Stress is a central process in the relationship between behaviour and health. It
helps explain how psychological events translate into health-impairing psychological
physiological changes and illness. Stress maybe viewed as external events that make
demands on an organism, but most scientists suggest that stress is the organism’s
response to the events that challenge it. Still others emphasize that both external and
internal events are implicated in stress and focus on the interaction between the
environment and the person’s reaction to it. Common to all notions is the idea that
stress is a process involving the recognition of and response to threat or danger.
But the most commonly accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard
S. Lazams) is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives
that “demands exceed mobilize”. In short, it’s what we feel when we think we’ve lost
control of events.
NATURE OF STRESS
Hans Selye, a well-known endocrinologist and biologist, popularized the word
“stress” in describing the general adaptation syndrome. He viewed stress as the
common denominator of all the body’s adaptive reactions, a nonspecific response of the
body to any demand of it. Selye said that our body responds to stress in several stages:
1. First Stage – Alarm Reaction. The nervous system is activated, digestion
slows, heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing rate increase, and the level
of blood sugar rises. In brief, the body pulsates with energy.
2. Second Stage – Resistance sets in. The body mobilizes its resources to
overcome stress. During this phase the heart and breathing rates may return
3. Last Stage – Exhaustion. Finally, if some measure of equilibrium is not
restored, exhaustion is reached. The body’s capacity to handle stress is
progressively undermined, the organism seemingly gives up, and eventually it
dies. In some cases, however, death may occur immediately. Selye believed
that the damage produced by stress accumulates over time and find
expression and cardiovascular disease, mental disorders, ulcers, and
possibly cancer. However, Selye’s critics contend that in many cases, stress
is a specific response and that he overlooks psychological factors in his
Another tradition viewed stress from a cognitive perspective. Here, stress is an
interaction between a situation that requires readjustment and a person’s ability to cope.
What is crucial is the person’s definition of a situation as stressful. This approach
emphasizes that stress resides neither in the individual nor in the situation alone, but in
how a person evaluates an event.
When most people talk about stress, they mention its negative consequences –
tension headache, churning stomach, tight throat, short temper, sleepless nights, dizzy
spells, ulcers, and countless other unpleasant symptoms. Most of us think that stress is
bad; yet without some stress, we would find life quite drab, boring and purposeless.
Significant gains in personal growth can be made under stressful circumstances that
increase our confidence and skills for dealing with future events. Working under
pressure or against deadlines provides people with motivation to do their best.
Stress is caused by various factors – not all of which are work-related of course,
(which incidentally doesn’t reduce the employer’s obligation to protect against the
causes of stress at work). Causes of stress or stressors – are in two categories:
1. External Stressors – physical conditions such as heat or cold, stressful
psychological environments such as working conditions and abusive
relationships, e.g. bullying.
2. Internal Stressors – physical ailments such as infection or inflammation, or
psychological problems such as worrying about something.
Stressors are also described as either short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
1. Short-term ‘acute’ stress is the reaction to immediate threat, also known as the
fight or flight response. This is when the primitive part of the brain and certain
chemicals within the brain cause a reaction to potentially harmful stressors or
warnings (just as if preparing the body to run away or defend itself), such as
noise, over-crowding, danger, bullying, or harassment, or even an imagined or
recalled threatening experience. When the threat subsides the body returns to
normal, which is called the ‘relaxation response’. (NB the relaxation response
among people varies; i.e., people recover from acute stress at different rates.)
2. Long-term ‘chronic’ stressors are those pressures which are ongoing and
continuous, when the urge to fight or flight has been suppressed. Examples of
chronic stressors include: ongoing pressurized work, ongoing relationship
problems, isolation, and persistent financial worries.
3 MAJOR CAUSES OF STRESS
1. Psychosocial – four major processes
a. The need to adapt or adjust to changing circumstances.
b. The sense of frustration that accompanies the inability to achieve a goal.
c. Overload or excessive demand.
d. Over stimulation usually in the form of boredom or loneliness.
2. Bioecological – arises from the external environment; stress response to habits
and noise pollution.
Holmes & Holmes – attributed stress to lifestyle model: 20%
environment, 20% biological, 10% health and 50% due to nutrition, drugs,
alcohol, body weight, psychological outlook and driving habits.
Richard Lazarus-Transactional Model – The effect of the inter action
between the person and environment. He devised a scale to measure
stress in the form of daily hassle. The constant minor irritants may be
much more important than large landmark changes. The more flexible a
person is the lesser the stress.
Suzanne Quellete (1987) ‘The Coping Styles’ – the degree to w/c
participants felt that they could control or influence life events, involvement
in or commitment to life activities and the extent to w/c change was viewed
as an existing challenge to further development of three C’s- Control,
Commitment and Challenge. She called this person processing “hardiness
Mayer Fredman & Rey Rosehan- gave two personality types.
