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What is Stress? And How to cope with it

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What is Stress? And How to cope with it Stress is a type of alarm reaction, involving heightened mental and bodily states - it is both a psychological and a physiological response to the environment. Your brain produces a stress reaction when you are in a situation that is physically or mentally demanding. Stress is normal. Some stress is good for you - it keeps you alert and protects you in times of danger or when you need to act or think quickly. Physical training to keep fit places stress on your body, but that stress has a beneficial effect. Feeling stressed about exams is normal - it may help you to focus your energy into revising well. Prolonged and unwanted stress, however, may lead to mental and physical health problems. When psychologists talk about 'stress' they may refer to the causes of stress reactions ('stressors') or to the effects of stress reactions on our physical and mental functioning. Psychologists are interested in causes of stress, ways in which stress affects us and stress management.


In 1967, Holmes and Rahe came up with the idea of a 'social readjustment rating scale'. This was an attempt to quantify life change - any change in your life that might cause stress. Scores are calculated for a person's experiences over the past year. Studies using the scale have found that high life change scores (300+) are related to relatively high frequency of illness, accidents and athletic injuries. Coping with stress Stress is a normal part of life - it is only a problem when it causes long-term disruption or illness. Normal stress levels can energise and motivate us, directing our behaviour in useful ways. However, in most modern lifestyles, the pressures on people are immense and most people find themselves having to find ways of coping with stressful situations in their everyday lives. It has been found that women tend to use more emotional strategies - changing the way they think about a situation - to try to cope with stress, while men tend to focus more on changing the situation they see as a problem.


The effects of these techniques tend to be pretty short-lived though, so to be effective they need to become a regular part of a person's lifestyle. Other psychological approaches - cognitive-behavioural approaches - focus on training a person in new ways of thinking and behaving. For example, Kobasa's hardy personality theory has led to the development of training in 'hardiness'. This is about gaining a sense of control over a situation. In this type of training, the person has to identify stressful situations then analyse them for specific sources of stress - they then work out ways of dealing with those stressors in different ways, seeing them as challenges rather than problems. In the 1980s, Meichenbaum came up with the idea of 'stress inoculation training' (SIT). The difference with this approach is that it is meant to be a preventative measure to reduce levels of stress in the first place. Psychological approaches have also been applied in 'anger management' courses since anger has been found to increase vulnerability to heart disease. These courses challenge a person's views of themselves and others. ?? ?? ?? ?? Meera Pankhania

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