Stress Management -symptoms of stress - dealing with stress

What is Stress?

Stress is a part of day to day living. As college students you may experience stress meeting academic demands, adjusting to a new living environment, or developing friendships. The stress you experience is not necessarily harmful. Mild forms of stress can act as a motivator and energizer. However, if your stress level is too high, medical and social problems can result.

Although we tend to think of stress as caused by external events, events in themselves are not stressful. Rather, it is the way in which we interpret and react to events that makes them stressful. People differ dramatically in the type of events they interpret as stressful and the way in which they respond to such stress. For example, speaking in public can be stressful for some people and relaxing for others.

Unremitting pressure certainly tests the fault lines that exist in all organisations. Unfortunately, pressure also makes most of us depart from our usual standards of behaviour and, in certain extreme cases, makes unlovable creatures of some people.

The worst facets of certain personalities are on full display and grace goes out through the window when they deal with others. As we move higher in the hierarchy, one of the qualities that needs to be internalised is to be graceful under extreme stress. It helps us behave in a cool and collected fashion and think of solutions to relieve the stress. Equally importantly, it helps calm down those who work with us.

What causes burnout at work and how to tackle it?

A burnout occurs when you reach a state of exhaustion through prolonged stress and you are overwhelmed mentally, physically and emotionally. When experiencing a burnout, you are unable to find pleasure and motivation in going through the work day and fulfilling the role you have chosen for yourself. A lengthy burnout harms your career, personal life and the bottom line of your employer. Here is how you can recognise a burnout and then work to recover or avoid it.

Facts [+]

The unintended costs associated with irregular schedules, night shifts and extended hours are eroding the profits of American businesses, according to a study by Circadian Technologies, Inc. The profit-eroding factors for businesses with shift operations include lower productivity, higher absenteeism, greater employee turnover, increased health care costs, and more job-related accidents.

Demanding schedules, high stress levels, lack of physical activity and poor eating habits has resulted in nearly 72% of the corporate employees become prone to cardiovascular diseases, according to a recent survey conducted by ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) on the occasion of 'World Heart day'. The survey further reveals that night shift workers have 52% more risk than day workers of suffering a stroke or heart attack. People in these working shifts also have higher levels of unhealthy behaviours such as eating junk food, sleeping badly and not exercising, which are linked to heart problems. Inactive lifestyle, lack of exercise and poor eating habits are making millions of urban Indians face a high risk of heart disease.

The survey was able to target corporate employees from 18 broad sectors, with maximum share contributed by employees from IT/ITes and BPO sector (17 per cent). Others include employees from those sectors (consumer durable, construction, energy, healthcare, steel, HR and misc) that have contributed about 1 per cent share in the survey.

Employees working in engineering and telecom sector contributed 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively in the questionnaire. Nearly 6 per cent of the employees belonged from market research/KPO and media background each. Management, FMCG and Infrastructure sector employees share is 5 per cent each, in the total survey. Respondents from power and real estate sector contributed 4 per cent each. Employees from education and food& beverages sector provided a share of 3 per cent each. Advertising, manufacturing and textiles employees offered a share of 2 per cent each in the survey results.

The shift work defined as evening shifts, irregular or unspecified shifts, mixed schedules, night shifts and rotating shifts. The survey also contained day workers or the general population for comparison. Shift work was associated with a 52 per cent increased risk of heart attack, 28 per cent rise in coronary events and 10 per cent extra strokes.

A workplace ethics survey of 1,121 managers and HR professionals, conducted by the Human Resources Institute, found that managers and HR professionals believe the leading factors that cause unethical corporate behavior are: pressure to meet unrealistic business objectives and deadlines, desire to further one's career, and the need to protect one's livelihood.

Recognize the process

Physical: Your first symptoms are unusual tiredness and exhaustion. Either there is no time to eat or sleep or excess of either. That is nature reacting to stress. Soon your health deteriorates and you may experience multiple ailments like headaches, irritable bowels, skin infections and bouts of sickness.

Emotional: If you are a high achiever, this starts with an obsession to prove yourself against other achievers. Small mishaps lead to feelings of failure and self-doubt while successes do not give any added satisfaction. You feel isolated and lonely and then cynical and intolerant.

