The body then starts a frenzied cycle of physiological activity such as a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure to send blood to the parts of the body that will need it during. The liver releases glucose to be used as fuel for quick energy, and the persons breathing rate will increase to supply enough oxygen to the muscles. The muscles will tense to prepare for an adaptive response, such as sprinting away, and there is an increase in blood coaguability so the blood will clot quicker if the body gets injured. The body will perspire to cool the body temperature down and allow more energy to be burned, the digestive system will slow down to make more blood available to the brain and muscles, the body will break down some tissue’s to supply sugar’s for energy, and finally, blood will move into the skeletal frame of the body and away from the internal organs.
Stage two : resistance stage. In this stage a resistance to the stress is built up, and if the stress is reduced, the levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline will decrease at a steady rate. If the stressor continues, the adrenal glands can become damaged, and cortisol production will continue to increase which can reduce the production of white blood cells so the immune system becomes weakened.
Stage Three : Exhaustion. During this final stage of the GAS model, all of the body’s resources are depleted and the body is unable to maintain its normal functions. The endocrine glands, kidneys and other internal organs are damaged and this results in what Selye calls diseases of adaption, which can be ulcers, asthma and coronary heart disease.
There is evidence, although not conclusive, to show that stress is linked to cancer. Visintainer, et al. (1983) injected cancerous cells into some non-human animals, and then subjected them to an uncontrollable stressor. The results showed that the animals exposed to the stressor found it harder to resist the cancer, and also that stress is more likely to make a cancerous cell turn malignant.
Jacobs & Charles (1980) showed that cancer patients usually had experienced higher levels of stress in their lives than usual before they became ill and Tache, et al. (1979) produced evidence to prove that cancer occurs more often among separated, divorced and widowed adults than it did in married ones.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that illness’s can be caused by stress. Frese (1985) stated that between 50 and 70 % of all physical illnesses are caused by stress.
Many different psychological and physical strategies have been put forward to help cope with stress. For example, In 1983 Meichenbaum came up with the idea of Stress Inoculation Training (S.I.T); this is a three-step procedure for producing stress inoculation. It was designed to teach people skills for alleviating stress and achieving personal goals. It aims to control irrational and catastrophising thoughts that to coincide with stressful situations. The first step is known as conceptualisation, this is where the person analyses and identifies where their stress comes from in their lives and the ways they have coped with it in the past. The step provides to person to reach a more realistic understanding of the demands being made upon them. The second step is known as skills and acquisition and rehearsal, this is where the person receives training in general coping strategies for stress such as relaxation and a realistic appraisal of demands. The third step is known as application and follow through where the person’s new skills are put into practice with a therapist in a relaxing environment, these strategies are then put to the test in the real world although the person remains in contact with the therapist where they receive follow up sessions and further help should they require it.
The good the about Stress Inoculation Training is that it aims to look at both the source of the stress and the strategies being used to cope with it. It combines cognitive and behavioural therapies and in theory this makes it a good method of stress management. However, very few studies have been carried out into its effectiveness and it takes up a lot of time and money.
Just a year before Meichenbaum’s research was published Kobasa et al came up with a similar approach to reducing stress known as ‘Increasing Hardiness’. Kobasa believed that the concept of hardiness is the central understanding of why some people are more prone to stress than others. The research was on a group of managers, which they followed for three years. Kobasa obtained the Holmes-Rahe scale measurements from each of the managers and monitored their levels of stress and amount of illness they had. Kobasa found two different groups between the managers. One group who suffered from high amounts of stress but had very little illnesses but the other group who had high amounts of stress also had a high amount of illnesses. Kobasa found that the group who had high amounts of stress but only low amounts of illness also had high scores on the hardiness scales and this group were also less likely to suffer from stress-related illnesses compared to the other group which had low hardiness scores.
Kobasa believed that hardiness consisted of three things, Control; this was the belief that the individual had control over the incidents occurring in their life rather than attributing control to outside influences. Commitment was also another component and this refers to a sense of involvement in the world around the individual and involving a strong sense of purpose in their activities. Challenge was the other component that refers to the individual’s life changes, which are to be seen as challenges and opportunities rather than threats and stressors.
From the research data Kobasa came up with three coping strategies to increase a person’s hardiness. The first strategy was known as focusing, this is where the individual is trained to identify signs of stress and so recognise their sources. The second strategy is known as reliving stressful situations in which the individual learns to analyse a stressful situation and is given examples of how it could have been better or worse. This helps the individual gain insight into the strategies they’re currently using and how they are most likely to be more effective than the individual thought. The final strategy is known as self-improvement, this is where the individual is encouraged to take on and carry out challenges that they’ll be able to cope with. Successful coping is a form of assertiveness training and it also helps to deal with other stressors and avoids the development of helpless-like tendencies.
