Understanding Stress in Life and at Work: Myths, Facts and Means of Walking out of it.


Stress in the context of organizational psychology has been defined “as a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, demand, or resource related to what the individual desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important.” (Luthans, 2007). An expansion of the last definition brings us to some important questions. What is stress? Is organizational stress different from daily life stress? Can we weave a life for ourselves where we are so-called stress-free? How to know that one is unable to cope with stress? In what ways does stress dampen sexual behaviour and experiences? This article makes an attempt to answer some of these questions.

What exactly is Stress?

Understanding Stress

To put simply, stress is a condition or unpleasant feeling experienced when a person perceives that the ‘demands’ faced by an individual exceed the personal and social resources that one has to deal with it. During stress, one may feel strained by “physical, mental, or emotional tension” (American institute of stress, 2021). Some amount of stress is known to enable us in moving towards our desirable goal, be it personal or professional. It sort of sets us in a momentum for change and adaptation which is healthy for everyone.

However, stress has a setup point, pretty much like the boiling point of water. Beyond that set point, it leads to clinically significant physiological and psychological outcomes. This set-point varies from person to person. The stress hormones pumping through our body usually encourage us to either fight or flight or freeze to cope with the overload. It depletes one’s healthy emotional reserves and definitely impacts sexual behaviour as well. High-stress hormones floating in our body don’t leave much room for closeness with our partners, and slowly but surely, the sexual interest, intimacy, desires and involvement starts to wither away. Another rare manifestation of acute stress in some people may be uncontrollable hypersexuality as a compensatory mechanism to seek relieves stress, coupled with low sexual satisfaction, distress and guilt. Hypersexuality shows up as ‘recurring and uncontrollable sexual fantasies’ and leads to difficulty in establishing and maintaining a relationship with a stable romantic partner because of their preoccupation with sex. It may sometimes also lead to promiscuity and infidelity in relationships. Not only sexual but other social, interpersonal and psychological behaviours may also alter due to stress. So when one is stressed out, it may be hard for a person to deal with anything other than self or the source of stress.

Stressors impacting sexual functioning may be of two kinds:

a) Major life events i.e., death of a loved one, separation, loss of job /bankruptcy etc.

b) Minor daily life events which are in the form of an ‘accumulation of small stressors’ that are constantly or frequently present, such as deadlines that never seem to be met, constant arguments with a partner, financial risks etc.

Researchers opine that it is these ‘daily hassles’, and not ‘major life events, that were more linked to sexual difficulties (Kanner,1981). The negative interaction between chronic stress and sexual functioning may extend to reproductive functioning, fecundability and fertility in both men and women. These factors taken together as a whole may lower the quality of life and sexual and relational satisfaction.

It is a common myth that “stress should be eradicated from our lives, all together”.  It’s not so. Stress appears to be a normal aspect and to an extent a healthy and evitable part of one’s life. It can lead to healthy self-growth as well. Learning ways to cope with it i.e., to “modify its magnitude and multi-system effects or become resilient to it” would be more a realistic ideology.

The sources of stress can be numerous. In the organizational context, work stress may be attributed to factors such as Intrinsic job requirements (work pattern, timing, duration, pressure, shift, new challenges), structure (physical space, climate, temperature, discomfort, consistency, transfers),  job roles (transitions, conflicts, poor differentiation of roles, ambiguity, unpredictability), growth (lack of opportunities, security, promotions, incentives, recognition, perks), interpersonal relations (with authority, peers, juniors, in teams, communication styles, responsibility allocation/taking, coordination, political, threat, domination) and intrapersonal factors (personality, temperament, belief systems, cognitive style, stereotypes, socio-cultural, developmental etc) (Luthans, 2007). In the latter context, organizational stress may take the form of daily stressors, interacting in complex fashions within a person.

How one responds to stress is an interesting variable. Just like sources of Stress, a person’s response to stress too can be acute or chronic. Acute Stress-induced ‘fight or flight or freeze reactions help to defend and built immediate protective strategies against problems. Our body takes about 90 minutes for the metabolism to return to normal. This is only when the acute response is over. The mind may still keep responding to ‘what happened to me, how and why for much longer periods of time.

