PREFERRED STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES ADOPTED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ABUJA

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CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

Background to the Study                                                                                                            

            Stress is one of the most fundamental problems spanning through human endeavour. Nweze (2005) stated that for two and half decades, stress phenomenon has become a topical issue in management development, seminars and workshops in Nigeria. He further stated that the popularity of stress stems from a number of obvious reasons.

            First, nobody is immuned to stress. We can be caught up in a situation that causes or induces stress in the individual. Thus as a part of human living the young, old, rich, poor, professionals and lay men alike are potential victims of stress. Second, because stress is viewed as the disease of growth and development, there is the search for the stress virtue in modern life. Nweze (2005) further stated that our traditional mechanisms of handling the stresses and strains of living are fast breaking down. This is being precipitated by the factor of rapid urban development, increasing corporate regimentation of work life, breakdown of social supports, increasing personal and group conflicts, including security threats to life and property. Stress has become part and parcel of life in human societies. The frustrations, disappointments and pressures of daily life constitute the genesis of stress. Stress has been conceptualised in many ways.

            Sisk (1977) defined stress as a state of strain, tension or pressure and it is a normal reaction resulting from interaction between the individual and the environment. Strain means to make great demand on something; tension is a mental or emotional strain that makes natural relaxed behaviour impossible; and pressure is a powerful demand on somebody’s time, attention or energy. Beehr and Newman (1978) perceived stress in an occupational setting to mean a condition wherein job- related factors interact with workers, to change their psychological and physiological conditions such that the person’s mind and body are forced to deviate from normal functioning. The similarity in the foregoing definitions reveals that there must be an interaction between the environment and the individual before stress can occur. The interaction arises when man is trying to deal with the problems that his environment produced. It could be in his place of work or marriage which makes it impossible for man to relax his nervous system.

Oboegbulem (1995) defined stress as a feeling which occurs when an individual’s working or living conditions or circumstances make demands beyond his capacity to handle such a situation physically or emotionally. When a person is faced with disturbing situations, a change in his normal behaviour is usually noticeable. Such an individual may be faced with emotional, cognitive and physiological disruption or malfunctioning which can disorganise and adversely affect his powers of reasoning.

            Halgin and Whitbourne (2003) conceptualized stress as an unpleasant emotional reaction a person has when he or she perceives an event to be threatening. They stated that this emotional reaction may include heightened physiological arousal due to increased reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. The stressor is the event itself, which is also called a stressful life event. In the context of this work stress refers to a condition or situation in the body that makes people prone to anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inadequacy and low frustration tolerance (Wai,2003). Hornby (2004) described anxiety as a state of feeling nervous or worried; depression as a state of feeling very sad and without hope; anger as a strong feeling you have when something has happened that you think is bad and unfair; hostility is an unfriendly or aggressive feeling or behaviour; inadequacy as a state of not being able to deal with a situation; and frustration as arising when something is preventing somebody from succeeding. Every health problem that does not have a permanent cure can be managed like stress.

Management has been defined in various ways. In the view of Esiekpe (2003) management simply implies the skill in dealing with something or to be in perfect control of a situation. Stress management as defined by Cohen and Lazarus (1979) is problem-solving effort made by an individual faced with demands that are highly relevant to his welfare but taxing his adaptive resources. Adaptive resources involve coping methods that people exhibit in order to be habituated with stress.

Okafor and Okafor (1998) stated that stress management entails setting up roadblocks so that the progression to the illness or disease level does not occur. They concluded that if we could eliminate or block all potentially distressing life situations, the journey towards illness or disease levels would never begin. However, Greenberg and Dintiman (1992) opined that eliminating or blocking all potentially distressing life situations is not only impossible, but also undesirable, because life would be extremely dull if we did not have changes which require adaptation or adjustment.

            For Cooper (1986), stress management strategies comprise measures taken to cope with trying periods, so that a state of psychological and physiological equilibrium is re-established and subsequently maintained. The truth of the matter is that in stress management, no one technique or strategy would be deemed to be successful for all individuals in all situations. Stress management is conceptualised in this work as the process of managing demands that are appraised as tasking or exceeding the resource of the person (Lazarus &  Folkman, 1984a).

