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 Home » Tutorials » Psychology » Stress

Stress



A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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NATURE, TYPES AND SOURCES OF STRESS



While waiting to cross the road on a busy Monday morning, you may be temporarily stressed. But, because you are alert, vigilant and aware of the danger, you are able to cross the road safely. Faced with any challenge, we put in additional efforts and mobilise all our resources and the support system to meet the challenge. All the challenges, problems, and difficult circumstances put us to stress. Thus, if handled properly, stress increases the probability of one’s survival. Stress is like electricity. It gives energy, increases human arousal and affects performance. However, if the electric current is too high, it can fuse bulbs, damage appliances, etc.

High stress too can produce unpleasant effects and cause our performance to deteriorate. Conversely, too little stress may cause one to feel somewhat listless and low on motivation which may lead us to perform slowly and less efficiently. It is important to remember that not all stress is inherently bad or destructive. ‘Eustress’ is the term used to describe the level of stress that is good for you and is one of a person’s best assets for achieving peak performance and managing minor crisis. Eustress, however, has the potential of turning into ‘distress’. It is this latter manifestation of stress that causes our body’s wear and tear. Thus, stress can be described as the pattern of responses an organism makes to stimulus event that disturbs the equilibrium and exceeds a person’s ability to cope.

Nature of Stress



The word stress has its origin in the Latin words ‘strictus’, meaning tight or narrow and ‘stringere’, the verb meaning to tighten. These root words reflect the internal feelings of tightness and constriction of the muscles and breathing reported by many people under stress. Stress is often explained in terms of characteristics of the environment that are disruptive to the individual. Stressors are events that cause our body to give the stress response. Such events include noise, crowding, a bad relationship, or the daily commuting to school or office. The reaction to external stressors is called ‘strain’ Stress has come to be associated with both the causes as well as effects. However, this view of stress can cause confusion. Hans Selye, the father of modern stress research, defined stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand” that is, regardless of the cause of the threat, the individual will respond with the same physiological pattern of reactions. Many researchers do not agree with this definition as they feel that the stress response is not nearly as general and nonspecific as Selye suggests. Different stressors may produce somewhat different patterns of stress reaction, and different individuals may have different characteristic modes of response. You may recall the case of an opening batsman mentioned earlier. Each one of us will see the situation through our own eyes and it is our perception of the demands, and our ability to meet them, which will determine whether we are feeling ‘stressed’ or not. Stress is not a factor that resides in the individual or the environment, instead it is embedded in an ongoing process that involves individuals transacting with their social and cultural environments, making appraisals of those encounters and attempting to cope with the issues that arise. Stress is a dynamic mental/cognitive state. It is a disruption in homeostasis or an imbalance that gives rise to a requirement for resolution of that imbalance or restoration of homeostasis. The perception of stress is dependent upon the individual’s cognitive appraisal of events and the resources available to deal with them. The stress process, based on the cognitive theory of stress propounded by Lazarus and his colleagues, is described in Figure given below.

Model of Stress Process






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