There has been a lot of support for Kobasa’s work as there is evidence for the role of control in reducing responses to stress and also Ganellen and Blaney (1984) found that hardiness was only available to offer protection from stress even though social support is available showing that Kobasa’s work draws attention to the role of exercise and social support in the management of stress. However, Kobasa’s work has been heavily criticised firstly because there have been few studies since showing the effectiveness of hardiness training. The sample Kobasa used in his work tended to be white middle-class business men therefore, the results cannot be generalised to the rest of the population and also the concept of hardiness has been criticised because the relative importance of its factors (control, commitment etc.) are unclear. The other problem with it is it’s similar to Meichenbaum’s Stress Inoculation Training and this also takes up a lot of time, commitment, motivation and money.
Lazarus and Folkman have come with their own two coping methods for stress similar to what we have looked at so far. The two methods are known as problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. Problem focused coping looks at the source of the stress (like Meichenbaum and Kobasa), for example, in the case if it job related the person might change their working conditions or even their job. Emotion-focused coping is quite different in that in looks at the person’s reactions to the stressors, for example, they may try and forget about the problem by going out with friends or even ignore it. Obviously if the problem producing the stress has a potential solution then problem-focused coping would be the best to use, however, if there’s no solution then emotion-focused coping would be the answer. Personally, I think these methods of coping would be ok for small amounts of stress happening on rare occasions but in the long particularly looking at emotion-focused coping I believe this not be a very good method for coping because it ignores the problem and does not do anything about it by believing there is no solution for it which is not a good attitude for a person to have particularly under stress as it may lead to long term problems such as depression and other illnesses.
There have also been many physical approaches to coping with stress put forward as well as the psychological approaches, these include: Biofeedback, this involves using monitors to measure your heart rate and blood pressure and these then provide feedback to the person who is then taught techniques to reduce the levels. Muscle relaxation or altered posture can be very effective in reducing blood pressure and through biofeedback the person can learn physical and psychological methods to reduce bodily arousal and eventually these bodily processes can be controlled without using feedback. Unfortunately, because there is a need for specialised machinery this makes biofeedback expensive and more difficult than using other methods the person can practice at home and biofeedback also requires a lot of practice. Research has also shown it possible that biofeedback actually may have no benefits at all and if there is any progress made, it comes from the individual’s commitment to improve their condition.
Progressive muscle relaxation is also used as an effective way of reducing the physical signs of stress such as heart rate and blood pressure, it is seen as a straight forward means of stress control and it’s known to be very successful in preventing and controlling stress-related disorders and also helping people under stress to cope with their experiences. However, this method needs a lot of time and space and depending on how much stress the person is under depends on how much time it will take so it’s mainly beneficial and effective if your stress is temporary.
Anxiolytic drugs such as Valium and anti-depressants such as Prozac help manage stress if it is associated with anxiety of depression and beta-blockers are prescribed to people at a high risk of strokes or brain haemorrhages through very high and long lasting blood pressure. The problem with these drugs apart from their side effects they have is that people can easily become dependent on them, so they’re best used as a temporary measure and only use them during an acute crisis or whilst looking for new methods and ideas for beating their stress.
Meditation has also been used to treat stress as it helps to relieve feelings of worry, problems and concerns. There are many forms of meditation but the commonly most used form involves focusing on a single, unchanging stimulus (like a syllable or mantra) and this helps to narrow the focus of consciousness. However, there have been many disagreements about the exact state of consciousness induced by meditation, but it does produce a state of calm and lead to measurable body changes. Although it does not seem to help manage long-term stress as it has only been found to work effectively under short-term/temporary stress.
There are many different strategies that can be used to alleviate stress. Overall, it has been shown more effective to use more than one strategy at a time because each one has different ways of dealing with stress as some only deal with reducing the physical symptoms of stress such as exercise and it doesn’t look at the underlying reasons as to why the stress occurred in the first place where as Meichenbaum’s Stress Inoculation Training only looks at the underlying reasons of the stress and why it occurred rather than one actually happens to the person physically. Because of these it seems obviously more beneficial to use more than one strategy at a time, For example, over 150 studies have shown exercise to be good for reducing depression and anxiety but even better if it is used alongside anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac and also using Psychotherapy (Arent et al 2000, Berger & Motl, 2000).
The effectiveness of all psychological techniques is related to various factors. Co relational studies, where levels of fitness and exercise are recorded, along with frequency of stress related disorders, such as high blood pressure and depression, show consistent exercise is associated with low levels of depression and lower incidence of hypertension. Physical exercise is an obvious and effective way of removing excess glucose and fats: they are mobilized to provide for physical activity and blood levels fall as the muscles burn them up. It is predictable that regular exercise should have beneficial effects on stress related arousal. Social support is another mediating factor. Social support helps protect us against the damaging effects of stress. The value of social support also helps explain the upsurge in unofficial support groups in particular areas. There are various categories of social supports, e.g. emotional support such as comfort and reassurance, practical support from friends and family, or advice. The concept of control is central to stress and stress management. Gaining control is an important part of coping strategy in stress management. Pervious experiences could provide useful techniques for future coping if stressful, or previous failure could provide the individual with a negative attitude. Individual differences could also affect the effectiveness of psychological techniques as some people may protect themselves through denial or detachment. Stress management techniques increase the stress felt by these individuals.