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STRESS MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND SOURCES AMONG ACADEMIC STAFF OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
Background to the Study
Stress is one of the serious emotional health problems people experience globally. Every human being has needs and wants and there is a deep hunger and enthusiasm in people to satisfy these demands. However, as effort is made to satisfy these needs one finds himself in a stressful situation. Stress is interwoven with life. American Institute of Stress (2005) opined that the biggest threat to health today is stress. United Kingdom Health and Safety Executives –HES (2005) estimated that over 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress as it is believed to trigger 70 per cent of visit to doctors, and 85 per cent of serious illnesses occurring in the United Kingdom. The cost of stress in terms of human suffering, social and occupational impairment and illness are enormous.
In Nigeria, Nweze (2005) submitted that for two and half decades, stress has become a topical issue in management development, seminars and workshops. The author further stated that the prevalence of stress stems from a number of obvious reasons. Firstly, stress is inextricably interwoven with life and ceases only when an individual stops breathing. Secondly the author noted that nobody is immune to stress, both the young, old, rich, poor, professionals, and lay men alike are potential victims of stress. Nweze further stated that our traditional mechanisms of handling stresses and strains of living such as age grade activities, moonlight tales, watching and organizing cultural dances, swimming in village rivers are fast diminishing. The above situation may have been facilitated by factors such as rapid urban development, increasing corporate regimentation of work to life, breakdown of social supports, increasing personal group conflicts, including security threats to life and property. The frustrations, disappointments and pressure of daily life constitute the genesis of stress amongst people of different works of life.
People live in different conditions, have different professions and have different problems. Human beings are constantly faced with a number of problems which may include poverty, unemployment, clinical depressions, compulsive disorder, heavy drinking, and insufficient sleep. All these factors cause stress of different complexities; thereby making stress is a major concern in many, if not all, educational institutions all over the world. Most of the institutions continue to spend large sums of money in an attempt to prevent and, even, help their staff manage the stress they experience in carrying out their roles and responsibilities, (Kusi, Mensah & Gyaki, 2014). Pressure of modern life, coupled with the demands of a job, can lead to emotional imbalances that are collectively labelled as stress. Owusu and Tawiah, (2014) asserted that stress exist in human beings, animals and even in metals.
Stress has been described as the emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure from the outside world. Stress is the normal reaction of human psychics to the negative environment and constant pressure of work and household demands (Lehler, David, Barrow, Woolfolk, & Sime, 2007). Stress can be defined as the state of affairs that exist when an individual is unable to cope with excessive workplace demand or job pressure (Love & Irani, 2007). Olley (2009) defined stress as psychological, physiological and behavioural response of an individual seeking to adopt and adjust to both internal and external pressures. Uyanga (2012) referred to stress as any form of strain or interference, which disturbs the normal functioning of an organism. In this study, stress refers to an individual’s inability to cope with daily activities, be it at home or in the work place. Stress is caused by several factors called stressors. (Selye, 1976).
Stressors have been grouped into two namely: external and internal stressors. External stressors comprise physical environment stressors, social stressors, organisational stressors and daily hurdles (Selye, 1976). Physical environment stressors include factors like heat or noise. Social stressors are the interaction between people who exhibit rudeness, bossiness or aggressiveness. Organisational stressors include rule and regulations, red tape and deadline, major life events (like death of a relation, loss of job, promotion, new baby and few others) and mechanical breakdown. Internal stressors according to Selye (1976) are lifestyle choices like habitual caffeine consumption, inadequate sleep, and work over load/schedule, and negative self- perception like pessimistic thinking, self-criticisms and over-analysis. Others according to Selye (1976) are mind traps, taking things personally, exaggeration, rigid thinking and stressful personality traits like being a perfectionist. All these stressors may also be found in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
Stressors in Nigerian campuses, include stress-inducing factors that precipitate stress in the lecturers in various degrees. These include: work overload, time constraints, lack of promotion opportunities, inadequate recognition, inadequate salary, changing job role, inadequate resources and funding, and student interaction (Gillespie, Walsh, Winefield, & Stough, 2001). Sources of academic pressure identified in the literature include heavy workload, role ambiguity, conflicting job demands, frequent interruptions, and striving for publication (Goldenburg & Waddell, 2000). Further studies have concluded that a significant proportion of stress experienced by academics is likely to emanate from the competing demands of career and family life, and long working hours (both on and off campus) (Socrcinelli & Gregory, 2006). Inadequate funding is a general problem in Nigerian university system. Findings by Rutter (2002) showed that sources of stress to academic staff included the pressure to secure financial support for research.