Behavioural: Unlike the physical and emotional symptoms, change in behaviour is evident to others. Behavioural changes include avoiding social contact for want of time, depending on food, alcohol, tobacco or drugs to cope with stress or avoiding work through procrastination or absence.

Symptoms of Stress

There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice when you are experiencing stress. These signs and symptoms fall into four categories: Feelings, Thoughts, Behavior, and Physiology. When you are under stress, you may experience one or more of the following:


Your burnout is usually a result of a combination of your current job, daily routine and your outlook towards circumstances. At work, if you feel that you have no control over outcomes, you are facing job uncertainty, a demanding environment or are stuck in a monotonous role with no recognition or reward— you could be heading towards a burnout.

Similarly, your lifestyle accelerates a burnout when you spend excessive time at work at the cost of your personal off-time, health and social engagements, lose the emotional support of close relationships and choose to do everything yourself without engaging your team. The highly ambitious and aggressive Type A personalities experience burnouts more often. A need for power, refusal to share the spotlight, need for perfection, reluctance to delegate or a pessimistic attitude results in faster burnouts

Both positive and negative events in one's life can be stressful. However, major life changes are the greatest contributors of stress for most people. They place the greatest demand on resources for coping.

Major Life Changes that can be Stressful

    • Geographic mobility.

    • Going to college.

    • Transfer to a new school.

    • Marriage.

    • Pregnancy.

    • New job.

    • New life style.

    • Divorce.

    • Death of a loved one.

    • Being fired from your job.

    • Time pressure.

    • Competition.

    • Financial problems.

    • Noise.

    • Disappointments.


A burnout is a prolonged process and you could be in that state for months. Thus, your health takes a beating—starting with exhaustion and leading to heart diseases, digestive and circulatory illnesses. At work, your decision-making ability suffers along with reduction in memory and attention resulting in accidents and negative results. Your efficiency drops, making goals and targets impossible to reach.

There is increased cynicism and the resulting doubt and distrust impacts your professional relationships, further damaging outcomes. As the effect of burnout spills into your off time, your relationships suffer. In extreme cases, your burnout increases thoughts of quitting your job as you seek to avoid the situation.

How to Reduce Stress?


At the personal level, choose positive social connections to make a speedy recovery. If you are experiencing a burnout, reach out to friends or loved ones who can provide you with great listening. Venting out, being heard and understood not only relieves stress but also deepens the relationship. A professional counsellor too works in a similar way and can be immensely helpful. At the workplace, avoid negative people and invest in positive relationships. Choose a social cause or a group that interests you to give new meaning to work and build additional social connections.

At the organisational level, as a leader help a colleague recover from a burnout by providing a mentor or manager to serve as a sounding board and recommending professional counselling through HR. Simultaneously address immediate causes of burnout like balancing workload, increasing individual control over outcomes and rewards and providing resources where required.


Preventing a burnout is far better than recovering from one! As a team leader, promote values and processes that both colleagues and the organisation can agree upon. These should relate to individual and teamwork, fairness, reward and control mechanisms. At a personal level, take charge of lifestyle choices and how you look at the world around you. Reassess your priorities to include health and relationships. In your daily routine, schedule in healthy eating habits, daily exercise, adequate sleep and time with loved ones. Take weekly time out to relax, engage in hobbies and switch off from technology.

A healthy and social routine reduces stress. Next, work on your attitude towards your current job and career or switch tracks if that doesn’t help. Find either meaning or enjoyment from tasks that you do—including coffee breaks with colleagues. Additionally, focus on meaning or enjoyment from your non-work life including your family and personal interests. Invest in building professional relationships and not simply transactional ones. . Finding meaning in life and bonding with people is the best way to prevent burnouts.

Many stresses can be changed, eliminated, or minimized. Here are some things you can do to reduce your level of stress:

    • Become aware of your own reactions to stress.

    • Reinforce positive self-statements.

    • Focus on your good qualities and accomplishments.

    • Avoid unnecessary competition.

    • Develop assertive behaviors.

    • Recognize and accept your limits. Remember that everyone is unique and different.

    • Get a hobby or two. Relax and have fun.

    • Exercise regularly.

    • Eat a balanced diet daily.

    • Talk with friends or someone you can trust about your worries/problems.