SOME SOURCES OF STRESS
1. Life change. Life changes refer to any event that requires a modification in the
accustomed way of living. Life events that create change and require adaptation
may occur in any aspect of life. These events can be evaluated positively or
negatively Examples are: death of spouse, personal injury or illness, separation
from work, retirement, pregnancy.
2. Daily Hassles. Big events mentioned above affect our well-being and health.
This is more apparent when stressful events accumulate, straining our problem-
solving capacities. But small, frustrating events are also important. These smaller
occurrences, or micro stressors, are called hassles - the irritating demands and
troubled relationships that plague us day in and day out. Hassles come in many
forms, annoying household chores, concern about one’s weight, too many things
to do, misplacing or losing things, a noisy neighbourhood & money worries. The
counterpart of hassles are positive psychological experiences, or uplifts:
pleasant, happy or satisfying events like hearing good news, getting a good
night’s sleep, or solving difficult problems.
3. Crowding. We commonly think that crowding is bad for us because it produces
stress. According to popular belief, crowding contributes to violence, crime,
Type A is characterized by: Type B is characterized by:
talking rapidly slow movement
unduly irritated w/ delay or waiting can delay satisfaction
feeling guilty when relaxing enjoys relaxing
described by others as workaholic works in moderation
chronic physical & mental illness family, breakdown, alcoholism and suicide. It is
a condition that disturbs our sense of control over our relationship with other
people. In crowds, we pick up too many thermal, olfactory, and visual cues and
feel ourselves “overloaded” with excessive stimulation.
4. The Workplace. Occupational stress is related to physical illness, psychological
impairment, and lowered job performance and satisfaction. Many facets of the
workplace can produce stress, including deadlines, unmanageable workloads,
inadequate salaries, poor relationships w/ bosses & co-workers, few
opportunities to participate in decision making, role conflicts, and lack of
appreciation. The greatest stress is found in jobs in w/c heavy demands are
made on workers but workers exercise little control over how the work is done.
THEORIES OF STRESS
1. The Engineering Model - Stress is what happens to a person; it is located in the
stimulus characteristics of the environment. This concept is derived from Hook’s
law of elasticity in Physics.
2. Hans Seyle’ (GAS) General Adaptation Syndrome
3. Brady – Crisis Decomposition Theory
1st - confusion, upset and panic reaction
2nd - attempted resolution mobilizes the body to overcome exhaustion.
3rd - decompensation leads to withdrawal, depression, guilt & physical illness.
COLLEGE STUDENT and STRESS
College life can be quite stressful because it requires adapting to a dramatic life
change. College life involves assuming greater responsibility for one’s life,
making new friends studying a great deal, and learning about a new environment
Specific stressors experienced by college students include striving for good
grades, coping with a greater amount of schoolwork, making friends, managing
pressure to be sexually active, preventing date rape, being shy, becoming
jealous, and breaking up with a dating partner.
The typical college student today is older than the college student of past years.
The majority of college students are over twenty-two years of age.
Older students experience stressors unique to their situations. They must juggle
career, school, and family responsibilities.
Older college students often doubt their abilities to return to school, to achieve
academically, and to interact well with classmates who may be much younger.
Colleges & high schools need to offer stress management educational
experiences to their student to help them manage the degree of change that
occurs upon graduating from High school and entering college.
To manage jealousy-related stress, determine what makes you jealous, put your
jealous feelings in proper perspective, and/or negotiate a contract with the other
Minority college students can face unique stressors. Among these are racism,
language barriers, classrooms conducted in ways that are odds with cultural
values, pressure to succeed in school, minority status in school for the first time,
and the lack of role models from who to seek guidance or encouragement.
Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your
emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The
ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun-
plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.
We should note that the goal of stress management is not to eliminate all stress.
Life would certainly be dull without both joyful stressors to which we have to adjust and
stressors needing a response. Furthermore, stress is often a motivator for peak
performance. For example, when you are experiencing stress about an upcoming test,
you will be more likely to study more intensity than if you are not concerned. Our goal
should be to limit the harmful effects of stress while maintaining life’s quality and vitality.
STRESS MANAGEMENT: Identifying the Sources of One’s Stress
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious,
and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and
behaviours. To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude,
Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on
right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a relaxation?
Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are
always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of
nervous energy, that’s all”).
Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely
normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it,
your stress level will remain outside your control.
UNHEALTHY WAYS OF COPING WITH STRESS
Drinking too much
Over-eating or under-eating
Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
Using pills or drugs to relax
Sleeping too much
Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)
STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH STRESS
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all”
solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so
experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel
calm and in control.
