STRESS DEFINITIONS FROM STRESS RESEARCHERS
STRESS AND TEN STRESS DEFINITIONS FROM THE STRESS RESEARCHERS
Defining the term stress and choosing a definition of stress can be difficult even for those who are considered experts in the field of stress, stress management and stress relief.
STRESS IS DIFFICULT TO CATEGORIZE
For many of those who study stress, the categorization of stress terms has often remained a complicated process. As stress researcher, Hinkle (1987) explained in his work on Stress and Disease: The Concept after 50 Years that “a difficulty for the study of stress is that the term ‘stress’ has a different meaning for researchers in various disciplines. In the biological literature, it is used in relation to single organisms, populations of organisms, and ecosystems. Biologists refer to things such as heat, cold and inadequate food supply as being sources of stress. Human biologists add to this microbial infection and taking of toxic substances. Social scientists, for their part, are more concerned about people’s interaction with their environment and the resulting emotional disturbance that can sometimes accompany it”.
WORRY, BURDEN, STRAIN AND MORE
For those who are non-experts stress definitions can also be very confusing. When people explain their own stress, this understanding often involves an array of other associated words rather than a simple stress definition.
When people describe the term stress they use words like worry, anxiety, burden, disquiet, dread, hardship, hassle, nervousness, strain, tension, apprehension, misgiving, fearfulness and more. However, what is stressful for one person may have little effect on another person. What feels like a pressure and a burden, causing great anxiety for one person may not be any strain at all on another person.
TEN STRESS DEFINITIONS
Each person’s definition and thinking about the term stress is uniquely personal. But let’s take a look at ten short definitions of stress from the origin of the term and through to those earlier researchers who studied stress.
STRESS DEFINITION ONE – DISTRESS
The word stress itself began as a variant of the term ‘distress’ in the fourteenth century. The medieval term actually meant physical hardship, pain, torture and starvation.
STRESS DEFINITION TWO – PERCEPTION
Hans Selye who is credited as being the modern day father of stress defined stress in 1936 as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Hans Seyle’s stress definition later expanded in 1979 as he explained further that “stress is a ‘perception’. It is the demands that are imposed upon us because there are too many alternatives”.
STRESS DEFINITION THREE – ENVIRONMENTAL DEMANDS
Holyroyd and Lazarus in their research explained in 1982 that “psychological stress requires a judgment that environmental and/or internal demands exceed the individual’s resources for managing them”.
STRESS DEFINITION FOUR – EVENTS
Whereas, Skinner in 1985 defined stress as “a reaction of a particular individual to a stimulus event”.
STRESS DEFINITION FIVE – ADAPTIVE RESPONSES
Later in 1988, Eliot concluded that “stress may be viewed as the body’s response to any real or imagined event perceived as requiring some adaptive response and/or producing strain”.
Then in the 1990s a number of researchers studying stress and stress management developed further useful definitions to increase our understanding of stress terms.
STRESS DEFINITION SIX – UNDERLOAD AND OVERLOAD
In 1990, Steinberg and Ritzmann considered that “stress can be defined as an underload or overload of matter, energy or information input to, or output from, a living system”.
STRESS DEFINITION SEVEN – MAINTAINING EQUILIBRIUM
Later in 1992, Humphrey found that “stress can be considered as any factor, acting internally or externally that makes it difficult to adapt and that induces increased effort on the part of the person to maintain a state of equilibrium both internally and with the external environment”.
STRESS DEFINITION EIGHT – CHALLENGES
The following year in 1993, McEwen and Mendelson explained that “stress is a term for certain types of experiences, as well as the body’s responses to such experiences. The term generally refers to challenges, real or implied, to the homeostatic regulatory process of the organism”.
STRESS DEFINITION NINE – STRESSORS
Further in 1996, Levi in his research concluded that “stress is caused by a multitude of demands (stressors), such as an inadequate fit between what we need and what we are capable of, and what our environment offers and what it demands of us”.
STRESS DEFINITION TEN – NEGATIVE EMOTION
Then in 1998, Roger described stress as a “pre-occupation with the negative emotion following the event”.
TEN DEFINITIONS OF STRESS AND YOU
These ten definitions of the term stress are really just a starting point to understanding and dealing with your own stress. There are numerous other definitions of stress that you can consider and explore in further articles, but for now, ask yourself these questions. What definition of stress is the most relevant for to me? What statement of meaning of the stress term has the greatest clarity for me? What definition provides the greatest representation of the stress in my own life?
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