Sources of stress have been classified under environmental, organizational and domestic sources. According to Al-Sowygh (2013) environmental stress includes three essential components. External components are the biopsycho-social and psychosocial factors in one’s external environment previously mentioned, the stress reaction is elicited by a wide variety of stimuli that are either physiologically or emotionally threatening and disrupt the body’s homeostasis. Internal components are the physiological and biochemical factors in one’s internal environment (body), the perceived stress. The cognitive responses resulting from the interaction between these two components are the coping strategies that constitute the third component. Occupational stress, specifically, is the response to organizational stressors in the workplace environment that pose a perceived threat to an individual’s well-being or safety. Finney, Stergiopoulos, Hansel, Bonato, Sarah and Dewa (2013) in addition to organizational factors, individual factors have also been implicated in stress outcomes. Organizational stressors such as work overload, role conflict, under-promotion and level of participation interact with individual factors such as personality and family problems to create mental and physical ill health in employees (Finney et al., 2013). Oluwu (2000) stated that sources of stress could be as a result of uncondusive work environment such as problem of space, inadequate work tools, lack of motivation at work and no vacation as seen among academic staff, work hours being lengthy and other managerial factors such as job insecurity. Michael (2005) pointed out causes of work stress (stressors) as follows: harassment by anyone not necessarily one’s manager, feeling powerless and uninvolved in determining one’s own responsibilities, continuous unreasonable performance demand, lack of’ effective communication and conflict resolution, lack of job security and long working hours. The author further stated others to include excessive time away from home and family, conflicts among staff, a feeling that one’s reward is not commensurate with one’s responsibility, working hour’s responsibility and pressures, lack of balance diet, exercise, sleep/rest and play. Whenever there is presence of stress caused by the above mentioned stressors, there are specific stress-related signs and symptoms that the individuals manifest.
The common signs and symptoms of stress have been enumerated as follows: forgetfulness, nervousness, worry, difficult sleeping (insomnia), heart padding, shaky hands, back pain, tension, headache, shortness of breath, diarrhea, constipation and stomach upset Mullen, Gold, Belcastro and Medermott (1993). David (1995) categorized common symptoms of stress into four, namely: physical symptoms, mental symptoms, emotional symptoms and behavioural symptoms. Physical symptoms include fatigue, headache, insomnia, muscle aches, chest pain, abdominal cramps, sweating, frequent cold and laziness, mental symptoms include decrease in concentration and memory indecisiveness, mind racing, confusion and loss of sense of humor, emotional symptoms of stress are anxiety, nervousness, depression, anger, frustration, worry, fear, irritability, impatience and short temper, while behavioural symptoms are frequent fidgeting, nervous habit (like nail-biting and foot-tapping), increased eating, smoking, drinking, crying, yelling, swearing, balancing and hitting (David, 1995) How one perceives a stress inducing event and how he or she reacts to it determines its impact on one’s health. One may be motivated by the event in one’s life or may see same as stressful and respond in manner that may have a negative effect on his or her physical, mental and social well-being. If one always responds in a negative way, one’s health and happiness may suffer. But by understanding one’s self and reacting to stress inducing situations, one can learn to handle stress effectively (Cook & Ludwig, 1997). To handle stress effectively depends on adoption of effective management.
Management has been described in literature by many researchers. Management is the act of planning, controlling activities, formulating strategies and optimizing the use of resources (Lucey, 2006). Hornby (2007) defined management as the act or skill of dealing with situations in a successful way. Management in this study refers to measures applied by academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State to cope successfully with stress in their daily lives. When management is related to stress, it becomes stress management.
Stress management refers to wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person’s level of stress, especially chronic stress usually for the purpose of improving everyday functioning (Lehler, David, Barrow, Woolfolk, & Sime, 2007). Stress management is also defined as actions adopted to manage the demands and pressure placed on one, in the most effective way (Gerard 2008). Stress management in this study refers to all measures that academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State adopts in effectively managing the demands and pressures at workplace. For one to achieve effective stress management, the measures of stress must be put into practice.
Practice is defined as repetition of an activity to improve skills, a customary action, habit or behavior a manner or routing (Simpson & Weiner 1998). Robinson (2006) viewed practice as a habit, activity, procedure or customary. Practice refers to actions or behaviours that are employed by academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State to manage stress.
Stress management practices involve all the activities carried out to cope with stressful situations. Opara (1993) defined stress management practice as the habitual ability of an individual to maintain and experience control when situation of people and events makes excessive demand on one. In this study, stress management practice is described as the activities or habits employed to reduce work and personal stress by academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State.
