Stress and work-related stress

Definition and health consequences

Stress refers to a reaction of the body to a stimulus. It is a response of a biological nature characterised by a series of mental-physiological and behavioural changes implemented by the organism in order to restore a state of homeostasis (internal balance).

Stress is therefore an intrinsic and necessary condition of everyday life, why necessary? On a daily basis, we are stressed by the proper necessary stress level, adaptive and optimal for achieving our goals; this type of stress was named “eustress” years ago.

If stress, however, becomes excessive and in some cases chronic, we speak of “distress”, i.e. stress that becomes detrimental to an individual’s psycho-physical health, but what does this mean?

Our nervous system communicates with our body via one of the cranial nerves, in particular with the vital organs that are functional in mobilising energy to react to a stressful stimulus. Unfortunately, if stress persists over time, our body, especially the heart, suffers; the heart’s flexibility in the face of stimuli is reduced, which consequently leads to increased onset of cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and obesity. The most common consequences include sleep disorders, skin disorders, thyroid disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, asthma, neuropsychic disorders, memory dysfunctions and much more.

At the occupational level in the case of high work strain, the individual’s malaise manifests itself as absenteeism, breakdowns and interruptions in role behaviour, development of verbal and physical reactions as well as imbalances in the individual’s personal and social life. Needless to say, dysfunctional psychophysical conditions in the individual also have consequences for the social and organisational costs of the company.

Nowadays we hear a lot about stress, unfortunately only in its most invasive and debilitating dimension, but basically the stress response was born to allow humans to adapt. Everyone’s levels of resilience to stress are different and so are the ways in which it shows up. We will soon analyse the two methods of measuring stress!

Alice Reggiani


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