    • Learn to use your time wisely:

      • Evaluate how you are budgeting your time.

      • Plan ahead and avoid procrastination.

      • Make a weekly schedule and try to follow it.

    • Set realistic goals.

    • Set priorities.

    • When studying for an exam, study in short blocks and gradually lengthen the time you spend studying. Take frequent short breaks.

    • Practice relaxation techniques. For example, whenever you feel tense, slowly breathe in and out for several minutes.

Whether the death of an employee caused due to stress from work can be considered to be death of an employee due to injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment?

In the matter of Divisional Controller, NEKRTC v. Smt. Laxmi, [Misc. First Appeal No.200122/2018(WC) decided on June 25, 2020], the Single Bench of the Karnataka High Court, while relying on a decision of the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court in the matter of National Insurance Company Limited v. Smt. Balawwa, [1993 (2) Karnataka Law Journal 406 (DB)], held that, if a person suffers a heart attack caused due to the stress and strain of the job and dies, it necessarily means that, there has been an injury to the heart and that event, being a mishap not expected or designed, is an accident, and that if a workman suffers heart attack out of and in the course of his employment, then the same amounts to employment injury and the employer is liable to pay compensation under Section 3 (Employer's liability for compensation) read with Section 4 (Amount of compensation) of the Employee's Compensation Act.

Similarly, in the matter of United India Insurance Company Limited v. Narinder Kour, [MA No.51/2018 with IA Nos. 1, 2 and 3 of 2018 decided on August 21, 2020], the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, by relying on the decision of its Co-ordinate Bench in the matter of United India Insurance Company Limited v. Inder Jeet Kour, [MA No.636/2010], held that the word 'accident' is not a technical legal term with a clearly defined meaning. An accident means any unintended and unexpected occurrence which produces hurt or loss. Only because a death has taken place in the course of employment, it will not amount to an accident. The court thus, enumerated the following principles in order to identify if there was an accident:

(1) There must be a causal connection between the injury and the accident and the work done in the course of employment.

(2) The onus is upon the applicant to show that it was the work and the resulting strain that contributed to or aggravated the injury.

(3) If the evidence brought on record establishes a greater probability which satisfies a reasonable man that the work contributed to the causing of personal injury, it would be enough for the workman to succeed, but the same would depend upon the facts of each case.

Supreme Court of India says employer/boss cannot be held responsible if employee commits suicide due to work pressure.

Read judgment below

The Supreme Court of India in its ruling on a suicide case said that a senior employee cannot be held responsible for the death of his junior because of stress at work. The case belong to the death of Kishor Parashar, a Maharashtra government employee, who committed suicide in the month of August 2017. Setting aside the argument put forth by the Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench, the Supreme Court of India said there's insufficient evidence which could suggest it as a case of abetment to suicide. The apex court, however, said there can be a "room" for Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code if a suicide-like situation is created deliberately.

Kishor's wife had complained to the police of Aurangabad after his death, accusing the deputy director of education for forcing him to work overtime and even on holidays. She had alleged the senior officail/officer mentally tortured her husband and created extreme working conditions, following which he decided to end his life. She also accused the official for stopping her late husband's salary as well as threatening not to give him increment. Following the complaint, the local police lodged an FIR against the said official, who later moved the local bench of the Bombay High Court for quashing of the FIR.

The Bombay High Court on January 23 decided that the FIR could not be quashed and that the case could come under the Section 306 of the IPC. The HC, in its observation, gave two arguments. The court said though the senior officer didn't have any such intention, cases wherein victims are deliberately forced to work under extreme conditions which forced them to take extreme step can come under the abetment of suicide.

The senior officer who approached the Supreme Court of India after the Bombay High Court observation got a relief after the Supreme Court bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit termed the lower court observation as untenable and rejected the FIR. "It is true that if a situation is created deliberately so as to drive a person to commit suicide, there would be room for attracting Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to suicide). However, the facts on record in the present case are inadequate and insufficient (to reach that conclusion)," the Supreme Court observed (Order dated May 17, 2018). Maharashtra government's standing counsel Nishant Katneswarkar had appealed to the SC that the case should be dismissed as the senior officer had no intention to force the victim to commit suicide.

