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Stressful events are those external events that make adaptive demands of a
person (Bloom, 1988). These events play a physical and emotional pressure
on us. They demand adjustments and mobilize the bodys defenses.
Sometimes, they can overload and damage the senses.
The degree of stress associated with an event is determined by ones own
perception. What maybe stressful to one may not be to another.
The sources of stress are called stressors. They can be classified into two
types: physical and psychological.

Physical stressors are conditions such as crowding, isolation,

presence of pollutants or toxic elements found in the environment
or in the physical body.
Psychological stressors result from ones own inner conditions
and emotions or to outside factors such as persons, places and
events (Zanden,1993)


According to Hans Selye , the body responds to stress in three stages which
he called the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
2.1 Alarm reaction- The flight or fight response. The bodys organs and
systems prepare to help the body either flee or flight.
2.2 Stage of resistance- follows the alarm reaction. The body tries to
overcome the stress after which physiological reactions such as heart and
breathing rates return to normal.
2.3 Exhaustion- occurs if the stage of equilibrium is not reached. The bodys
capacity to handle stress dwindles, there is impairment of physiological
functioning, and the organism dies.
The psychological responses to stress actually affect ones psychological
responses to stress. Stress remains within the person as glandular
secretions, muscle contractions, and neural discharges. The person feels
these stats as anxiety, anger, or depression. Other people may respond to
stress by becoming nervous and withdrawn or irritable and antagonistic.
Bloom categorized the moderating factors in the stress response into two:
4.1 Personal resources include coping skills, social competence and
personality types
4.2 Social resources revolve around the concept of social support.


A persons personality mediates the stress response. The relationship
between personality and environmental stressors is manifested in what the
individual brings to the encounter of stress. Personality variables serve to
buffer the negative effects of stress.
5.1 Control is an important stress-resistance resource in the stress
processes. Individuals who perceives themselves to have control over the
stressful situation cope better than those individuals who place others or fate
in charge.
It is believed that those who have an internal locus of control belief (that
contingents are cognitive upon their own behavior) will show less debilitation
under stress than those who have an external locus of control belief(that
events are contingent upon external factors). This called mastery or
personal competence in humanistic psychology.
5.2 Self-concept is the degree to which an individual holds positive views and
rejects negative views among him/her. It is the presence of self-esteem and
the absence of self-denigration.
In the stress process the self-esteem comes in when an individual starts
assessing or evaluating him/herself with regard to the stressful situation.
It is assumed that individuals with self-esteem and low in self denigration are
less likely to suffer debilitation when faced with stressful situations than hose
with low self-esteem and high self-denigration.
5.3 Type A behavior pattern refers to a combination of psychological
characteristics that include extreme competitiveness, achievement
striving, high involvement, team urgency, and hostility.
Type B refers to the absence of these pattern. Much research
characterized type As as more prone to stress and likely to suffer
negative health consequences.
5.4 Hardiness is defined by Kobasa as a constellation of psychological
characteristics, containing expressions of commitment, control and
5.4.1 Commitment the ability to believe in the truth, importance and
interest value of who one is and what one is doing; thus the
involvement in many situations in life.
5.4.2 Control refers to the tendency to believe and act as if one can
influence the course of events.
5.4.3 Challenge based on the belief that change, rather than stability, is
the normative mode of life.

6. Behavioral coping strategies

6.1 Deliberate Problem Solving- Involves evaluating the situation rationally
and working out a solution; make plans, strengthen resources and shore
up weaknesses.
6.2 Seeking support and catharsis- is when people turn to other people for
help or support or simply the need or want or to express ones feelings
regarding the problem. Catharsis is linked to adjustment difficulties when
used by itself.
6.3 Aggression- occurs when stressors of all sorts lead to aggression and
6.4 Regression- occurs when people sometimes confront stress by returning
to modes of behavior associated with younger ages. Regression often
brings attention and escape.
6.5 Withdrawal- is the decision not to act, often after accepting the problem
and deciding that nothing could be done about it.
6.6 Avoidance- occurs in different ways. One is the so called deserting the
ship or removing oneself bodily from the threatening situation. Another is
distraction or diverting attention from the problem. Procrastination is
putting off making any decision.
6.7 Repression- occurs when one excludes anxiety-arousing motives, ideas,
conflicts, memories or the like from the awareness without deliberate
effort. The repressed material does nor enters consciousness but
influences behavior.
6.8 Denial- involves self-deception. People who deny reality refuse to
acknowledge the existence of unpleasant experiences while fully
experiencing them. Denial can reduce anxiety temporarily.
6.9 Fantasy- is when people achieve goals and escape anxiety by fantasizing
about what might be. In moderation, fantasy is a healthy device.
6.10 Rationalization- inventing plausible and acceptable reasons for
situations, thoughts, actions, or impulses in order to hide the real
explanation from ones self.
6.11. Intellectualization- occurs by viewing the situation that could ordinarily
generate emotional distress in a detached, analytic, rational way. This
way, the impact is reduced.
6.12. Reaction formation- occurs when people conceal threatening motives,
traits or beliefs from themselves and instead express the opposite ones.
6.13. Projection- involves magnifying personal traits in others that we do not
acknowledge to ourselves.
6.14. Identification- is a process by which a person builds his or her ego by
symbolically becoming another person.
6.15. Sublimation- is the unconscious channeling of impulses and anxietyproducing energies to socially acceptable forms of behavior.
6.16. Compensation- is the application of the defensive energy to the
development of skills that will make up for a real or imagined defect.

6.17. Conversion- is a dramatic defense against guilt in which energy is

redirected into physical channels and disorders of hysteria develop.
6.18. Cognitive strategies such as self handicapping- involves giving ones
self a handicap to avoid the threat of failure that results in a blow to
ones self esteem.
7.1 Progressive relaxation- a patient is taught to recognize and relax muscle
tension through successive tensing and relaxing of 15 specific muscle
groups. This is time consuming but allows the patient to recognize tension
and how to reduce it.
7.2 Transcendental meditation- aims at increasing the awareness of thought.
The client sits comfortably, closes his, begins to use the thinking process
using mantras. Mantra meditation is focusing on a word or syllable, one
that has a meaning or none at all as long as it is pleasant to hear. There is
a settling of thought. A sense of bodily quiet and relaxation occur.
7.3 Autogenic training- combines elements of hypnosis, yoga and passive
non-muscular relaxation
7.4 Biofeedback- individuals are given information regarding their
physiological functioning in order to help them regulate and reduce tension
associated with the specific functioning.
8. Stress affecting health
Physical health
Stress can increase the bodys susceptibility to diseases that are under the
control of the immune system. Prolonged exposure to stress bodily wear and
tear, which can lead to a variety of symptoms known as psychosomatic or
psycho physiological disorder.
Mental health
Prolonged exposure affects ones mental health.
Brief reactive psychosis- occurs following an exposure to stress, which
lasts a few hours but no more than two weeks.
Post traumatic stress disorder- also classified as anxiety disorder may
months or years after the event and may last indefinitely.