1. Avoid unnecessary stress
Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that
needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of
stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say “no
Avoid people who stress you out
Take control of your environment
Avoid hot-button topics
Pare down your to-do list
2. Alter the situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you
can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often,
this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up.
Be willing to compromise.
Be more assertive.
Manage your time better.
3. Adapt to the stressor
If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to
stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your
expectations and attitude.
Look at the big picture.
Adjust your standards.
Focus on the positive.
4. Accept the things you can’t change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change
stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national
recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as
they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing
against a situation you can’t change.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable.
Look for the upside.
Share your feelings.
Learn to forgive.
5. Make time for fun and relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce
stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and
relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors when they
inevitably come. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you
forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a
Set aside relaxation time.
Connect with others.
Do something you enjoy every day.
Keep your sense of humor.
Healthy ways to relax and recharge
Go for a walk.
Spend time in nature.
Call a good friend.
Play with a pet.
Write in your journal.
Take a long bath.
Light scented candles.
Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea.
Sweat out tension with a good workout.
Work in your garden.
Get a massage.
Curl up with a good book.
Listen to music.
Watch a comedy.
6. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical
Eat a healthy diet.
Reduce caffeine and sugar.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
Get enough sleep.
7. Cry – Sob and Weep
Not much is known about the physiology of crying and tears, although
many find that crying – weeping proper tears – has a powerful, helpful effect in
stress levels. It seems to release tension and stress for many people.
SKILLS FOR MANAGING STRESS
Skills for managing stress come naturally. Though these behaviours come
“naturally”, they were once unfamiliar. They had to be learned and practiced before they
are honed into skills. But a coping style is no more than a way of adapting to stress. It
does not necessarily solve the problem, it simply helps one handle it.
1. Personal Management Skills
These skills are particularly good for the times when feeling as though life
is out of control; there is too much to do and not enough time to do it; spending
much time on non-essentials and feeling unsure of oneself.
a. Valuing – art of choosing between alternatives
b. Personal Planning – art of setting goals
c. Commitment – art of investing oneself
d. Time use – art of spending time efficiently
e. Pacing – art of regulating the tempo
2. Relationship Skills
These skills help reduce stress by changing the way of interacting with
those around and by changing the surroundings. Relationship skills are helpful
when there are no support and friendship from others; when feeling confused
and needing someone to listen and to care; when there are so many demands;
and when the physical surroundings cause tension.
a. Contact – art of making friendship
b. Listening – art of tuning to others
c. Assertiveness – art of saying no
d. Fight – art of standing ground
e. Flight – art of retreat
f. Nest-building – art of turning a house into a home
3. Outlook Skills
Even if life is stressful the way problem might affect it must be ultimately
controlled. Just as stress is increased by way at how events in life are viewed, it
is decreased by changing the perception. Outlook skills can help manage stress
by giving new ways of looking at life experiences.
a. Relabelling – art of calling a spade a diamond
b. Surrender – the art of letting go
c. Faith – art of accepting the mysterious and unknowable
d. Whispering – art of grieving self-positive messages
e. Imagination – art of creativity and laughter
4. Physical Stamina
Sometimes stress can’t be helped. It has to be lived with over a period of
time. Something must be done to combat the effects of stress, to prevent it from
dragging the body down. It is foolish to handle long-term stress with the body in
less than its prime physical shape. Improving the physical condition can help
resist disease and give extra energy that boost when it is needed most.
a. Exercise – art of fine tuning the body
b. Nourishment – art of eating for health
c. Gentleness – art of treating self kindly
d. Relaxation – art of cruising in neutral
It is stress on the job, but stress on the job occurs in a person. Several sources
of occupational stress exist. Some of these stressors are intrinsic to the job. Some are
related to the employee’s role within the organization, some to career development,
some to relationships at work, and some to the structure of the organization.
Some sources of stress at work
Intrinsic to the job:
Poor physical working conditions
Role in organization:
Responsibility for people
Conflicts reorganizational boundaries
Lack of job security
Relationships at work:
Poor relations with boss, subordinates, or colleagues
Difficulties in delegating responsibility
Organizational structure and climate:
Little or no participation in decision-making
Restrictions on behavior (budgets, etc.)
Lack of effective consultation, etc.
Why is occupational stress of concern?
Businesses have become interested in occupational stress because it is costing
them billions of dollars.
Employees have trained over a long period of time, at great cost, may break
down when stressed on the job. They may make poor decisions, miss days of work,
begin abusing alcohol and other drugs, or die and have to be replaced by other workers
who need training. All of this is costly.
Rose Bernadeth Quiambao
Prof. Rey A. Sanchez
Semester, SY 2011-2012
Gaerlan, J., Limpingco, D., Tria, G. 2000. General Psychology, 5ed. Ken Inc.
Quezon City, Philippines.