Explain how stress can affect the performance of an individual.
Stress is most often associated with individuals. This is largely due to the consequences of stress being most visible at the individual level. However, businesses can also suffer from stress, as a result of the stress experienced by the individuals within the organisation. There are many potential consequences of stress for both individuals and organisations. Common individual consequences of stress include :
Chronic fatigue: Stressful tasks require the individual to work beyond a point at which they feel that they can cope. In an attempt to cope, they will often increase their working hours and reduce their break times. This is done at the expense of family, social and leisure time. Even when not at work, they might find it hard to switch off. Prolonged exposure to stressful work can lead to chronic fatigue whereby the individual is both physically and mentally exhausted.
Physical health: Prolonged exposure to stressful activity leads to a rise in the individual’s cortisol levels. Excessive levels of cortisol can suppress the immune system, thus exposing the individual to a wide variety of potential illnesses. The individual may also adopt unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to cope with the stress e.g., increased alcohol consumption. These behaviors can further increase the individual’s chances of experiencing bad health.
Psychological health: For stress to occur, the individual must feel that they are unable to cope. This feeling of helplessness can have a dramatic effect on their mental health. Anxiety and worry levels increase and this can, in turn, lead to the individual experiencing depression. The individual consequences of stress can be very dangerous. Failure to recognize, and deal with, the symptoms of stress, at an early stage, leads to stress spiraling out of control. The stress may start off in one small area of their life but as they fail to tackle it soon spreads to other areas.