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  • CompetencyList the chronic stressors that increase ones risk of illness. Describe the physiological symptoms of stress. Predict various emotional reactions to stress. Investigate locus of control and its importance in coping with stress. Infer coping techniques that effectively help people cope with stress. Recommend personal management techniques.

  • OverviewStress is something we must contend with throughout our lives, beginning with our first cries at birth to our very last moments of life. Through understanding the nature and effects of stress and how to manage it in a healthy way, we can learn to lead more productive and happy lives. In this learning plan, we will explore the sources and consequences of stress, and we will be provided with ideas and techniques for reducing stress in our lives. Questions to Consider: How would you define the word stress? At what age do you think humans begin to be negatively affected by stress? What are some examples you can give of these stressors? What do you think the impact of these stressors is on people of this age?

  • The Nature of StressWhat is stress? Most people associate stress as a negative, something that creates psychological and sometimes even physiological problems for people experiencing it. How many times have you felt anxious, worried or nauseous the night before an exam or right before the due date of a major paper at school? These are examples of both the psychological and physiological effects of stress (the prior resulting in the latter). Stress is the result of challenges to our sense of well-being and ability to cope with unfamiliar situations. While most of us are familiar with negative stress (referred to as distress), there can also be a positive side to stress. The term eustress is used to differentiate it from its negative counterpart distress. Eustress refers to what is thought of as positive stress, such as the feelings when you learn you have been approved for a new home loan, have found your dream house and are just about to sign the papers to close the deal. Exciting? Yes. Stressful? You bet! How about the birth of a brand new healthy baby? This example could exemplify both concepts of stress: distress (the pain of the labor, the rush to the hospital and the nervousness right before birth while you were worrying about what could go wrong) and eustress (managing family responses and attending to all of the things necessary after the birth of a healthy baby).

  • StressorsWhich of the following situations are stressors? Your final exam is tomorrow. Your spouse just informed you that your mother-in-law is moving in with you. You have just been promoted to a management position. You have almost no money in your bank account, and you have unpaid bills sitting on your table. Your wedding is tomorrow. You have a lot of homework, your child is sick and cant go to school and your spouse is angry with you and wont talk to you. Its Saturday night and you have no plans. You have been diagnosed with a chronic disease. You have been asked to be the keynote speaker at a big event.

  • Stress ReactionsTime management problems (e.g. a sense of a "lack of time"). Inability to make needed life changes (e.g. feeling helpless in the face of needing to make important life changes, such as quitting smoking, drinking, drug use/abuse; need to lose weight and/or to exercise, eat healthfully). Relationship problems (e.g. communication problems, disagreements, arguing, cheating, separation, divorce). Employment-related problems (e.g. long or unusual work hours, angry boss, possible layoff/termination, unemployment). Traffic and other crowding-related issues (e.g. road rage). Legal problems (e.g. lawsuits, criminal charges). Pressure from too many obligations or juggling too many responsibilities. Traumatic events in one's past that have not been resolved (e.g., rape, abuse, victim of crime, perceived wrongs). Mental and/or physical health problems involving yourself, spouse, in-laws, family members or close friends. Death of loved ones.

  • Emotional and Physiological Effects Outward signs of stress can present themselves in a variety of forms, from the very obvious to the more subtle. They can result in a rapid reaction or can have a more accumulative insidious effect. Stressful events can have a short-term or long-term impact on our lives. Often the stressful stimulus itself does not hurt us, but instead it is our reaction to it that causes problems. Stress can result in emotional and physiological effects. Emotional effects are those that affect how we feel, in terms of feeling positive (e.g. exhilarated) or negative (e.g. pressured, fearful, depressed, etc.). How we feel affects how we act. Thus, the emotional effects are related to the physiological effects. This relationship is further interrelated by the fact that our feelings have a chemical and physiological component. It is difficult to divide reactions to stress exclusively into separate categories of emotional or physiological.

