Facts That Matter
Basic features of stress: Stress is a part of life. Stress is neither a stimulus nor a response but an ongoing transactional process between the individual and the environment.
Life is full of challenges. Such as challenges posed by examination to students, challenges about a carrier, think of a child who loses his/her parents, a young woman who loses her husband in an accident or children who are physically or mentally challenged and so on.
All of us try to meet these challenges in our own way.
Life challenges are not necessarily stressful. Much depends on how a challenge is viewed. Stress is like electricity which provides energy but too high or too little energy becomes hazardous. Similarly, too much stress or too little stress has an adverse effect for our well-being, optimum stress is healthy.
Stress have two levels: Eustress-that is good, healthy, positive inspiring and motivating. Distress: It is negative, unhealthy demotivating and causes our body’s wear and tear.
• Nature of stress: The word stress has its origin in the Latin word ‘strictus’, meaning tight or narrow and stringer, the verb meaning to tighten.
These root words reflect the internal feelings of tightness and constriction of muscles and breathing, a common sign of stress.
The reaction of external stressor is called strain.
Stress functions as a cause as well as effects.
Hans style, the father of modem stress researches, defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand.
Many researchers do not agree with style on his concept of general and non-specific responses. They believe that different individuals may have different characteristic modes of responses.
• Signs and symptoms of stress: There are individual differences in the coping pattern of stress response and therefore the warning signals or signs also vary in its intensity.
The signs of stress are very much dependent on how individual views them or its dimension
i. e. Intensity duration, predictability or complexity.
The warning signs and its manifestation as symptoms of stress can be physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral.
• Life Challenges and adjustment: Life is a big challenge. It presents a continuous chain of the struggle for existence and survival for example if one aspires to join civil services, one works very hard but is not selected one may change one’s goal and feel inclined to join lecturership in any university.
By restoring to such means one protects one's self from the possible injury to one's ego, failure or frustration. It is sort of shifting to a more defensive position in order to face the challenge of circumstances after getting the failure in an earlier attempt or attempts.
This special virtue and strength of the living organism is termed as an adjustment.
“Adjustment is a process by which the living organism maintains a balance between its need and the circumstances that influence the satisfaction of these needs.”
their social and cultural environment. Stress is a dynamic mental/cognitive state. It is a disruption in homeostasis/imbalance that gives rise to resolution of the imbalance/ restoration of homeostasis.
(i) Harm appraisals is the assessment of the damage that has already been done by an event.
(ii) Threat appraisals is the assessment of possible future damage that may be brought about by the event.
(iii) Challenge appraisals are associated with more confident expectations of the ability to cope with the stressful event, the potential to overcome and even profit from the event.
Secondary Appraisal: Secondary appraisal refers to that assessment of one’s coping abilities resources and whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat or challenge of the event. These resources may be mental, physical, personal or social. If he/she thinks one has a positive attitude, health, skills, and social support to deal with the crises, he/she will feel less stressed.
Appraisals are very subjective and will depend on many factors:
(i) Past experience of dealing with such a stressful condition: If one has handled similar situations very successfully in the past, they would be less threatening for him/her.
(ii) Whether the stressful event is perceived as controllable, i.e., whether one has mastery
or control over a situation.
Reactions Of Stress
1. Physiological: Arousal plays a key role in stress related behaviours.
The hypothalamus initiates action along two pathways:
(i) The first pathway involves the autonomic nervous system. The adrenal gland releases large amount of catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) into the blood stream. This leads to physiological changes seen in fight-or-flight response.
(ii) The second pathway involves the pituitary gland which secrets the corticosteroid (cortisol) which provides energy.
2. Emotional reaction of Stress: Negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, embarrassment, anger, depression or even denial.
3. Behavioural reaction of Stress: Depending on the nature of the stressful event; confrontative action against the stress or (fight) or withdrawal from the threatening event (flight).
4. The cognitive reaction of Stress: Beliefs about the harm or threat an event poses, its causes or controllability. These include responses such as the inability to concentrate and intrusive, repetitive or morbid thoughts.
Stresses which people experience also vary in terms of intensity (low intensity vs. high intensity), duration (short term vs. long term), complexity (less complex vs. more complex) and predictability (unexpected vs. predictable).
Types of Stress
A. Physical and Environmental Stress: Demands that change the state of our body
(overexert ourselves physically, lack a nutritious diet, suffer an injury, or fail to get enough sleep).
Environmental stresses are aspects of our surroundings that are often unavoidable such as air pollution, crowding, noise, the heat of the summer, winter cold, disasters.
B. Psychological Stress: These are stresses that we generate ourselves in our minds. These are personal and unique to the person experiencing them and are internal sources of stress. We worry about problems, feel anxiety, or become depressed.
(i) Frustration results from the blocking of needs and motives by something or someone that hinders us from achieving the desired goal (social discrimination, low grades).
(ii) Conflicts may occur between two or more incompatible need or motives.
(a) Internal pressure stem from beliefs based upon expectations from inside us to ourselves
(b) Social pressure may be brought about from people who make excessive demands on us. Also, there are people with whom we face interpersonal difficulties.
C. Social stress: Social stress is caused due to social interaction.
Social events like death or illness in the family, strained relationships, trouble with neighbors, rapid social change, poverty, discrimination, poor societal conditions are an example of social stress.
SOURCES OF STRESS There Vary Widely From Person To Person.
Effects of Stress of Psychological Functioning and Health
General Adaptation Syndrome gave by Hans Seyle:
Criticisms of GAS: Assigning a very limited role to psychological factors in stress.
Psychoneuroimmunology focuses on the links between the mind, the brain, the immune system.
How does the immune system work? The white blood cells (leckocytes) within the immune (antigens) such as viruses leads to the production of antibodies.
(i) T cells: destroy invaders, T-helper cells increase immunological activity (attacked by HIV).
(ii) B cell: produce antibodies.
(iii) Natural killer cells: involve in the fight against both viruses and tumors.
Stress can affect natural killer cell cytotoxicity, which is of major importance in the defense against various infections and cancer. Reduced levels of natural killer cell cytotoxicity have been found in people who are highly stressed. Stressed individuals may be more likely to expose themselves to pathogens, which are agents causing physical illness.
Stress and lifestyle: Researches are indicating that the current leading causes of premature deaths are attributable to a significant degree to characteristics that make up each person’s lifestyle.
Lifestyle refers to the overall patterns of decision and behaviors that determine health and quality of life.
Stressed individuals may be more likely to expose themselves to pathogens which are agents causing illness. Stressed people have poor nutritional habits, steep less and are likely to engage in smoking and alcohol abuse.
Researches revealed that health-promoting behavior like a balanced diet, regular exercise,
family support etc play important role in good health.
Coping is a dynamic situation-specific reaction to stress. It is a set of concrete responses to stressful situations or events that are intended to resolve the problem and reduce stress.
Endler and Parker:
Lazarus and Folkman: