Stress vs Stressors


  • Pattern of cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physiological response to real or imagined stimuli that we perceive as preventing a goal or threatening wellbeing
  • The process by which we perceive and respond to certain events of stressors that we consider challenging or threatening


  • Events or circumstances that cause stress
  • Not all are undesirable - we seek out stress, e.g. watch a horror movie, go to university, and can enjoy some degree of stress
  • A wide range of factors could be considered stressors - individual differences

Basis of Stress

  • Cannon - fight or flight
  • Physiological reactions to a dangerous situation
  • Preparation to fight or run away
  • Physiological reactions are damaging when a stressful situation lasts for a significant period of time
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Sources of Stress

Routine Choices

  • Approach-Approach: choice between two desirable outcomes; short term v long term reward, e.g. spending money now or saving it for the future
  • Approach-Avoidance: only one outcome is desirable, e.g. wanting to visit a friend but being scared of their dog
  • Avoidance-Avoidance: both outcomes are undesirable, e.g. either having root canal or tooth extraction at the dentist

Cognitive Appraisal - Lazarus

  • Stage 1: a threat is evaluated; if evalutions of a threat are perceived as real then...
  • Stage 2: determination if sufficient resources available to cope with stress (individual differences)
  • High hardiness = control over stressors; results in less illness caused by long-term stress
  • Perceived control - situations that allow for some form of control = fewer signs of stress

Social Support

  • Can be helpful for stress - give advice, encouragement and incentives
  • Brown - mixed evidence: receiving social support = increased mortality; giving social support = decreased mortality
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Coping with Stress

Lazarus & Folkman

  • Problem-focused coping: actions directed towards the source of the stress, e.g. if work = stressor then you may get a new job
  • Emotion-focused coping: actions directed towards personal reaction to the stressor, e.g. seek comfort from friends/family; only option if the problem has no solution/you cannot change it

Cognitive Reappraisal

  • New interpretation of the stressor in order to reduce stress

Progressive Relaxation

  • Based on same idea as cognitive reappraisal
  • Recognise body's signals for stress
  • Signal = cue to being relaxed
  • Relax by focusing attention to muscle groups, e.g. tensing then relaxing
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