Sometimes stress becomes ongoing and evolves into chronic stress. Longstanding uncontrolled stress has the opposite effect. It causes significant wear and tears to several systems such as respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrinal, Musculoskeletal, neurological, dermatological, immunological, sexual and reproductive etc.  Some of the bio-behavioural outcomes of stress may be persistent or progressive complaints of headaches, fatigability, insomnia, lethargies, worsening of psychosomatic illnesses, irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, loneliness, frustration, emptiness, avoidance, lack of enthusiasm, self-negligence,   unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, vulnerability, worrying, crying spells, death wishes, recourse into addictive behaviours, digital addictions,  interpersonal dissatisfactions, emotional outbursts, sexual dysfunctions and frequent relational disputes.

Stress response at a psychological level keeps evolving as we grow, with both new learning and experiences. It can be easily unlearnt and re-learnt. This means that, once we get aware of our maladaptive behaviours, we can unlearn them and turn towards more adaptive as well as healthy means of coping. A healthy stress response aids in building psychological resilience and physical recovery. It helps the biological capacity to cope with a cascade of acute and chronic stress effects.

How to Cope With Stress?

How to cope with stress

Some of the easy ways of coping with stress could be:

  • Firstly, working on personal loopholes, avoidance, minimization, excessive blaming, fantasies and denial of real issues.
  • Secondly, set some time aside each day for an unbiased self-reflective practice. The idea for the same becomes identifying one’s agendas, sources, intensity and outcomes of stress and checking effective or ineffective means of dealing with it. One may take help from trustworthy peers, friends, mentors, parents, and spouses, to do the same.
  • Third could be building healthy boundaries from stress and preventing oneself from overbooking.
  • Another strategy is balancing circadian rhythm disturbances by adopting healthy eating, adequate hygiene, grooming, dressing, nutrition, hydration, a combination of physical exercises, and relaxing and healthy sleep regimens.

Additionally, de-cluttering the mind may help. It involves re-organizing ones living environment to have a clean, fresh, arranged, aerated physical space, journalizing one’s experiences, ditching technology and reducing screen time and substituting it with other joyous activities. At times going minimalistic on self/others’ demands and doing “nothing at all” for a while also can be really helpful. Reconnecting with nature via soothing activities can also have an excellent mood-regulating effect.

Needless to say, if stress-induced symptoms are continuous for two to three weeks and are significant to cause distress or disturbances in one’s interpersonal, intimate life or socio-occupational activities, then this is a red-light situation. It warrants a general medical check-up and psychological evaluation.

In the words of the popular American author and psychotherapist Richard Carlson, “Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness”. It is probably less stigmatizing and illusionary to disclose oneself as “stressed or worked up” and resort to cures for the same. Any situation/event can be the starting point of a new journey and opportunity. Seizing it can open the path to transformative growth for any individual.


1. American institute of stress (2022) Stress research retrieved from

2.Luthans F, Youssef CM. Emerging positive organizational behaviour. Journal of management. 2007 Jun;33(3):321-49.

  1. Kanner AD, Coyne JC, Schaefer C, Lazarus RS. Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. J Behav Med. 1981;4:1–39.

Author Profile: Dr Ansha Patel (Bach, Masters, MPhil, PhD Clinical & Reproductive Psychology, Postdoc fellow) is a consultant clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, researcher, scientific advisor and columnist. She is affiliated with the Dept. of Psychiatry and Psychology at RNT medical college, Shantiraj and Paras hospitals, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. She is pursuing her fellowship at MAHE, FAIMER, Manipal, Karnataka. She specializes in Behavior Medicine, Adult and Women’s Mental Health. She is trained in evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapies and mindfulness-based interventions. She is also a scientific advisor to Vyana sparcolife digital fertility solutions and a peer-reviewer for indexed scientific journals published by Springler Nature, Elsevier, Wolter Kluwer, Taylor Francis and Sage groups. She is a freelancing columnist for Reproductive health club magazine & TARSHI. Profile:,, 

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Expert Advice on How to Deal with Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the Corona outbreak in the country is at its peak, it is rather difficult for some people to maintain their sanity during these testing times. It is natural for anyone to feel elevated levels of depression and anxiety during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to social isolation. Physicians and other frontline health care workers are especially vulnerable to detrimental mental health outcomes when they try to reconcile the responsibility of caring for patients with questions for their own health and well-being.

The lockdown days and the impact of COVID-19 have been adverse on us, and some of you might feel both physically and mentally exhausted. However, a few of us would criticize for raising mental health issues since it is not that consequential for them. We say you block out those people from your lives, pronto, and start taking care of yourself mentally!

A Weekend Read: Conversation with Dr. Sushil Kherada about Mental Health During COVID-19 in Udaipur

These times are depressing for sure, so we got in touch with a mental health expert, Dr. Sushil Kherada. He is a senior professor and head of the department in RNT Medical college, department of psychiatry, and we connected with him live on our platform. Let’s hear out the experts’ thoughts on the issue of mental health among the people.