Supreme Court says employer or boss cannot be held responsible if employee commits suicide due to work pressure_Judgement_17-May-2018.pdf

What is causing Stress in the current COVID’19 in any scenario or even setup including the corporate sector?

Trishna Patnaik,

The situations and pressures that cause stress are commonly known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or even a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can tend to be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or even receiving a promotion.

Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be very internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, illogical and pessimistic thoughts about life most of the time. These internal thought patterns are affecting all of us in the current COVID’19 crisis. We need to control our internal thought patterns and our mood swings in order to overcome stress in the current situation we all are in.

It is affecting people of all walks of life including people in the corporate sector. More importance has been given on work considering a person cannot do much in this crisis situation. So that undue prominence is making people more unstable than ever before. The sight of balance has gone for a toss considering the parameters of the new ‘normal’ are skewing the weighing scale towards unpredictability, non-productivity and uncertainty in the workplace and even otherwise.

Finally, what causes stress depends, at least in some way on your perception of the same. Something that is stressful to you may not frighten away someone else; they may even enjoy it a lot. While some of us are terrified of coming up in front of people to perform or speak, for example, others live for the spotlight. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate to a certain unprecedented degree.

Common external causes of stress include:

    • Major life changes- This is something which is the highlight of the present COVID’19 crisis

    • Work or school

    • Relationship difficulties

    • Financial problems

    • Being too busy

    • Children and family

Common internal causes of stress include (most of these or all of these are affecting us during the COVID’19 crisis):

    • Pessimism

    • Inability to accept uncertainty

    • Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility

    • Negative self-talk

    • Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism

    • All-or-nothing attitude

Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include the following (This is something which can be applied in times of the COVID’19 crisis or even otherwise):

Improvise on your support network

A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.

Work towards a sense of control

If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it is easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your life—that you are at the mercy of your environment and circumstances—stress is more likely to knock you off course.

Determine your attitude and even outlook

The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If you are generally hopeful and optimistic, you will be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humour, believe in a higher purpose, and tend to accept change as an inevitable part of life.

Have an ardent ability to deal with your emotions

If you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you are feeling sad, angry, or troubled, you are more likely to become stressed and agitated. Having the ability to identify and deal appropriately with your emotions can increase your tolerance towards stress and help you bounce back from adversity.

Work tremendously on your knowledge and preparation

The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope with. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less stressful than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately from the same.

Improve your ability to handle stress by incorporating the following in the COVID’19 Crisis:

    • Get moving/ Get some Exercise

    • Connect with others/ Positive Influencers

    • Engage your senses completely

    • Learn to relax

    • Follow a healthy diet

    • Get your doze of rest

Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai. -

How Can Stress Improve the Quality of Our Life?

-Rilind Elezaj

If you are like many people, you only associate stress with negative things such as depression, weakened immune system, and fatal diseases such as heart attack and high blood pressure. But did you know that there is a positive side of stress? I know that this is hard to believe but trust me, it is scientifically proven.

Before you disagree, though, have you ever been stressed out in an exam room because a question was too tough for your liking? How did your brain respond? Were you challenged and motivated- at the same time- to think harder and focus more on your subsequent exams? Well, if you answered yes, then you definitely have benefited from stress, one way or another. However, the benefits of stress are evident, alright, but it is only if you don’t let it get out of hand. That is why you need to contact a life coach whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress.

It is safe to say that if stress isn’t chronic yet, then it could have more benefits than harm. Here are 5 more benefits of stress that you probably take for granted.

  1. Boosting memory

Small chunks of stress can help you memorize more content than you usually do. This is because when your mind registers that you are overwhelmed by a particular task, nothing will ever erase that memory from you. And when you finally get a solution to the challenge, the solution sticks to your brain. So when you are faced by a similar challenge later in life, you will have an easier time solving it.

2. Signaling danger

A stressful scenario causes your body to release chemicals such as cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, all of which prepares your body for a fight. Also, these hormones shock the body and force it to react swift in pursuit of safety. That is why, too much stress can cause heart attack and blood pressure. In the case of short-lived stress, however, the flight and fight response can be a lifesaver. Think of a case where you are on the verge of being hit by a car but due to the sudden stress, your body subconsciously jumps out of harm.