Academic staff are lecturers who are responsible for the teaching processes in tertiary institutions. In this study, academic staff of tertiary institution refers to lecturers in all the eleven public and private tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. Studies have found that too much pressure can be placed on teachers in the schools arising from unnecessary deadlines, attempts to impress boss/employer, administrative tasks, conflicts in school, attendance at meeting, implementation of new policy, lack of breathing space between lessons, non-availability of time to wind down or relax and recuperate, management of finances, for greater achievement, overwork, emotional exhaustion, isolation, lack of workers participation in decision making, poor communication, job insecurity, environmental pollution, large class size, dealing with the different needs of the students, lack of financial support and many others (Colloway, 2003). Ofoegbu and Nwadiani (2006) revealed that the significant factors contributing to stress among academic staff include incessant strike and school interruption, delay and irregular payment of salary, lack of annual leave/holiday and under funding of education. This study seeks to determine stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State.
The study was carried out in Adamawa State. Adamawa State is one of the states in the North East Nigeria sharing common boundaries with Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Cameroun. The state is made up of 21 local government areas and has 11 tertiary institutions. The state is the largest state in North Eastern Geo-political zone of Nigeria. Beh, and. Loo, (2012). Generally, stress is always thought of in negative terms. That is, stress is perceived as something bad, annoying, threatening and not wanted Beh, and. Loo, (2012). For example, words or phrases such as depression, feeling out of control, overworked, migraine or headache, time pressure, anxiety, cannot sleep, are commonly used to express what stress means to us personally (Sutherland & Cooper, 2000). Stress is one of those words that everybody knows the meaning of but none can define it Beh, and. Loo, (2012). According to Grace (2014), the effects of stress upon people will be governed not only by the level of pressure experienced, but also by the coping strategies people subsequently utilize in an attempt to deal with it. Similarly, in order to prevent stress every person develops a repertoire of coping strategies. Coping according to these authors can be seen to occur at four levels by: removing the stressors from their lives, not allowing neutral events to become stressors, developing a proficiency in dealing with situations we do not wish to avoid and seeking diversion from the pressure(s) or by relaxation. No matter how one looks at it, this study gave a clear indication that sources of stress one way or the other influence the coping strategies adopted to deal with it. Sources of stress partly influence the type of coping strategies that a person adopts in order to curtail that stressful situation. Several Socio-demographic variables are capable of influencing stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions including academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. Notable among them are age, gender, marital status, rank, religious affiliation among others. Within the context of this study, the influence of socio-demographic factors such as gender, marital status and religious affiliation will be examined.
However, Liu and Zhu (2009) found out that female member of academic staff experience less stress than their male counterparts. Adeoye (2002) noted that the dual roles of female lecturers as wives and mothers as well as lecturers is a major source of stress. Adeoye (2002) further reported that there was no significant difference in the stress experience by female lecturers and their male counterparts. Aftab and Khatoon (2012) found that male teachers reported having positive coping strategies than their female counterparts. Findings of study by Mondal, Shretha and Bhaidu (2011) showed that male academic staff experiences more psychological and physical stress than their female counterparts. However, Ofoegbu and Nwadiani (2006) found no significant difference in the level of stress management measures adopted by both male and female lecturers in tertiary institutions.
Marital status is another variable that can influence stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions. In a study carried out to investigate stress management practices in selected universities in the Southern part of Nigeria, Omoniyi and Ogunsanmi (2012) found the level of stress management practices between single and married lecturers to differ significantly with lecturers that are single experiencing better stress management practices than their married counterparts. This is consistent with Khurshid, Butt, and Malik (2011) finding which showed that married academic lecturers cope with stress more than their single counterparts.
Religious affiliation is also capable of influencing stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. The impact of religion in stress management practices entails that it plays a significant role in shaping beliefs, norms and values including those that are related to practices that are used in managing stress. (Marcum, 1988)
The present study was anchored on two theories and one model. These are the response based theory, social cognitive theory and stress model. The Response Based Theory (RBT) was propounded by Selye (1974). The author perceives stress as a cluster of disturbing psychological and physiological responses to different situations. The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) was propounded by Bandura (1986). According to Bandura, lifestyle habits are brought about by stress which exerts a major impact on the quality of human health. Social cognitive theory proposes that behaviour change is affected by environmental influences (models), personal factors (self-belief), and attributes of the behaviour itself (outcome). Bandura’s social learning theory stresses on the importance of observational learning, imitation and modelling. His theory integrates a continuous interaction between behaviors, personal factors – including cognition – and the environment referred to as reciprocal causation model. Cognitive-relational theory defines stress as a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being Bandura (1986).The model proposes that people can be taught to manage their stress and cope with their stressors. Academic staff have learned to change their perspective of the stressor and be provided with the ability and confidence to improve their lives and handle all types of stressors. The tenets of the theories and model supported the facts that lifestyle and environmental factors are sources of stress among academic staff in tertiary institutions which negatively influenced their quality of health. Furthermore, academic staff’s decision to adopt stress management practices in response to work stress corroborated the tenets of Selye’s Response Based Theory (RBT). Thus, the theories and model were used to explain the findings of the study.