People have different perceptions about mental health and don’t tend to give it much importance. What are your thoughts on the same, and what can you tell us about mental health?

“A healthy body comes with a healthy mind, and vice versa”, says Dr. Sushil when asked about the burgeoning issue of mental health during the pandemic in our country. There is a chemical reaction in your body to every negative thought you have, and studies have found that poor mental health conditions also lead to deadly diseases such as Cancer. A person cannot be productive or, say, can actively contribute to the lifestyle if he or she is not mentally healthy, which is why it is quite unfortunate that people don’t give much importance to mental health.

Sadly, people who are experiencing stress or exhaustion often don’t recognize the reason behind their inability to perform the mundane tasks and are afraid of taking help from a Mental Health Expert. Only 25-30% of the total number of people experiencing mental health issues tend to reach expert help. The Indian society calls mental health patients “Insane” or “Mad”, which makes it hard for them to cope with their issues.

How many people do you think are aware of the issue or concept of Mental Health in Udaipur?

People experiencing fever or cough would consult their physician immediately, but those undergoing mental health issues would not be that enthusiastic about reaching a Mental Health Expert. 75% of individuals do not tend to reach for mental care or help due to society’s preconceived notions about the same. It is especially important to bridge the gap between the mental health patients and get the right help so that more and more patients can get the right treatment in our city and beyond. This can only happen if people start accepting that poor mental health also makes a person unfit or sick.

People have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 Pandemic; they have to hassle for fulfilling even the mundane or daily chores, affecting their mental health. So, how do you suggest a common man can cope with the current situation?

Social media is full of news about the Coronavirus, and in today’s age, news travels faster on social media than any other platform. “I would call the current situation an Infodemic rather than Pandemic because there is a flood of both accurate and inaccurate information on the social media platforms, which is a major cause of panic among the masses”, says Dr. Kherada. Media plays an important role in keeping the population sane by forwarding positive and accurate news to avoid fear and fallacy. Boredom, frustration, irritation, hopelessness, isolation, anxiety, depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), suicide, etc., are some reactions that are commonly identified in people due to confinement in their homes during the lockdown.

Many patients suffering from Coronavirus are in home isolation, and their family is afraid to go near them, so how do you suggest overcoming this fear and panic?

Staying positive should be the topmost priority to gain strength to overcome this phase. Following the right information and taking the necessary precautions will help people to overcome the fear. “Maintain Social Distancing, not Emotional Distancing. Be emotionally available, talk to your friends, family members, neighbours, etc. and be in touch with them virtually”, says Dr. Sushil. Set a routine, try out new things, indulge yourself with your hobbies, and do yoga or exercise to keep yourself busy. It will help you take away your mind from the rising fear and panic in the country. Love and compassion towards the patients and each other are the keys to fighting this pandemic and keeping you mentally fit and healthy.

What impact do you think the COVID-19 Pandemic would have on us in the future? Can it create more and new mental health issues in the near future?

A key to overcome mental illness is to prepare the person to fight upcoming challenges effectively. Thus, we need to prepare ourselves to fight these issues with patience and empathy. “The current phase is a test for us to become a better citizen, a better person for our family and close ones. So, let’s utilize this time to change your life for the better”, says Dr. Sushil.

How can students and employees working from home overcome the feeling of helplessness and depression and be mentally fit?

People often say that “I am busy and don’t have time for any additional things”, so this is your time to do what you love. Be it a hobby or a new thing that you wanted to learn for a long time but couldn’t get time to do so, this is your chance to actually practice those things.

How to deal with anxiety and procrastination?

There are some relaxation exercises that you can practice to reduce anxiety. Changing our mindset can be a great help to fight anxiety.

Inner peace and motivation are low during the time of lockdown. What do you suggest our viewers can do to cope with the same?

Lack of spiritual values can be a factor that leads to a lack of inner peace. Meditation and indulging yourself in positive activities can be helpful to motivate yourself. Reducing anger, balancing your life, and not feeling competitive towards your peers can help you gain inner peace.

Coming to an end to our conversation with Dr. Sushil, the foremost thing we have learnt is to reduce our fear and panic caused by COVID-19 by being positive and hopeful. The conversation has been very enlightening and valuable for people who are experiencing mental health issues. Hope you find the suggestions and recommendations helpful, and start prioritizing your mental health first!