3. Boosts your immune system

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and they definitely are right. Good or bad stress increases the rate in which your heart pumps blood. Bad stress will lead to heart diseases and high blood pressure. But if you experience small nuggets of stress, the heart gets used to the fluctuations in its pumping rate. Your body also develops a thick skin against high blood pressure. In the long run, the stress fortifies your immune system.

Stress also excites your body’s immune cells and sets them out into your bloodstream in readiness for whichever danger caused the stress. That means an increased immune mechanism, though short-lived.

4. Raises efficiency

If you are working on a 2-hour deadline, for example, you definitely get stressed out because you fear that you won’t deliver. Then just when you are at the peak of your woes, the boss calls to tell you that you need to deliver the best quality and for some reason, you must complete the job within an hour. Because you don’t want to lose your job, you rush through the assignment and at the same manage to deliver an almost perfect result. If you think about it, stress forced you to be twice as efficient as you previously thought you were.

Also in sports- soccer, for example- a team that trails by one goal towards the end of the game tends to attack more and with greater precision than they did for the entire game. That state of urgency and stress forces the players to pull out their A game.

5. Increasing your brainpower

Working under unavoidable, moderate stress increases your focus on the task at hand. That added concentration stimulates your brain’s short-term psychological stressors so you learn more within a shorter period of time. The stressors force your brain to process more information per minute.

As a matter of fact, a mother who experiences mild stress during pregnancy is more likely to give birth to a kid with immense brain power than a mom who was never stressed at ll. Don’t get it twisted, though; too much stress to a pregnant woman can negatively affect the unborn kid.

HR needs to be like The Krishna amidst the COVID-19 crisis

Trishna Patnaik,

HR needs to be The Krishna in order to enable, motivate, prioritise and guide people as well as the organizations.

The current pandemic has hit us with the realization that, nothing lasts forever, not our strengths and not our weaknesses. More so not even the challenges and the threats, we concur. Organizationally nothing lasts in a concrete form -no structures, no processes, no streamlining and no frameworks! We are living in a world where no gurus, no prophets and no evangelists can predict the very future.

As an HR community, we need to be like Krishna. On the Kurukshetra battlefield, Krishna is the primary one that enables, motivates, and guides. That is the role that HR needs to play in these times of crisis!

However, unlike the Mahabharata, there are no guarantees, there are no commitments, and there are no mandates. While the pandemic may have an expiry date, nobody knows how long and how much the impact will eventually be! Every day is a new day for sure. Decisions will be dynamically changed, payrolls will also change categorically, and this will happen almost every day.

Here are a few recommendations to navigate this COVID battlefield:

  • Embrace unpredictability and changeability: Like Ram did when he was about to be crowned the king and, unexpectedly, with no prior communication or warning or preparedness, he was sent for an exile to the forest!

  • Acknowledge vulnerability: It is fine not to know; it is OK to change a taken stand. Facts change almost every day, so will decisions too!

  • Manage and cascade through the extremes in a continuum: Be like Arjuna and build on both the focus and as well as the perspectives. Pre-COVID 19, perspectives were required for the leaders, while the emphasis was needed at the very front line. Today we need both of them uni-vocally. The second extreme is between the safety and starvation (livelihood) that is the continuum between staying at home safely and going out to earn our income!

  • Happily... Yes, But Not Necessarily Ever After: The hand (karma), heart (bhakti), and head (gyan), they work well together not so if treated independently. The hand serves the doing, the action, the operating through the why (perspective), and the how (focus). The second critical element is about balancing the action with our emotion emerging from our very heart! Specifically targeting the emotion of fear and insecurity, so while doing and propagating through things, we need to be aware of the fear and insecurity. The final element, the head, the intellect only comes in last, for a particular job once we have sufficient clarity and have taken care of the emotions!

In conclusion, the world in 2020 would need to display and showcase more "generosity" in general. The ability to pay going forward and the potential ability to keep relationships even and smooth when the going is getting way too tough!

Generosity starts from all the shareholders, the boards, gets translated towards decisions and more so on how such decisions are finally implemented! You can possibly break a contract, but do not break a long lasting relationship.

"Do everything you have to do, but not with ego, not with lust, not with envy but with love, compassion, humility, and devotion." – Lord Krishna