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Psychological Aspects of Health

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Joanna Matthews-Bashford 07097688 Psychological Aspects of Health Health studies level 1, HEAHEAJ April 2008 Explication of a stress and Theoretical Explanations This essay will attempt to give a description of what stress is and what causes it. The biological response will be briefly mentioned so that related health effects can be discussed. The theoretical approaches that explain how and why stress occurs will be underlined. The term coping with stress will be explained along with research that has been done in this area. Finally stress management techniques will be considered. Stress can be defined as any factor which effects mental or physical health. (Tucker, 2000:68). From a psychological view stress can be defined as a negative reaction to environmental stressors, all of which different people respond to differently. The response to stressors can be a combination of physical reactions, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. (Resick 2001:2). Resick (2001:2) also states that the level of the response or reaction depends of the individual's appraisal of the situation. The stressors can be small ongoing situations, one off events or major events. An individual's reaction normally corresponds to the severity and chronicity of the stressor. From a biological point of view, the body can be under stress from many different stressors which may include: exercise, fasting, fighting, temperature change, infection, disease and emotional disturbances/situations. The immediate response can be described as fight or flight and is mediated by the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system. ...read more.


Studies have shown that lack of control over an event can influence the perceived stress. It has been found that perceived control is just as important as actual control. Predictability also seems to influence ones perception of control and then the outcome of a stressful situation. (Pitts and Phillips 1998:51) Lazarus and Folkman suggested in 1987 that self efficacy was a powerful factor for mediating the stress response; confidence can result in physiological changes that reduce the stress response. (Ogden, 1996:207) In the Conservation of Resources theory (COR) it was Hobfall who originally proposed that psychological stress is a reaction to loss or threatened loss of an individual's resources. These resources can be categorised into groups including objects, conditions, personality characteristics (skills) and energies (money and time). He assumed that people are motivated to gain, keep and protect these resources. Any threat on these will result in stress. Stress can even be increased by trying to prevent the loss or even by trying to obtain these resources. (Resick 2001:59) Later theories, for example Karasek and Theorell's theory in 1990 emphasises that stress is conceptualised as a product of the individual's capacity for self control. Successful coping and self management eradicates stress, stress related illness is due to long term failed self management (Ogden, 1996:287). Coping with stress may reduce its impact on physical and mental well being. Coping represents environmental, behavioural and psychological efforts to deal with excessive stress and its correlates. ...read more.


Stimulant intake should be kept to a minimum. If the stressor can not be removed or reduced then cognitive therapies have been known to have powerful results on stress, anxiety and depression. Cognitive based strategies work on changing the way an individual appraises or interprets a situation. Finding a silver lining in a stressor or using it to learn a valuable lesson, are examples of ways of thinking that can help. Mitchel and Everly (2001:25-27) continue with emphasising the proven benefits of relaxation responses which can be achieved by meditation, deep breathing exercise, hypnosis and other techniques. Finally having a way to ventilate the response to stress is very effective. Exercise is a way to do this. To conclude stress is seen as a transaction between the environment and the individual's perception of it and the challenges that they are presented with. (Pitts 6 Phillips 1998:50) Summarising, there are many theories regarding stress from biological to psychological. Most of them agree that the way an individual sees a situation determines how stressful it may be to that individual. Certain adaptations will be made to cope with the situation. This adaptation can be a physical behaviour change or a psychological one. Different variables seem to affect the ability of an individual to cope. These range from social support to life satisfaction. Ultimately lifestyle seems to be an important factor when considering the effect of stressful events and reducing the health related problems associated with stress. Excessive stress and the inability or lack of coping techniques will ultimately lead to further problems. Stress management includes a variety of techniques to reduce the harmful effects of stress. ...read more.

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