Stressors – adjustment demands placed on organisms, which lead to…
Stress – how our body reacts to these demands, and then comes….
Coping strategies – our efforts to deal with stress.
Eustress – positive stress
An example of eustress would be stress experienced during a wedding.
Distress – negative stress
An example of distress would be stress experienced during a funeral.
Frustrations – external and internal obstacles can lead to frustrations. Frustrations can be difficult to cope with. Often, they lead to self-devaluation, making the individual feel incompetent and like a failure.
Environmental causes: prejudice and discrimination, unfullfillment in a job, death of a loved one.
Physical causes: physical handicaps, performance limitations, loneliness, and guilt.
Conflicts – simultaneous occurrence of two or more incompatible needs or motives. Both events cannot be satisfied at the same time. Satisfaction of one requires dissatisfaction of the other.
Pressures – demands to achieve specific goals or to behave in a certain way. They can seriously strain our coping resources and cause maladaptive behavior.
Strong inclination to approach and avoid the same goal.
Example: The company Lucy works for offers her a promotion to a new department, which also includes a substantial pay raise and better benefits. She’s had her eye on this position for several years. Her ex-husband’s wife, with whom she has had conflicts with, also works in that department. Lucy becomes very upset when she has to deal with her and is concerned that the work atmosphere would be unbearable.
Choosing between two or more desirable goals. It may cause more eustress than distress. Moreover, the stress is real and choice is difficult. No matter what decision is made, a sacrifice is made.
Example: Tommy has applied for two positions with two very well known companies. Both positions are of the same nature but Company A has better benefits than Company B, and Company B offers better hcanges for pay raises and promotions. They both offer him what he’s been working hard for. Tommy has had many sleepless nights trying to make his decision and has changed his mind many times, sometimes every five minutes.
Choices are between two or more undesirable alternatives. Satisfaction will not be achieved in the decision made, so the decision is a matter of which course of action will be less disagreeable, or the least stressful.
Example: Mark’s boss has offered him the opportunity to do a business conference in Canada. His boss left the ticket and information on Mark’s desk. Mark has no desire to do the conference, as he has done so many of them and has grown tired of traveling. He doesn’t know how to tell his boss this and is contemplating on lying to him and saying that he is unable to go this time. Mark is under a lot of stress because he doesn’t want to go and he really doesn’t want to lie to his boss, with whom he has a great relationship with.
The severity of stress is measured by the degree of which it disrupts functioning.
The degree of disruption that occurs or is threatened depends partly on:
Person’s personal and situational resources for meeting demands resulting from stress
Relationship between the two above.
Minor stressors (misplacing glasses) are dealt with and play themselves out.
Stressors that affect major aspects of a person’s life (e.g., divorce, job loss) tend to cause more stress and are more difficult to deal with.
Stressors have more severe effects when it has more time to operate (longer duration).
Example: the Flu causes more stress on a body than a 24-hour virus.
Stressors may have cumulative effects.
A married couple has arguments that leave minor irritations, only to later divorce due to an argument based on “one last straw” of a precipitating stressor.
Chronic or long-lasting stressors are key stressors which center on a continuing, difficult life situation.
Stressors from multiple events result in stress that is more severe than if the events happened one at a time.
Example: Dave suffers a heart attack, loses his job, finds out his son has been arrested, and wife files for divorce all at the same time.
If a person is involved closely to an immediate traumatic situation, the symptoms of stress intensify.
Example: in the event of a schoolyard shooting involving a sniper and 159 victims, the children experienced different levels of stress. Those closest to the incident (in the schoolyard) experienced the most severe symptoms of stress, while those who were absent that day experienced no symptoms of stress.
Crisis refers to times when a stressful situation approaches or exceeds a person or groups ability to adapt.
In a crisis, normal coping techniques that we rely on typically wont’ work. The crisis or trauma overwhelms our ability to cope, whereas the stress isn’t what necessarily overwhelms the person.
Various types of trauma or crisis include:
A natural disaster such as a flood
A bitter divorce
Aftermath of an injury or disease that changes a person’s life
A crisis occurs in a persons life on average once every 10 years to about once every 2 years.
The outcome of a crisis has a profound effect on a person’s ability to adjust. If the person who goes through the crisis turns to a support group, friends, or family for help, then they may emerge stronger than they were prior to the crisis.
