In the Meeting Life Challenges Class 12 chapter, the first topic introduced is the concept of stress.
To gain a better understanding, review the following points:
- Stress refers to the pattern of responses an organism has to a stimulus event that disrupts the individual's state of equilibrium and impedes their ability to cope.
- There are two types of stress:
- Eustress, which is beneficial to the individual and helps them stay motivated. Eustress is instrumental in achieving optimal performance in an essential task.
- Distress, on the other hand, is detrimental to the individual since this level of stress undeniably hinders their ability to cope, and it can emotionally, mentally, and physically exhaust them.
Nature, Types and Sources of Stress
Nature of stress
- The term "stress" originated from the Latin word "strictus" which means tight or narrow, and the verb "stringere" which means to tighten. These roots reflect the feeling of tightness and muscle constriction often associated with stress.
- The reaction to an external stressor is called "strain". Stress can both cause and be a result of various factors.
- Hans Selye, the father of modern stress research, defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand. However, some researchers disagree with Selye's concept of general and non-specific responses, suggesting that individuals may have different modes of response to stress.
Signs and symptoms of stress
- Individual differences in coping patterns of stress response lead to variations in the intensity of warning signals or signs of stress.
- The warning signs and symptoms of stress are subjective and may depend on the individual's perception of their intensity, duration, predictability, or complexity.
- These warning signs may manifest as physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral symptoms of stress.
Question for Revision Notes (Part - 1) - Meeting Life Challenges
Try yourself:Physical, emotional and psychological fatigue states are known as:
Types of Stress
The different forms of stress are explained as follows:
- Physical and Environmental Stress: This type of stress occurs when we feel physically worn out and strained due to overexertion, inadequate sleep, and an unbalanced diet. Environmental stress includes noise and air pollution as well as unclean surroundings that can make us feel stressed.
- Psychological Stress: Stress generated by our minds is referred to as psychological stress, and it is subjective in nature. Various sources of psychological stress include frustration, conflicts, internal pressure, and social pressure.
- Social Stress: It arises from our interpersonal relationships and interactions with others. For instance, breaking up with a friend or the death of a close family member can cause social stress. Like psychological stress, social stress is also subjective in nature.
Sources of Stress
The sources of stress are explained as follows:
- Life Events: Changes in life, both small and significant, can happen and some are pre-planned, making them easier to handle, such as changing schools. However, there are significant changes that are unpredictable in nature and difficult to deal with, such as the death of a close family member.
- Traumatic Events: These events leave a profound impact on the victims and affect them psychologically and emotionally. Traumatic events are not recurring in nature, such as rape or a terrorist attack.
- Hassles: Day-to-day stressful situations, such as noisy surroundings or stressful jobs, add to our stress level. Social support is essential in such cases as it aids an individual in coping with hassles.
Effects of Stress on Psychological Functioning and Health
The impact of stress on psychological functioning is described in the following ways:
- Emotional effects: People who experience emotional stress tend to have mood swings and become emotionally unstable, which can cause them to distance themselves from family and friends and negatively affect their self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Physiological effects: During stressful situations, the body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can be helpful in the short-term but harmful to our overall well-being in the long-term. Examples of physiological effects include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Cognitive effects: Excessive stress can lead to mental overload and hinder our cognitive abilities, such as memory, decision-making, and concentration.
- Behavioral effects: Stress can impact our behavior in several ways, including reduced intake of nutritious food, disturbed sleep patterns, poor work performance, and increased consumption of alcohol and drugs.
Stress and Health
The following are explanations of the effects of stress on health:
- When we experience high levels of stress, we can feel physically drained, fatigued, and anxious.
- Burnout is the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.
- Stress is a major contributing factor to conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and a rapid heart rate.
- Between 50-60% of medical appointments are related to health problems caused by stress.
General Adaptation Syndrome(GAS)
The main features of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model are explained as follows:
- Selye conducted experiments on both humans and animals under stressful conditions to study the bodily responses in each.
- These experiments included subjecting animals to high temperatures and administering insulin injections in the laboratory.
- Selye observed that both animals and humans showed similar patterns of bodily response, which he called the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
- GAS has three stages:
(i) Alarm Reaction Stage: The presence of a stressor triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, preparing the body for a fight or flight response.
(ii) Resistance Stage: With prolonged stress, the parasympathetic nervous system conserves body resources and enables us to cope with the stressor.
(iii) Exhaustion Stage: Excessive exposure to prolonged stress leads to exhaustion, depleting the body's resources to deal with the stressful situation.
During the exhaustion stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome model, the physiological systems that were activated during the alarm and resistance stages become less effective, which may increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.
Question for Revision Notes (Part - 1) - Meeting Life Challenges
Try yourself:Which of the following does not come under the stage of the GAS model?
Stress and Immune System
The following points elaborate on the relationship between stress and the immune system:
- The immune system, which safeguards the body against internal and external threats, is adversely affected by high levels of stress.
- Research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology examines the link between the mind, brain, and immune system, and how stress affects the immune system's functioning.
- The concept of lifestyle refers to the collective decisions and actions that an individual makes in their daily life, which can significantly impact their overall health and well-being.
- There is a clear link between high levels of stress and an unhealthy lifestyle characterized by poor dietary choices, disrupted sleep patterns, and lack of exercise or physical activity.
- In contrast, a healthy and proper lifestyle includes several key elements such as positive thinking, consumption of a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and social support.
Coping with Stress
Coping refers to a person's specific and dynamic response to a situation, and is also relative.
Psychologists have suggested various strategies to deal with stressful situations, which are outlined below:
- Endler and Parker proposed three coping strategies.
(i) The first, task-oriented strategy, involves understanding the problem and finding a solution.
(ii) The second, emotion-oriented strategy, focuses on regulating emotions and expressing them in a healthy way.
(iii) The third, avoidance-oriented strategy, involves minimizing the importance of the situation by suppressing stressful thoughts and replacing them with self-protective thoughts.
- Lazarus and Folkman proposed two coping strategies.
(i) The first, emotion-focused strategies, involve psychological changes to control emotions and express them in a healthy way, particularly when the situation is out of our control.
(ii) The second, problem-focused strategies, involve reducing the threat posed by the situation and increasing our knowledge and self-awareness of the problem, which is particularly effective when the situation is under our control.