What is stress?

According to the cognitive appraisal model of stress, the amount of stress an event will cause in an individual will depend on the way that that individual thinks about (or appraises) the event. First primary appraisal, which involves focusing on the event and interpreting it as either a harm/loss (damage already done), a threat (damage potential) or a challenge (growth or development potential), and second secondary appraisal, which involves an assessment of the resources and options that they have available to deal with the event; essentially, people are asking themselves "what can I do?"

Sources of stress

A stressor is an event, person or object that causes a person to feel stress. There are three types of stressors.

Survival Stress

Where one's are in a physically or emotionally threatening situation one's body adapts to help it react more effectively to meet the threat. This is controlled mainly by release of adrenaline which causes a number of changes that help one's to survive by mobilizing sugar, reducing the blood supply to one's skin ,minimizing bleeding if one's are hurt, and ensures that energy is not wasted on processes that are not immediately useful.

Internally Generated Stress & Anxiety

One's personality can affect the way in which one's experience stress. One's may be familiar with the idea of 'type A' personalities who thrive on stress, and 'type B' personalities who are mellower and more relaxed in their approach. Other aspects of personality can cause stress. Examples are perfectionism, excessive self-effacement and anxiety.

Enviornmental Stress

The environment may also cause stress in following ways:
  • Significant negative or positive change in one's life
  • Crowding and invasion of personal space
  • Insufficient working and living space
  • Noisy surrounding
  • Dirty or untidy conditions
  • Pollution in work place
  • A badly organized or run down environment

    Chemical and nutritional stresses

    Some foods may also cause stress as:
  • Caffeine: this raises one's levels of stress hormones creating insomnia.
  • Bursts of sugar from sweets or chocolate: these can causes a serious energy dip shortly after the sugar high.
  • Too much salt: This raises one's blood pressure putting one's body under chemical stress.
  • Unbalanced diet: Any dietary deficiency or excess causes discomfort and illness which generates stress.

    Lifestyle and job stress

    Many of the stresses one's experience may come from one's job or from one's lifestyle. These may include:
  • Too much or too little work
  • Having to perform beyond one's experience or perceived abilities
  • Having to overcome unnecessary obstacles
  • Time pressures and deadlines
  • Keeping up with new developments
  • Changes in procedures and policies
  • Lack of relevant information, support and advice
  • Unclear expectations of one's role from one's boss or colleagues
  • Career development stress
  • Stress from one's organization or one's clients
  • Personal and family stresses

    Recognizing Stress Through Health Psychology

    Some common symptoms of stress are:
    Short Term Physical Symptoms
  • Faster heart beat and breathing
  • Increased sweating
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Feelings of nausea or 'Butterflies in stomach'
  • Dry Mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Diarrhoea.
    Short Term Performance Effects
  • Lack of decision making
  • Lack of interest in work
  • Lack of motor activity.
  • Negative thinking and lack of self-confidence.
    Long Term Physical Symptoms
  • Change in appetite
  • Frequent colds
  • Sexual disorders
  • Tiredness
  • Illnesses such as: digestive problems,headaches and body pains.
    Internal Symptoms of Long Term Stress
  • Lack of concentrate
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased intake of alcohol and smoking.
    Behavioural Symptoms of Long Term Stress
  • High of low pitch
  • Over reacting emotionally
  • Reduced personal effectiveness
  • Neglect of personal appearance.

    Understanding the Importance of Optimum Stress Levels

    It is important that one's recognize that one's are responsible for one's own stress - very often it is a product of the way that one's think. The approach to optimizing stress depends on the sort of stress being experienced as follows:
    Short term stress

    There is a relationship between stress and the quality of performance in situations that impose short term stress:
    1. Where stress is low, performance is low because one becomes bored, with lack concentration and motivation.
    2. Where stress is too high, performance can suffer from all the symptoms of short-term stress.
    3. In the middle, at a moderate level of stress, there is a zone of best performance.
    Different shape for different people in different circumstances. Example someone who performs only moderately at low level might perform exceptionally under extreme pressure.

    Long term stress

    The problems of long term sustained stress are more associated with fatigue, morale and health.
    There are four major stages that one's may go through in response to sustained levels of excessive stress:
    1. During the first phase one will face challenges with plenty of energy.
    2. After a period of time one may begin to feel anxious and upset.
    3. As high stress continues one may begin to feel a sense of failure and exploited by others.
    4. If high levels of stress continue without relief one may experience stress related illness.

    Combating Stress Through Health Psychology

  • Being prepared, both physically and mentally.
  • Taking control in one's life
  • Humor
  • Being prepared, both physically and mentally.
  • Taking control in one's life
  • Keeping Stress Diary
  • Making an Action Plan to Manage Stress
  • Reducing importance of the event
  • Reducing Uncertainty
  • Doing mental relaxation exercises
  • Thought Awareness
  • Rational and positive Thinking and Affirmation
  • Taking Exercise
  • Progressive Muscular Relaxation
  • Biofeedback in Stress Management
  • Time Management
  • Forming harmonious relationships with other people.

    Combating Stress Through Other Techniques

  • Hypnotherapy,
  • Neurolinguistic Programming,
  • Reiki,
  • Spiritual Therapy.

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