  • General Adaptation SyndromeA Canadian physiologist, Hans Selye, developed a theory that describes the way people react to stress called general adaptation syndrome (GAS) (Selye, 1956). GAS suggests that there are three stages to stress.Alarm reaction is like the alarm bell being sounded at a fire station. It serves to let our body know that there is an emergency situation (physical or psychological) requiring a heightened level of attention. Our nervous system quickly addresses the issue by releasing hormones, like adrenalin, into our bloodstream, which increases our ability to defend ourselves and/or get away. If you can recall times in your life when this has happened, it can be quite upsetting and result in a very rapid heart beat and muscle tension that takes a while to recover from, even after the situation that caused this response is over. Resistance -Occurs when we increase our efforts to deal with stressors. If we are able to react to stressors in a successful manner, then once we calm down, we will shortly return to a more normal mental and physical state. But if the stressor persists, and after some time and effort, we are still unable to effectively resolve the situation, we will begin to exhaust our physical and mental resources. This inability to resolve our stress can result in poor coping decisions or strategies that lead to the third stage. Exhaustion - can cause us to struggle with diminishing resources until we risk the large-scale detrimental effects of stress ranging from burnout to physical and mental illness and even death.

  • Extreme StressIt is natural that we all experience stress, to varying degrees, in our lives.Certain stressors can create severe reactions in the person experiencing them and may require professional medical and/or psychological care.Stressors sometimes become both severe and chronic in nature. One result of extreme stress is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a diagnosable psychological disorder that results from exposure to an extremely stressful situation, such as rape, abuse, violent crime, military combat, serious accidents and/or other high-stress scenarios in which a person is involved in a situation in which serious injuries and/or death have occurred. Symptoms of PTSD include recurrent nightmares about the events and vivid traumatic memories in the daytime, often triggered by something that reminds them of the traumatic situation. Symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating to the extent that the person suffering from them withdraws from the outside world to avoid anything that will trigger the memories and intense feelings. As a result, PTSD can seriously impact employment, relationships, family and other important areas of life.

  • DepressionWe all can feel down once in a while, and this is normal. However, sometimes life can be so filled with pressures that life can seem overwhelming and hopeless. Depression is a serious problem for millions of people across the country. Television and print media are rich with advertising from pharmaceutical companies developing new medications to address this ongoing problem. Stress can become so overwhelming that a person can feel as if he/she wants to withdraw from everything. The result can be symptoms such as constant sleeping, avoiding social contact, avoiding pleasurable activities, seeming to no longer care about things, having decreased appetite, feeling low energy, and even considering suicide. People experiencing these symptoms most often need professional help from a doctor and/or psychotherapist.

  • Stress at Work: Discussion & ResourcesHave you ever been at work and felt that you have just had enough of the stress and are about to lose control?Workplace stress is a phenomenon that has received attention in recent years, particularly as a result of a string of employee violence scenarios that have taken place at various U.S. Postal Service locations and have headlined the national news channels on numerous occasions.

  • Managing StressHow we perceive the world around us affects our ability to cope with it.The term locus of control refers to our perspective on how things come to fruition in our lives and the world. Do things just happen to us (through fate or luck), or do we have control of our own lives through our decisions and actions? If you really analyze this question, you will find that a healthy answer will involve a balance between the two. Some things we can control, but others we simply cannot.Thus, locus of control exists on a continuum between two points. On one end of the continuum is external locus of control, which refers to a belief that factors outside yourself control your circumstances. On the other end of the continuum is internal locus of control, which is a belief that you have control over your world.

  • Coping SkillsCoping skills are the strategies we use to cope with stress. Coping mechanisms can be divided into two general categories: direct coping and defensive coping. Direct coping is aimed at addressing the issue and seeking to resolve it while defensive coping is aimed at avoiding it. Some of these mechanisms we learn and consciously implement as tools, while others may be unconsciously learned and used during times of stress (sometimes effectively and other times ineffectively). If a coping mechanism is used successfully, it is considered adaptive (as it helps us to adapt to challenging situations), and if it results in either not resolving or even worsening the situation, it can be considered maladaptive. Without the ability to cope with challenges, we would not be able to prosper, or possibly even survive, in this world.

