that full-time working women in average have to spend seven days on personal and family issues, for men the number was only one day.
Age is another factor that forms our response to stress. People becoming older are more sensitive to different stress factors. Aging itself is a stress for a person because becoming older the person is less energetic, active and lively. The person is not able to do what he could quickly do early, and it goes without saying that it affects his or her world perception and responses to stresses. Old people are sensitive to tensions, and that is why they have more often nervous and heart diseases than in their youth (Agras 1982).
To sum up, stress is an adverse reaction to the changeable surrounding that is usually followed by fear, anxiety and unstable inner state. Personal and job problems often cause stresses.
Unfortunately, these sources of stress have become a usual part of our lives. Individual differences easily explain different reactions and responses to stress. Every person has his fears and obstacles in life and, so people are more predisposed to stresses and other is less. Individual differences include gender, age, personal features of character, life experience and events, life values, attitude to life and even profession, religion, family state, and heredity. The most critical factors are gender, age, and personal features. These factors influence human reaction to stress and condition abilities to cope with it.