Stressors Daily hassles are the little hassles or annoyances that occur practically everyday, such as having to make decisions, arguing with friends and family, trying to meet deadlines at school or work, and stepping on a piece of bubble gum that someone carelessly spitted out. Although a wide variety of daily hassles can be sources of stress, they often involve conflicts between behaviors people may or may not want to do.
If someone is experiencing an approach-approach conflict, that person has to choose between two attractive alternatives, such as going on vacation or buying a new computer. If someone is experiencing an avoidance-avoidance conflict, that person has to choose between two unattractive alternatives, such as having a pet "put to sleep" or spending the money on an expensive surgical procedure for it. If someone is experiencing an approach-avoidance conflict, that person has to choose whether to engage in an activity that has both attractive and unattractive qualities, such as mowing the lawn, an activity that would result in a nice lawn but would not be enjoyable to do.
In general, major life events do not appear to be significant sources of stress. Accordingly, major life events generally do not tend to be related to the health problems that accompany stress. Under some circumstances, however, major life events can be sources of stress. Whether major life events involve positive or negative feelings, for instance, is relevant.
Major life events that are positive tend to have either trivially stressful or actually beneficial effects, but major life events that are negative can be stressful and are associated with medical problems. Examples of major life events are getting married, getting divorced, and being fired from a job. Although they do not happen very often, when catastrophes do occur, they can be tremendous sources of stress. One major type of catastrophe is natural disasters.
After people are exposed to natural disasters, they are more anxious, have more bodily complaints, drink more alcohol, and have more phobias. A group of Stanford University students who completed a survey before and after the San Francisco earthquake, for example, were more stressed afterwards than they were before hand. War is another type of catastrophe. It is one of the most stressful catastrophes that you could ever endure.
PTSD is a mental disorder characterized by the re-experiencing of stress responses associated with an earlier traumatic event like withstanding a natural disaster or being assaulted. Compared to the impact of other types of events, the cumulative effect of daily hassles over time are probably the most significant sources of stress. An obvious reason why major life events and catastrophes are probably less significant sources of stress is that people just do not experience them as often. It is not every day that a person spends time in prison or retires from a job, for instance.
Likewise, people do not have to and possibly never will face the repercussions of a nuclear war, for instance, on a daily basis. Family Specific types of stressors that family members are exposed to through their family include a lack of parent-child emotional bonding, parental workload, misbehavior of children, teenage pregnancy, lack of emotional closeness between spouses, poor communication between spouses, tension between spouses, divorce, remarriage, and maternal depression.
Additionally, a family member's job can interfere with his or her home life. Marital conflict is a good example of a daily hassle that is specifically related to the family. Marital conflict tends to occur when spouses come from different social and economic backgrounds and the spouse of higher status emphasizes his or her superiority.
Marital conflict often occurs in the context of unequal occupational statuses, for instance. Teenage pregnancy, particularly the unplanned pregnancy of an unmarried, teenage daughter, is a good example of a major life crisis that is specifically related to the family. Regarding teenagers who follow through with the pregnancy, this event leads to several premature role transitions, such as the teenager becoming a young mother and the mother becoming a young grandmother.
These kinds of role transitions tend to be sources of distress in the family if new mothers are still teenagers but sources of eustress if new mothers are age 20 or older. In cases in which teenagers terminate the pregnancy, they tend to find it especially stressful if they perceive a lack of support from their parents or the father of the child, are less sure of their decision and coping abilities beforehand, blame themselves for the pregnancy, or delay until the second trimester.
Work The specific types of stressors that employees are exposed to in the workplace fall into four categories of demands: Among these categories, work overload, boundary extension, role ambiguity, role conflict, and career development are particularly relevant stressors. Additionally, an employee's home-life can interfere with his or her job.