Stress is recognized as an inherent feature of work life of most professionals. A body of evidence shows that it may be increasing in severity (Grace, 2014). Staff of tertiary institutions are currently facing many challenges in form of inadequate infrastructure, lack of enabling research environment, disparity in salary and allowances. Inconsistent policy implementation between federal and state government may well constitute workplace stress. In view of this prevailing stressful work environment, a study on stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State become necessary.
Statement of the Problem
Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand. It is an integral part of growth and development that only becomes a predominantly negative factor in a person’s life eroding the abilities to function when it becomes acute and after repeated exposures. Management of stress reduces the demands and pressure placed on an individual including academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa state. This controls their level of stress, especially chronic stress experienced during the cause of discharging their duties.
Academic staff of Nigerian universities face situations that expose them to stress. For instance, academic salaries have fallen in real terms in relation to current economic crises. Increasing numbers of academic positions are now untenured; workloads have increased; and academics are under increased pressures to attract external funds for their research and to either ‘publish or perish’. These could expose lecturers to such levels of stress that could force them to deviate from normal functioning. The Nigeria university lecturers including lecturers at tertiary institutions in Adamawa State are expected to perform at high level in the area of curriculum without the adequate basic facilities for teaching, learning and research. Though the expectation is commendable; it may not be possible for lecturers to competently manage the diverse needs of students with the resource disabilities presently on ground in Adamawa State tertiary institutions without stress.
In Nigeria, few studies have been conducted on stress and stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions. Specifically, there is scarcity documented evidence on stress management practices among academic staff of higher institutions in Adamawa State. Also observation has shown that academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State are usually faced with stressful situation which predisposes them to several negative symptoms. Hence, the study is intended to investigate stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. Specifically, the study seeks to:
- identify the sources of stress among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State;
- ascertain the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State;
- find out stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on gender;
- ascertain the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on marital status; and
- find out stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State according to religious affiliation.
The following research questions were posed guide the study.
- What are the sources of stress among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State?
- What are the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State?
- What are the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on gender?
- What are the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on marital status?
- What are the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State according to religious affiliation?
The following null hypotheses were formulated and each was tested at .05 level of significance.
- There is no significant difference in the stress management practices of male and female academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State.
- There is no significant difference in the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on marital status.
- There is no significant difference in the stress management practice among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State according to religious affiliation.
Significance of the Study
The study will be of immense benefit to government, health educators and academic staff of tertiary institutions. Through the findings of this study, government may strengthen the health of the academic staff through promulgation of policies to reduce stress. Health educators will use the findings as baseline for teaching and educating themselves and their students by organizing workshops, seminar and paper presentation etc. These findings may further spur health educators to intensify the teaching of sources of stress and its aversion. The academic staff of tertiary institutions where this study was carried out to learn the sources of stress as would be reported by the findings and avoid them.
Data generated from the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State will be of immense benefits to the Ministry of Health, ministry of education, teachers, curriculum planners, and students. The Ministry of Health, ministry of education and the curriculum planners will use the findings to prepare a viable curriculum and programmes that will alleviate stress among the academic staff. Teachers on the other hand will utilize the data as a guide teachings stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions. The academic staff will also tap from the teachers’ lessons on the subject matter to know how to manage stress.
The findings on the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on gender may be of immense benefit to ministry of health because it will help them know which gender is most affected by stress, stress management planners who will use it to plan various stress management practices based on gender. The NGOs may through this finding stir up campaigns and research to promote stress management practices that are gender appropriate.
Data generated from the stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State based on marital status may also benefit the health educators, government, NGOs and married staff. Following from these findings, the health educators and NGOs may find it worthwhile extending their talks and seminars to married staff. Government may through this finding of stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions, give out grants or incentives to married staff to alleviate their stress level. More so, the married staff will generally gain from the NGOs and government if the aforementioned are implemented.
The data was generated from stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa state according to religious affiliation will be beneficial to religious leaders who will use it to organize seminars in their different Masjid (Mosque) and Churches on the best ways of managing stress.
Theoretically, the findings will be of immense benefit to the academic staff of tertiary institutions who will apply the tenets of the theories in coping with their daily stress. This will help them to develop positive lifestyle habits that will help them to manage stress effectively.
Scope of the Study
The study will be delimited to all academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa state. The study will be concerned with stress management practices among academic staff of tertiary institutions in Adamawa State. The study will focus on socio-demographic factors of gender, marital status and religious affiliation as they affect stress management practices. The study will be anchored on Response based theory (RBT), Social cognitive theory (SCT) and Stress model of McEven.