Plotnik and Mollenauer (1986) stated that stress management strategies are referred to as the methods we employ to deal with stressful or disturbing situations. They categorised these methods into effective and ineffective strategies. Such ineffective strategies are overeating, drug abuse, aggression which may make us feel better shortly, while effective strategies are thought substitution and relaxation. Akubue (2000) identified other management strategies like exercise, discussion, relaxation, meditation and holiday. Also in stress management, individuals use coping strategies and resources that help them to adapt to environmental demands. These strategies play a key role in determining the nature and extent of the stress impact.

Coping is defined as the process of managing demands (external or internal) that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person (Folkman, 1984a). There are two types of strategies that have been assessed by almost all coping measures developed in the past few decades (Parker & Endler, 1996). These are problem-focused and emotion-focused coping.                                                                                          

In problem-focused coping, the individual reduces stress by acting to change whatever makes the situation stressful. The person might make alternative plans or find a new and better way to correct the situation. By contrast, in emotion-focused coping, a person does not change anything about the situation. Thinking positively is one emotion-focused coping method people use to make themselves feel better under stressful conditions. Avoidance is another emotion-focused strategy which Halgin and Whitbourne (2003) stated that this method is similar to the defence mechanism of denial, in which the individual refuses to acknowledge that a problem or difficulty exists. In the context of this study, the terms “coping’’ and “stress management strategies’’ are used as synonymous. Stress management strategies in this work is conceptualized as all the methods we employ to deal with stressful or disturbing situations. Some past researchers have established that stress management strategies can be influenced by some variables.

            Some factors that may influence stress management strategies are age and gender. Segal, Hook, and Crolidge (2001) investigated the coping strategies adopted by a sample of community-dwelling older adults with college undergraduates and found out that younger adults received higher scores on the dysfunctional coping strategies of focusing on the venting emotions, mentally disengaging, and using alcohol and drugs. Older adults, by contrast were more likely to use impulse control and turn to their religion as coping strategies. These findings are in keeping with those of other researchers (Diehl, Coyle, & Labourie-vief, 1996) which indicated that older adults use more problem focused coping and other strategies that allow them to channel their negative feeling into productive activities. In the context of this study age will be classified according to Samuel (2006) who put it like this young adults 21-40 years, middle adulthood 41-46 years, and older adults 65 years old and above.

 Gender plays a role in handling of stress. Sukhadeepak (2006) stated that women are more adept at handling stress because of coping mechanisms. Men seem to be more stress prone since they are more likely to get into other things that add to stress such as alcoholism, smoking and so on. He added that while women are better equipped to deal with emotional issues, men find it difficult to express anxiety and sorrow. The management strategies will be beneficial to administrative staff of tertiary institutions in FCT. The administrative staff in tertiary institution are those people that are termed as non academic staff. They are the management staff that treat and move files in the offices. The day to day institution’s administration is entrusted in their hands. The entire business of the school is dependent upon the decision of the administrative staff. They are as, such faced with top administrative decisions, plans and policies alongside their personal burden. This of course is quite burdensome and stressful since they are busy at all times. This makes the study of preferred stress management strategies adopted by administrative staff necessary. In the course of performing the above functions by the administrative staff of the tertiary institutions stress ensures. The administrative staff of tertiary institutions are Faculty Officers, Registrars, Deputy Registrar, Principal Assistant Registrar, Director of Institutes, Director of Sports, Chief Librarian, Bursars, Secretaries, clerks etc. Tertiary institution is the third tier of education. This is the education after secondary school. It is also described as higher institution of  learning. The study will be conducted in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

          The capital city is made up of six Area Councils viz: Abuja Municipal, Kuje, Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kwali,and Bwari Area Councils. It is bounded in the north by Kaduna state, in the east and west by Nasarawa and Niger states, respectively. Kogi state lies in the south of Abuja. The choice of the city for the investigation was borne out of the present events of demolition of structures that people are dwelling, which administrative staff are among. As a fast growing city accommodation, feeding, and transportation are on the high side. The institution itself is still at the temporary site and these can create a stressful situation in their lives. Moreover, to my best knowledge the present investigation has been conducted in tertiary institutions in FCT, Abuja. The pivot of this study will be based on two models of stress.

PREFERRED STRESS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES ADOPTED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ABUJA