Work overload is a good example of a daily hassle that is particularly relevant in the workplace. When employees feel overwhelmed from trying to work on more tasks than they can handle or from trying to work on tasks that are too difficult for them, they are suffering from work overload. Work overload is common after layoffs among the remaining workers who are assigned more tasks. It is also common among newly appointed managers who feel unprepared for their new, unfamiliar roles.
Boundary extension is another good example of a daily hassle that is particularly relevant in the workplace. Some jobs, such as public relations and sales, require employees to work with people in other occupational settings. Such boundary extension can be difficult for employees, especially if it involves any of the following difficulties: Dealing with very diverse organizations Maintaining frequent and long-term relations with people in other organizations Interacting in complex and dynamic environments Not having screening mechanisms like secretaries or voice mail Participating in non-routine activities Trying to meet demanding performance standards Two more good examples of daily hassles that are particularly relevant in the workplace are role ambiguity and role conflict.
When employees are unsure about what is expected of them, how to perform their job, or what the consequences of their job performance are, they are experiencing role ambiguity. When employees finds it difficult to perform their job effectively because of the multiple explanations about their job performance, they are experiencing role conflict.
Role conflict takes place in five basic ways: Receiving conflicting or incompatible expectations from another employee Receiving different expectations from two or more other employees Receiving expectations that lead to incompatible roles Receiving too many expectations, expectations leading to too many roles, or expectations leading to roles that are too complicated Having values and beliefs that conflict with expectations Career development is a good example of a major life event specifically related to work.
Changing jobs or occupations can be stressful. People may feel frustrated and afraid, for example, after being laid off or fired from their job. Similarly, employees may feel belittled or embarrassed after being demoted. These feeling may be even more damaging for employees if such changes in ccupational status interfere with their family life. School As with work, work overload, role ambiguity, and role conflict are daily hassles that are particularly relevant to students.
Students incollege, for instance, often feel overwhelmed from having too many assignments or assignments that are too difficult. Additionally, they sometimes experience role ambiguity in poorly designed courses or from poor instructors and sometimesexperience role conflict from instructors who seem to believe that the students in their classes are not taking any other classes. According to two surveys, the following stressors are particularly relevant for college students: Final grades Excessive homework Term papers Examinations Study for examinations Time demands Professors Class environment Among children and adolescents, transitions from one stage of schooling to another are major life events that can be significantstressors.
The transition from elementary school to junior high or middle school, for instance, can be a significant stressor. Stress Responses Although the presence of stressors does not mean that stress responses will necessarily follow, when they do, stress responsesare the way in which people react to stressors. They are the experience of being stressed.
Stress responses can be divided into three categories: Psychological Responses When people react to stressors, a wide variety of cognitive and emotional responses can occur. Examples of cognitiveresponses are as follows: Physiological Responses Physiological responses follow what is called the general adaptation syndrome. The GAS has three stages: The first stage, aarm, is basically the fight-or-flight response, the various physiological changes that prepare the body to attack r to flee a threatening situation.
The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is activated and prompts the release of two catecholamines, epinephrine and norepinephrine, from the adrenal medulla. Additionally, glucocorticoids like cortisol are releasedfrom the adrenal cortex. The following examples of physiological changes characterizes the alarm stage: Increased heart rate Increased blood pressure Rapid or irregular breathing Muscle tension Dilated pupils Sweating Dry mouth Increased blood sugar levels In the second stage, resistance, the body tries to calm itself and restrain the fight-or-flight response from the alarm stage.
These changes allow people to deal with stressors more effectively over a longer period of time. When the body eventually runs out of energy from trying to resist stressors, the exhaustion stage takes over.
In this stage, the body admits defeat and suffers the negative consequences of the stressors, such as a decreased capacity to function correctly, less sleep, or even death. Behavioral Responses People act differently when they are reacting to stressors. Sometimes, the behaviors are somewhat subtle, such as the following responses: Strained facial expressions A shaky voice Tremors or spasms Jumpiness Accident proneness Difficulty sleeping Overeating or loss of appetite Behavioral responses are more obvious when people take advantage of the preparatory physiological responses of the fight-or-flight response.