But if they are impaired by the crisis, then they will be expecting failure with future crisis experiences, and therefore their ability to cope and adjust suffers.
Crisis Intervention – psychological help in times of severe and special stress - is an important element in contemporary treatment and prevention.
In some cases, one person’s stressor is another person’s thrill.
Example: A person may find it exciting to be on stage, while another may dread it.
A person’s reaction to environmental events are partly due to their perception of the vent,
Each person will have a different interpretation of the same event.
Example: A mother who is overwhelmed when her children are unruly and unmanageable, leaves them unattended, will face more negative consequences than the mother who stays with them.
Understanding the nature of the stressful situation, preparing for it, and knowing how long it will last all ease the severity of the stress when it does come.
A person who does not handle changing life situations well is said to be more vulnerable to the slightest frustration or pressure.
Person’s with lower self-esteem are more likely to experience threat than those who are generally confident and secure.
Stress Tolerance – a person’s ability to withstand stress without becoming seriuosly impaired.
An individual with prior history of major depression is a risk factor for severe psychological symptoms related to stress after a crisis.
Different people are vulnerable to different stressors. A person’s learning history plays a critical part in their ability to deal with stress.
An earlier experience with trauma can either leave a person more vulnerable to stress or more capable of coping with stress.
Positive social and family relationships can can moderate effects of stress on a person and even reduce illness and early death.
Lack of personal or material support can make a stressor more potent and weaken a person’s ability to cope with it.
A person, or family, may be adversely affected by a family member experiencing problems.
Example: A family member experiences difficulty coping with a chronic or lief-threatening illness or a psychiatric disability.
There are often times when the family’s culture offers specific rituals or courses of action to support people as they attempt to cope with certain types of stress.
Summary – the interaction between the nature of the stressor and the person’s resources for dealing with it play a large role in determining the severity of the stress. No matter how large the challenge, there is little stress if the person is confident in their ability to deal with it.
In short, stress forces the person to do something to relieve the tension.
What they do depends on many influences.
Sometimes inner factors play the dominant role in determining coping strategies:
Environmental conditions like extreme social pressures, can also be of primary importance.
Stressful situations may be related to or produced by a person’s cognitions (thoughts).
Example: Anxiety or depression has you stressed before a friend cancels their movie date with you. You preconceive they canceled due to not wanting to be with you, rather than due to demands on teir own life.
Upon reviewing general principles of coping with stress, there are three interactional levels to use:
Biological leve l – immunological defenses and damage repair mechanisms
Psychological and interpersonal level – learned coping patterns, self-defenses, and support from family and friends
Sociocultural level – group resources; such as labor unions, religious organizations, and law enforcement agencies.
The failure of coping efforts on any of these levels may the person’s vulnerability on other levels.
Thre are two challenges we are confronted with when coping with stress:
Meeting the requirements of the stressors
Protecting oneself from psychological damage and disorganization.
When a person feels confident they can handle a stressful situation, their behavior is directed primarily at dealing with the requirements of the stressor. The person objectively appraises the situation, works out alternative solutions, decides on appropriate strategies, takes action, and evaluates feedback.
Task – Oriented response: make changes in one’s self, one’s surroundings, or both, depending on the situation.
Action may be “ Overt ” – showing spouse more affection.
Action may be “ Covert ” – lowering one’s level of aspiration.
Action may be to retreat from the problem, attacking it directly, or make an effort to find a workable compromise.
Defense – Oriented response: a person feels inadequate and they are seriously threatened by a stressor.
Behavior is turned directly to preventing one’s self from hurt and disorganization, instead of trying to find a solution to the situation.
These individuals have abandoned more productive task-oriented action in favor of an overriding concern for maintaining integrity of self, despite being an ill-advised and self-defeating effort.
Two common types of Defense – Oriented Responses:
Psychological Damage-Repair Mechanisms: Crying, repetitive talking, and mourning are a few of these.
Ego-Defense or Self-Defense Mechanisms: such responses as denial and repression, relieve tension and anxiety and protect self form hurt and devaluation.
Edo-Defense Mechanisms – protect a person from external threats such as failures in work or relationships, and internal threats such as guilt arousing desires or actions.
Ego-Defense Mechanisms protect in one or more of the following ways:
Denying, distorting, or restricting a person’s experience.