Impact of Stress on Health and Well-being of the Individual

The objective of this assignment is to define holistic and define stress, and discuss the impact of stress on the health and wellbeing of an individual. Firstly the writer will look at holistic approaches and define stress. The writer will also look at how stress effects the individually biologically, psychologically and sociologically. Finally the writer will discuss approaches to managing stress.

The term “Holistic or Holism” derives from the Greek word meaning entire, whole, total. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursing (2014) defines “Holistic” as an approach to patient care in which the psychological, physiological and social factors of the patient’s condition are taken into account, rather than just the diagnosed disease. Holistic medicine is not a separate medical or treatment method, but it is an alternative philosophy regarding the approach to health. This holistic nursing approach originated in the United States of America and was formally introduced to the United Kingdom in 1977 and was seen as an alternative approach nursing rather than the traditional orientated task approach. Florence Nightingale herself encouraged holistic care; she recognised how important the environment and a multi directional approach was, rather than a one- dimensional therapy process.

According to Dossey (2008) Health is a multifaceted complex concept, it relates to an individual’s well-being in a given environment, and is defined by pathology and the traditional biomedical health approach, holistic care looks at treating the underlying causes and not just the superficial ones. Barker (2004) also states the holistic model of care is widely accepted in the field of nursing, it favours a comprehensive in-depth assessment of entirety rather than the medical approach which just studies the disease in the patient.

The holistic care approach takes into consideration all the persons individual psychological, sociological and mental health needs. Every man, women and child consists of a body and mind, and any changes in a person’s life will eventually cause changes in their existence. Aggleton and Chalmers (2000) describe holism as the fundamental wholeness of human beings. Hogston and Simpson (1999) define the holistic nursing process as a systematic problem solving framework that enables the nurse to plan care accordingly targeting the specific needs of the individual. The holistic approach has two focal factors.

The first factor treats the individual as a separate entity, secondly the holistic approach analyses the psychosomatic approach of a disease and magnifies it by putting the patient in a specific time, along with their needs and quality of life. Alfaro-LeFevre (1998) described the holistic nursing process as a five stage framework comprising of:

  • Assessment: to collect data regarding health status and monitor for evidence of health problems.
  • Diagnosis: to identify actual and potential health issues.
  • Planning: to determine therapeutic interventions and achievable goals.
  • Implementation: to put plans into action and observe response.
  • Evaluation: to assess the outcomes, to check if goals have been achieved or whether changes need to be made.

A holistic approach to health makes prevention vitally important as finding a cure, this continuous model of care can extend over an individual’s life. The holistic approach drives to manipulate fundamental determinants of health that occur and this offers an upstream attack on threats to health. This may be the best approach and outcome in coping with the unhealthy lifestyles and the ageing and longevity of life in the population in the 21


century. These determinants contribute to a rise in stress, which can contribute to a rise in other diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and other long standing mental health problems. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursing defines stress as “any factor that threatens the health of the body or has an adverse effect on its functioning, such as injury, disease, overwork, or worry. Constant stress brings about changes in the balance of hormones in the body. Selye (1976) describes stress as a unifying concept; it is a non-specific response to a huge variety of stimuli.

According to Edwards and Cooper (1988) stress should be discussed in terms of stimuli, responses and the relationship between them. Stress is actually part of modern life; at times it may become a useful tool and serve a purpose. Stress can motivate you for promotion at work, or push you to run that last mile of a marathon. Nevertheless if you lose control and don’t get to grips with your stress, it can become a long-term problem and it can have a severe detrimental effect and interfere with your job, family life, and health. The causes of stress differ for every individual. Everyone has different stress triggers; we are open to various amounts of different stimuli.

Beckwith (1996) states defining stress, its causes and symptoms are just as complicated. It is often characterized as a reaction to modern and social factors, stress is a disruption in an individual’s physiological and psychological homeostasis that force them to deviate from usual functioning in interaction with their jobs and work environment. Stress is defined by Auerbach (1996) as a three way relationship between demands on a person, that person’s feelings about those demands and their ability to cope with those demands. Stress can effectively destroy the quality of life for the individual, his or her family and for society as a whole, it has become as dangerous as pollution to modern society Srivastava (1999).

Some people thrive in the pressure cooker of life. Stress is a personalized experience and can vary extensively even in the same identical situation for different reasons. Some individuals can perform and complete many duties at the same time and have a list of things to do that would stretch and overpower most of us. Every individual has different stress triggers. How person A copes to how person B copes is completely different. A simple example of a daily stressor is the journey to work, college or school. Person A who is sitting in the traffic, will sit and become very angry at the long delay, but Person B sitting in the next car accepts that there is lots of traffic and copes with the situation. The same stressor or stimuli, but two completely different reactions to the same situation. Stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations.

The same situation can arise in any individuals life, whether it be moving to a new home, a heavy workload, too much responsibility, working long hours, studying for exams or simply leaving the house. Snyder, Lefcourt and Herbert (2001) state, Stress resides neither in the situation nor in the person, it depends on a transaction between the two. Barlow (2000) states suffering from stress, anxiety or phobias can disrupt daily routines, limit work efficiency, reduce self-esteem, and place a strain on relationships.

Individuals will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable and often-terrifying feelings of anxiety. Bourne (2011) supports Barlow by stating people with specific phobias, or strong irrational fear reactions, work hard to avoid common places, situations, or objects even though they know there’s no threat or danger. The fear may not make any sense, but they feel powerless to stop it. Specific phobias according to Sylver, Lilienfeld and Laprairie (2011) can cause stress, the threat of a terrorist attack, global warming, dogs, cats, bees, wasps, spiders, germs, heights, driving, public transport, flying, dental or medical procedures, and even elevators. People with phobias realize that their fear is irrational, and even thinking about it can often cause extreme anxiety.

According to Beidel & Turner (1998) while some phobias develop in childhood, most seem to arise unexpectedly, usually during adolescence or early adulthood. Their onset is usually sudden; you have no control over these events and they may occur in situations that previously did not cause any discomfort or anxiety. All of these factors can lead to stress. Stress is a worrisome illness. Stress has numerous faces, and sidles into our lives from many directions. No matter what the causes are, stress can put the body and mind under extreme pressure. Constant or chronic stress can have real physical effect on the body. It weakens the immune system, increasing the individual’s vulnerability. Stress engulfs the body and saturates it with stress hormones. The heart thumps, muscles tense, breathing quickens and the stomach churns.


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