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Understand what stress is and how to deal with it.

Stress - definition and symptoms

Stress – definition

Stress is defined by three elements that one necessarily encounters, although arranged in a variable way:

  • the stressor or the source: It is a physical, mental, social or emotional stimulus, forcing the patient to adjust. This stimulus can be positive or negative, exceptional or constant. The source of stress can also be physiological (medication, injury, illness, etc.)

  • reaction to stress: these are physiological reactions which correspond to the subject’s reaction to the stressful situation (increased heart rate, constriction of blood vessels, adrenaline spike). If these reaction mechanisms persist, they can lead to physiological and psychological discomfort in the subject which corresponds to the symptoms of stress.

  • attitude: the subject’s reaction to the source of stress is related to the intensity of the message sent by the brain to the endocrine glands. The patient will react more or less intensely depending on its perception of the stress stimulus.


Symptoms of stress

There are many symptoms of stress. There are three types:

  • physical symptoms: muscle tension, digestive problems, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, sleep disturbances [link]…

  • mental and emotional symptoms: restlessness, anxiety, reduced libido, difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety…

  • behavioural symptoms: negative perception of events and reality, isolation, relationship difficulties, increased consumption of tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and substances …

Stress - key figures

Although there is little data available on stress in general, there are, however, several studies on stress at work.
In 2017, according to a study by the Observatory of Stress, it is estimated that 24% of employees in France are in a state of hyper stress (i.e. too high, having an impact on health), with real variability according to activity sectors. The health, entertainment, services and financial sectors had the highest percentages.
It is also estimated that around 52% of employees have a high level of anxiety. 16% of them may suffer from anxiety disorders.
Finally, 2% of employees surveyed had a high level of depression, 6% of these subjects being probably depressed.
The cost of work stress in France is estimated at more than 3 billion euros (source: INRS) and affects 4 out of 10 employees. Women are slightly more affected than men. In addition, non-managerial employees present more depressive manifestations than managers (31% of high depressive level versus 27%).

The causes of stress

Stress is triggered by situations that the subject perceives as dangerous. In adolescents or children, it can appear when confronted with violent, abusive or conflictual situations (example: parental divorce).

In adults, stressors are more related to daily life and work. Stress in adults can also be linked to an underlying anxiety state.

Finally, exposure to traumatic situations can be a source of chronic stress. There are acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What treatments for stress?

As a first resort, subjects suffering from stress are recommended to use relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, well-being guides, adjustment of daily routine to reduce stressors …

A doctor’s consultation is then necessary, if the symptoms of stress are accompanied by those of depression or if the state of anxiety pervades everyday life.