Situation that Might Be Eustressors to One but Distressors to Another Discussion
Stressaffects our lives in ways that are just becoming clear. While it has been understood that there was alink between stress and disease, the science of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) isbeginning to unravel the secrets of just how greatly stress affects our immunesystem and, therefore, different disease processes. Chapter 3 is devoted to helping the studentunderstand what stress is and when it is healthy and when it is not. This chapter also helps us to examine waysthat stress management can alter our lives toward greater health and happiness.
1. Definestress and examine the potential impact of stress on health, relationships, andsuccess in college.
2. Explainthe three phases of the general adaptation syndrome, and describe what happensphysiologically when we experience a real or perceived threat.
3. Examinethe health risks that may occur with chronic stress.
4. Discusspsychosocial, environmental, and self-imposed sources of stress and examine waysin which you might reduce risks from these stressors or inoculate yourselfagainst stressful situations.
5. Examinethe special stressors that affect college students and strategies for reducingrisk.
6. Discusstechniques for coping with unavoidable stress, reducing exposure to stress, andmaking optimum use of positive stressors to promote growth and enrich lifeexperiences.
I. What is Stress?
A. Stress is the mental and physical response ofour bodies to the changes and challenges in our lives.
1. A Stressor is any physical, social, or psychologicalevent or condition that causes the body to adjust to a specific situation.
2. Adjustment is our attempt to cope with a givensituation. Attempts to adjust may cause strain.
3. Strain is the wear and tear our bodies and mindssustain during the process of adjusting to or resisting a stressor.
4. Two major types of stress:
a. Eustress is stress that presents theopportunity for growth and satisfaction.
b. Distress is negative stress that can resultin debilitative strain.
II. The General Adaptation Syndrome. (See Figures 3.1, 3.2)
A. The alarm phase occurs when homeostasis isdisrupted and body prepares for “fight or flight.”
1. Stressor is interpreted by the cerebralcortex and triggers the autonomic nervous system.
a. The sympathetic branch energizes the body for fight orflight by signaling the release of several stress hormones.
b. The parasympathetic branch slows the body down afterstress reaction.
2. The hypothalamus determines the overallreaction to stressors.
3. Epinephrine secreted by adrenal glandsstrengthens heart beat, dilates bronchioles, increases oxygen intake andbreathing rate, stimulates the liver to release more glucose, and dilatespupils to improve visual sensitivity. Also, blood is moved away from digestive system, nasal and salivarytissues are affected causing dry mouth.
4. ACTH signals adrenals to release cortisol tomake nutrients more readily available.
5. Endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, arereleased to relieve pain.
B. The resistance phase begins almostimmediately after alarm phase starts.
1. The body adjusts in order to return tohomeostasis.
2. The parasympathetic nervous system helps keepenergy levels under control.
C. Exhaustion phase occurs after continuousalarm and resistance reactions.
1. Adaptation energy stores are physical and mental foundations of abilityto cope with stress.
a. Superficial stores are readily accessible and used foreveryday stressors and can be replenished with aerobic exercise, relaxation,practicing good nutrition and maintaining supportive relationships, etc.
b. Deep stores are determined by heredity.
c. Chronic, unresolved stress leads to the release ofcortisol which can contribute to a reduction in the body’s immune function,resulting in illness that can be minor or life-threatening.
III. Stress and Your Health
A. Stress is often described as “a disease ofprolonged arousal” in which the body is susceptible to long-term effects.
1. Chronic stress activation can result in headaches, asthma, high bloodpressure, ulcers, lower back pain, as well as other medical conditions.
2. Research supports the view that mental healthis the most important predictor of physical health.
B. Stress contributes to correlates of heartdisease
C. Research continues to unlock the effects ofstress on the immune system.
1. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a relativelyyoung science which is analyzing the relationship between the mind’s responseto stress and the ability of the immune system to function effectively.
a. During periods of prolonged stress, elevated levels ofadrenal hormones destroy or reduce the ability of natural killer T cells to aidin the immune response.
b. Other body processes are disrupted and disease-fightingcapacity is reduced.
2. A summary of early studies have shown:
a. Stress lowers resistance to upper respiratoryinfections and herpes.
b. Significant stressors have been linked to an increasedrisk for chronic ailments.
c. High stress times may reduce immune function andincrease risk to illness.
d. Grief and depression following the death of a spousedecreases immune defenses, explaining the increase in disease among recentlywidowed folks.
D. Stress and the Mind
1. Stress may be one of the single greatest contributorsto mental disability and emotional dysfunction in the United States today.
a. Low self-esteem and stress together predict depressionand/or anxiety
b. Depression and drug abuse are highly correlated withexcessive stress
c. Low self-esteem and concerns about stress and healthwere identified by many college students as unresolved problems.
d. Mature coping styles predict happiness, enjoyment, andabsence of addiction.
e. People with high nervous tension have increased riskfor mental illness, suicide and CHD.
f. Almost half of Americans aged 15-54 will experience amental or addictive disorder in their lives.
g. Mental illness is on the rise in the U.S.
IV. Sources of Stress
A. Psychosocial stress refers to the factors inour daily lives that cause stress. These factors include such things as ourinteractions with others, expectations, social conditions of work and play,etc.