One side of the fight-or-flight response is that it prepares people to "fight", and people sometimes take advantage of that feature and behave aggressively toward other people. Unfortunately, this aggression is often direct toward family members. After Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida in , for example, reports of domestic violence doubled. The other side of the fight-or-flight response is that it prepares people for "flight".
The following behavioral responses are examples of how people try to escape threatening situations: Quitting jobs Dropping out of school Abusing alcohol or other drugs Attempting suicide Committing crimes 23; ; IV. A number of conscious and unconscious things occur in our inner world that determine whether a stressor in the external world will trigger our stress response.
These inner world happenings are referred to as mediating processes and moderating factors. Consider, for example, a person who discovers that his or her cat neglected to use the litter box.
Whether or not this person appraises the problem as something he or she can establish control over may help determine whether he or she becomes angry. Mediating processes include appraisal and coping. Appraisal Once people become aware of a stressor, the next step is appraisal. How a stressor is appraised influences the extent to which stress responses follow it.
In fact, many stressors are not inherently stressful. Stressors can be interpreted as harm or loss, as threats, or as challenges. When stressors have not already led to harm or loss but have the potential to do so, it is usually less stressful for people if the stressors are seen positively as challenges rather than negatively as threats.
The influence of appraisal does have its limits, though. For example, although people who suffer from chronic pain tend to be able to enjoy more physical activity if they view their pain as a challenge they can overcome, appraisal does not matter if the pain is severe. Moreover, thinking negatively about the influence of past stressors is associated with a greater vulnerability to future stressors. Consider, for example, people with PTSD. Among victims of sexual or physical assault with PTSD, those who have trouble recovering tend to have more negative appraisals of their actions during the assault, of others' reactions after the assault, and of their initial PTSD symptoms.
An important aspect of appraisal is how predictable and controllable a stressor is judged to be. Regarding predictability, not knowing if or when a stressor will come usually makes it more stressful, especially if it is intense and of a short duration.
After a spouse passes away, for example, the other spouse tends to feel more disbelief, anxiety, and depression if the death was sudden than if it was anticipated weeks or months in advance. Similarly, during the Vietnam War, for example, wives of soldiers who were missing in action felt worse than did wives of soldiers who were prisoners of war or had been killed.
Regarding control, believing that a stressor is uncontrollable usually makes it more stressful. Alternatively, believing that a stressor is controllable, even if it really is not, tends to make it less stressful.
When people are exposed to loud noises, for example, they tend to see it as less stressful when they are able to stop it, even if they do not bother to stop it. How much more stressful a stressor becomes from feeling a lack of control over it depends, however, on the extent to which the cause of the stressor is seen as stable or unstable, global or specific, and internal or external. Stable and unstable causes represent causes that are enduring and temporary, respectively.
Global and specific causes represent causes that are relevant to many events and relevant to a single occasion, respectively. Internal or external causes represent causes that are the result of personal characteristics and behaviors or the result of environmental forces, respectively.
The more stable and global the cause of a stressor seems, the more people feel and behave as though they are helpless. Likewise, the more internal the cause of a stressor seems, the worse people feel about themselves. Together, these feelings and behaviors contribute to a depressive reaction to the stressor. Consider, for example, a case in which a guy's girlfriend breaks up with him and he thinks that his love life is always in the dumps, that nobody really cares about him, and that he must not be a dateable guy.
Such an interpretation could contribute to a depressive reaction, such as him coming to the conclusion that he might as well not try because there is nothing he can do about it and that he is pretty much a lost cause. Coping After a stressor has been appraised, the next step, if necessary, is coping.
How well people are able to cope with stressors influences the extent to which stress responses follow them. Exposure to chronic stress can contribute to both physical illnesses, such as heart disease, and mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders. The field of health psychology focuses in part on how stress affects bodily functioning and on how people can use stress management techniques to prevent or minimize disease. Stressors vary in severity and duration.
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