Ana María Egido: "The work environment is one of the main sources of stress"
Stress is a complex and multi-causal phenomenon It affects many individuals, and it is not surprising with the pace of life of Western societies. Stress is a reaction, manifested as a mental fatigue that appears as a result of some demands or performance that we can endure, and can cause health problems not only at a psychological level, but also physically.
- Related article: "Types of stress and its triggers"
Interview with Ana María Egido, psychologist expert in stress
From Psychology and Mind we want to approach this topic with a psychologist expert in stress. This is Ana María Egido, a psychotherapist at El Prado Psychologists, one of the most important clinics in Madrid.
Jonathan García-Allen: Good morning, Ana. Stress is considered one of the great evils of our time, but what is stress and what differentiates it from anxiety?
Ana María Egido: Stress is an automatic and natural response of the body that occurs in situations that are threatening or that constitute a challenge for the person. Therefore, stress is an adaptive response that depends on the demands of the situation as well as the interpretation of the person in terms of resources and capabilities to cope.
If the person interprets the situation as a challenge, that is, interprets that he has the resources and capacities to face it and that his achievement will have positive and motivating results for her, the stress is considered positive and is called with the term: "euutrés" .
On the contrary, if the situation overflows the person (overload, lack of time, lack or lack of resources and capabilities to deal with it) or it interprets that it will have negative consequences for it, it is called: "distés".
Although the terms anxiety and stress have certain common components, they are really different processes. On the one hand, anxiety is an emotion that arises from a possible threat, it is an automatic reaction and the person lives as unpleasant. However, stress is a more global response, it is rather a process that allows us to adapt to the demands or challenges of our environment.
Among the reactions that occur in the stress response may be anxiety, but there may also be other reactions: joy, anger, sadness, etc.
What are the main causes of stress?
According to numerous studies, the main causes of stress can be: natural catastrophes, loss of a loved one, economic problems, overload and lack of satisfaction at work, problems in personal relationships, separation or divorce, lack of free time or poor management of time, preparing a wedding, the birth of a child, obsessing about perfection ...
What symptoms indicate that a person suffers stress?
The stress response has three manifestation ways, therefore, the symptoms can be of a different nature. Symptoms at physiological level we find: increase of the respiratory frequency, increase of the arterial tension, increase of the cardiac frequency, greater tension and energetic support in the muscles (glucose and acids in the blood), dilation of the pupils (greater visibility), weakened immune system, decreased sexual response, fatigue or exhaustion, among others.
The second way of manifestation of stress symptoms is at the cognitive level, this translates into: memory loss, lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, nervousness, etc.
Finally, the third way by which it can manifest is behavioral level and refers to the consequences of stress in the family, social and work environment. Among the symptoms of this level we can find: avoiding situations that produce fear, smoking, eating or drinking excessively, isolation, unrest, crying, etc.
The wear it produces can be felt in different aspects of our quality of life. What effects or consequences does stress have on our health?
As we said at the beginning of the interview, stress is a response or a process by which we adapt to the challenges of the environment in which we live, therefore, our body is biologically prepared to live stress responses throughout our lifetime.
Therefore, there are no irreversible consequences for our health, unless this type of stress responses are sustained over time and are exaggerated or excessive responses.In that case you can differentiate between acute stress diseases (rashes, acne, headaches, muscle aches, digestive problems, difficulty breathing or chest pain, etc) and chronic stress diseases (anxiety, depression, addictions, insomnia, colitis nervosa, migraines, sexual disorders, hypertension, myocardial infarction, etc.).
What differentiates acute stress from chronic stress? Which is more harmful?
Acute stress refers to situations in which the person faces challenges in a brief and intense, are situations in which we have to develop a solution response suddenly, obvious, easy to identify and generally reversible.
However, chronic stress refers to the exposure of the person to stressful agents for long periods of time (months or even years), many times they are stressors that go completely unnoticed because they are part of our routine (they are not so intense or easy to identify) and that are much more dangerous to our health, often causing diseases of a more permanent, serious and, sometimes, irreversible.
In the work environment we speak of "burnout" or burning syndrome, but what is it exactly?
The burnout syndrome refers to a type of chronic work stress. This type of syndrome occurs especially in professions that deal directly with people (health personnel, teaching professionals, public service positions, etc.).
Its main characteristics are feeling physically and mentally exhausted, progressive demotivation when performing work and loss of empathy and interest in people. It is a dangerous syndrome that must be detected as soon as possible to be able to put the appropriate means as soon as possible, it constitutes a serious injury both for the person who suffers it and his family, as well as for the company and people that he attends in his day to day.
I have read on your website that, in the Prado Psicólogos, you have designed a program to reduce stress, what is it?
Our program to reduce stress is designed to be carried out in approximately 10 sessions. Although we follow a previously prepared plan, we always adapt to the needs and demands of each person. We begin with a work of education in emotions, explaining to the person what is specifically stress, helping him to identify the situations or people that trigger it in his case and the symptoms by which it manifests itself.
Once we know well the causes and symptoms in your particular case, we elaborate an intervention plan to avoid its appearance and minimize and reduce its adverse effects. For this, we have a type of psychological treatment that combines innovative techniques among which stand out, techniques of organization and time management, sleep hygiene techniques, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, creative visualization and relaxation, mindfulness, etc.
Our program is designed for both work stress and for people who suffer stress in their personal lives.
Do you also offer a stress reduction program for companies?
Yes it is. We are aware that currently the work environment is one of the main sources of stress and we believe it is very important to help both companies and workers to manage and manage this issue in a professional and rigorous way. This type of programs contributes to the well-being and health of the workers as well as to the increase of the yield and the productivity, reducing at the same time the absenteeism (one of the main consequences of the labor stress).
What advice would you give our readers to prevent the occurrence of this phenomenon?
There are many things we can do in our day to day life to prevent stress from becoming dangerous to our health and well-being.
First of all, we have to read about what stress really is and not scare us, since it is a response that allows us to survive, adapt to our environment and manage to solve the challenges we encounter (both positive and negative) .
In order to prevent or minimize its adverse effects, I recommend following several tips.
First of all, the search for social support, the support of loved ones close to us is one of the best ways to alleviate the negative effects of stress. The importance of social support has been demonstrated through different studies on the subject. In the same way, in our social relations we must learn to say no.
It is also essential to organize and manage our time. Many times we are overloaded and many others do not use time properly, it is appropriate to release the requirement and know our limitations of time and space while devoting a few minutes a day to program in a balanced way our tasks and time for rest.
It is important to laugh, to laugh out loud. Laughter is health, helps generate positive moods, increases our internal strength.It is a medicine available to everyone and without side effects.
On the other hand, I also recommend looking for moments a day in which, for a few minutes, we can breathe deeply in a quiet place where nobody bothers us.
In addition, it is good to listen to relaxing music and enjoy nature, take a walk in a park or, if you have the possibility, along the shore of the sea or a river. Find an accessible place for you where you can connect with nature and feel all the stimuli that you find in your path (listen to the sounds, observe the different landscapes, also use the touch and smell to fully nourish that place) .
Another tip: take a hot bath, not a quick shower, but a bath or shower with all your senses and knowing that this moment is providing you with the calm and well-being you need.
Finally, practice your hobbies: read, cook, play sports, sing, dance, etc. Whatever your hobby, do it with full attention.