1. Change always produces stress. The morechange experienced, the more stress.
a. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) predictsstress overload and the likelihood of illness. This scale focuses on major sources of stress.
b. The SRRS has been used as a model for the developmentof a scale for college students. The more of these stressors a student has themore their situation needs to change before problems occur. (see Table 3.1)
2. Hassles are petty annoyances, irritations, andfrustrations, such as losing keys, having a grocery bag rip, etc., that canbuild up and be harmful in the long run.
3. Pressure occurs when we feel forced to speed up, intensify,or shift the direction of behavior to meet a higher standard ofperformance. It is based on goals orpeer influences.
4. Disparity between our goals and our behaviors canmagnify negative stress.
5. Conflict occurs when we are forced to make difficult decisionsconcerning two or more competing motives, behaviors, or impulses or when forcedto face incompatible demands, opportunities, needs or goals..
6. Overload occurs when you suffer from excessive timepressure or expectations of yourself and those around you.
7. Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustioncaused by excessive stress.
8. Other forms of psychosocial stress include problemswith discrimination, prejudice, inflation, unemployment, poverty, etc.
B. Environmental stress results from events occurringin our physical environment.
1. Environmental stressors include natural disasters,chemical spills, earthquakes.
2. Background distressors include noise and air pollution.It make take many years before we become aware of the effect of thesebackground distressors.
C. Self-imposed stress.
1. Self-concept is a component of stress.
a. The cognitive stress system governs our response tostressors.
b. Self-esteem is closely related to past stressfulexperiences.
2. Personality types and hardiness.
a. Freidman and Rosenman identified Type A and Type B personalities.
i. Type A are hard driving, competitive, anxious, and timedriven.
ii. Type B are relaxed and non-competitive.
b. Problems with these types are:
i. Most people are not one personality type all the time.
ii. There are many unexplored variables such as thriving ina stressful environment.
c. Type C personalities are said to succeed with goodhealth in stressful environments.
d. Researchers have identified a “toxic core” in Type Apersonalities that promotes cynicism, anger, hostility, and below averagelevels of social support.
e. Psychological hardiness helps many with Type A behaviornegate the negative effects of self-imposed stress. Psychologically hardy people arecharacterized by the three Cs:
i. A sense of control, accepting responsibility for theirbehaviors and changing behaviors that are debilitating.
ii. A sense of commitment which helps with self-esteem andunderstanding their purpose in life.
iii. A sense of challenge, seeing changes in life asstimulating opportunities for personal growth.
1. Self-efficacy and control.
a. Self-efficacy is belief in one’s own skills andperformance abilities.
b. People who believe they lack control more frequentlygive up.
2. External locus of control indicates a lowself-efficacy and a feeling of no personal control while internal locus ofcontrol causes people to believe they have control over their circumstances.
VI. Stress and the College Student
A. There are many stressors associated withbeing a student.
1. Females and males differ significantly in what theyperceive to be significant stressors.
B. There are several symptoms of stress that can indicatestress overload.
VII. Managing Your Stress
A. Building skills to reduce stress.
1. You need to assess whether or not you can change thestressor or your response.
2. Change stress response with cognitive coping strategiesthat involve being gradually exposed to increasingly higher stress levels.
3. Learn to cope with stress inoculation, which is toprepare for potentially stressful events ahead of time by practicing thebehaviors that may help to reduce the negative consequences of stress.
4. Many people are downshifting which involves taking astep back and simplifying their lives.
B. It is important to maintain social interactions with others bycultivating friendships. Look for people who:
1. Have values similar to yours.
2. Share common Interests
3. Are good listeners
4. Are trustworthy
5. Take a more positive approach
6. Are responsible
7. Have balance in their lives
C. Managing emotional responses to stressfulsituations can help in stress management.
1. Examine self-talk.
2. Learn to control and redirect anger (See Table 3.2)
D. Taking mental action in stress managementinvolves two things:
1. Developing and practicing positive self-esteem skills.
2. Develop mental skills to deal with stress as it occurs.
3. Changing the way you think about stressful situationscan help. See list on pg 73
E. Physical action can help alleviate stress.
1. Exercise can help get rid of excess stress hormones.
2. Relaxation can have opposite effect of stressresponse.
3. Eating right can help in stress management.
F. Managing time is an essential aspect ofstress management. See list on pg 74
G. Four alternative stress management techniquesare as follows:
1. Hypnosis frees right brain hemisphere in order tobecome responsive to suggestions.
2. Massage helps relax muscles initiating the relaxationresponse.
3. Meditation generally focuses on deep breathing andquiet concentration.
4. Biofeedback is a way to self-monitor physiologicalresponses to stress in order to control them.
H. Support groups, includingcommunity groups and committed relationships, are an important part of stressmanagement.
VIII Developing Your Spiritual Side:Mindfulness
A. As a meditative technique, mindfulness can aid relaxation,reduce emotional or physical pain, and help individuals connect moreeffectively with others.
B. Mindfulness can include strategies and activities thatcontribute to overall health.
C. Moving in nature helps to combine physical fitness withthe peace found in the beauty of nature
D. Dealing with negative feelings by noticing what causesthem and blocking thoughts to keep them from recurring
E. Develop the ability to give and take, speak and listen,forgive and move on.
F. Actively listening to others can help us develop bettersocial bonds.
Take time to sharpen intuitive skills and develop ourobjective reasoning skills.