  • Coping Skills ContinuedThere are a variety of ways people try to cope with stress. Some of these ways are helpful, while others cause only more problems. Millions of people around the world attempt to cope with stress by using alcohol and other drugs to numb the pain or to help them temporarily forget about their problems. This is clearly a maladaptive way to cope with stress, because alcoholism and drug addiction create more problems, including legal, relational, employment and health problems. An effective coping mechanism will address the problem at hand and will help resolve the problem instead of compounding it. The best way to prepare oneself to cope with stress is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep are the very basics. It is also important to avoid unhealthy behaviors, including smoking tobacco, drug use, excessive drinking and high-risk sexual activities. Like most things, a healthy lifestyle requires balance. When the balance is skewed too far to one side, you will begin to feel the effects of stress.

  • Coping Skills ContinuedSome methods of coping with stress can be achieved on your own, while others require assistance. One step is to learn how to relax and calm down. Make time in your life for peace. Find a time and place where you can relax to calm music or sit outside and listen to the birds singing or a river flowing. Meditation is a skill many people learn that can contribute positively to your health. Exercise is also an important way to both burn off extra energy and to improve your cardiovascular system, which is a key part of the stress reaction (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.). By exercising regularly, we are better able to manage the effects of stress and to prevent such stress-related health problems as hypertension. It also helps keep us more fit, improving self-esteem and confidence. Another important coping skill is learning how to be more in touch with your body, especially in relationship to muscle tension. Learning how to detect tension and how to relieve it through exercise, breathing techniques and meditation are important stress relief skills. Something as simple as taking slow, deep breaths and counting slowly to 10 can help relieve tension and help you calm down before reacting to something that has just upset you. (Try it and you will find that you react in a much more dignified and controlled manner than you would had you instantly reacted to something that angered you.)

  • Coping SkillsOne of the most important coping skills involves being able to communicate and solve problems effectively. Many of lifes stresses result from interpersonal conflict. This most typically involves a persons spouse or significant other, children, parents, co-workers, customers, friends or neighbors. By learning to communicate in a way that solves problems and doesnt perpetuate or avoid them, we can minimize many of the stresses that we will encounter. By being direct but tactful, we can address the problem and try to move toward resolution. Some stressful situations require you to withdraw (e.g. someone is trying to rob you), and depending on the situation, this can be a very effective manner with which to address a stressor. At other times, this can perpetuate the problem (your spouse wants to talk to you about an ongoing problem between you). Sometimes we need to seek assistance from others to gain insight, advice or just to have someone with whom we can share our feelings (all good examples of positive coping skills). In addition to these fundamental techniques, it is very important to develop support systems. Support systems provide support and can consist of family, friends, colleagues, religious affiliations, a supportive spouse or partner, or a psychotherapist.

  • How Can We Best Address Stress?The list below contains a recipe of excellent steps to take to successfully manage stress and to maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle: Eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly. Sleep eight hours per night. Develop and maintain positive social support systems. Get involved in spiritual/cultural beliefs. Avoid tobacco, drugs and excessive drinking. Spend time with those you care about. Find meaningful employment. Make time to do things that you enjoy. Address your problems directly by learning how to communicate more effectively. Seek help from a professional if your stress seems to be spiraling out of control.

  • GlossaryCoping mechanisms: The strategies used to cope with stress. Distress: Negative stress Eustress: Positive stress Flight or Fight Response: A psychological concept in which the human body prepares itself to stay and deal with the potentially dangerous situation or escape the situation as quickly as possible. General adaptation syndrome: According to Hans Selye, the way people react to stress. Locus of control: Locus of control refers to one's perceived control over a situation. Locus of control can be internal or external.

  • HomeworkStressors AssignmentStudy for Final


    ******Questions to Consider: *****