Stress - G543

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Work Place Stress

Things that place stress on you are called "stressors".  Usually when we are confronted by a stressor we experience fight or flight.  

Sources of stress in the workplace depend on the type of work or enterprise.  

There are four main causes of workplace stress.  These are:

  • Physical environment (space, temperature and lighting) - physical stressors make work more difficult as more energy needs to be used.
  • Work Overload (due to long hours being seen as a mark of esteem) - this is at the cost of individual and social structures.
  • Lack of Control (other people determine workload and work patterns) - perceived lack of control increases the stress response and contributes to depression and illness.
  • Role Ambiguity (roles are unclear or poorly defined) - it will contribute to stress with relation to coworkers and lack of control.
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Johansson's Study

Aim:  to investigate which type of work causes the most stress.

Method:  Quasi experiment

Participants:  24 workers of a Swedish saw mill.

Procedure:  the high risk group (complex job socially isolated and responsible for rate of production) compared with low risk group (cleaner, maintenance workers) stress was measured by adrenaline levels in urine, temperature and self rating scales as well as caffeine and nicotine intake.  

Results:  The people in the higher stress group had higher levels of stress hormones whilst at work than those in the low risk group and their levels of illness and absenteeism were also higher.  

Conclusion:  repetitiveness, high workload and lack of control were linked to higher levels of stress and illness.  

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Hassles and Life Events

Daily hassles are more stressful than daily life events.

The amount of hassles we encounter in our lives has a direct impact on our stress levels and some of these hassles have more effects than others.

It is believed that the amount of stress we suffer as a result of life events and hassles can be measured through scales in which participants complete a self report where they allocate numbers to certain criteria in order to assess psychological symptoms of stress.

There are many psychometric tests which measure causes of stress in people.  Two of these are the Hassles and Uplift Scale and the Berkman Life Event Scale.

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Kanner's Study

Aim:  compare Hassles Scale with the Social Readjustment Rating Scale.

Design: repeated measures

Participants:  100 white Californians

Procedure:  each participant completed the Hassles Rating Scale every month for nine months and the Life Event Scale after 10 months.  Stress was measured using the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist and the Bradburn Morale Scale.  

Findings:  Hassles were consistent from month to month.  For women the LIfe Events correlated positively with both Hassles and Uplifts.  For men the Life Events correlated positively with Hassles.

Conclusion:  Hassles are a more powerful predictor of psychological symptoms than Life Events.

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Lack of Control

Another cause of stress is thought to be lack of control over a given situation, it is thought that this can increase an individual's stress levels.  In addition, the amount of perceived control we have over a situation can make a difference as to whether or not we feel stressed. 

Perceived control is when we think we have control over the situation even when we do not.  The more control we have over a situation the less stressful it is because we feel we can control elements which may help reduce our stress.

However, a lack of control or perceived control makes people feel like the situation is out of their hands and can spiral downwards as they do not have the ability to change this and do not feel that they can deal with what is in front of them.  This is based on the locus of controi theory stating that people with internal locus of control will see events in their life as being something they can control.

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Geer and Maisel's Study

Aim:  to see if perceived/actual control can reduce stress reactions.  

Method:  lab experiment.

Participants:  60 New York Psychology undergraduates;

Design:  Group 1 can terminate photos whenever (given actual control).  Group 2 were told they would see photo's for 60 seconds and 10 seconds before the change there would be a warning tone (had predictability).  Group 3 were told they would see pictures and hear a tone (had no control or predicatability).  

Procedure:  Participants were wired up to a Galvanic Skin Response and Heart Rate Monitor. Their responses were monitored at the time of the tone and in response to the photographs.  

Findings:  The heart rate monitor was inaccurate.  Group 2 showed the most stress at the tone while Group 1 showed less stress to the photographs than Group 2 and 3.

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Physiological Measures of Stress

Physiological measures of stress are widely used by medical professionals due to the fact that they are scientific as they measure physical changes in the body.  Technical equipment is often used and this gives accurate measurements to a specific degree.  In addition, physiological methods are used as they are hard to falsify and so are an objective measure.  There are a variety of ways stress can be measured in a physiological manner including measuring perspiration (through GSR), heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline levels.

GEER AND MAISEL

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Self Report Measurements of Stress

There is a second way stress can be measured and that is through self report.  This is when psychologists ask the patient how much stress they feel and ask them to score their stress in a quantitative way.  There are two main options which include some form of written communication such as a questionnaire or an interview with a medical professional.  They are effective as people are directly reporting their stresses.  

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Self Report Measurements of Stress

There is a second way stress can be measured and that is through self report.  This is when psychologists ask the patient how much stress they feel and ask them to score their stress in a quantitative way.  There are two main options which include some form of written communication such as a questionnaire or an interview with a medical professional.  They are effective as people are directly reporting their stresses.  

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Holmes and Rahe Study

Aim:  to create a method that evaluates to what extent life events are stresses.

Participaints:  394 (179 male and 215 female)

Procedure:  used a questionnaire to estanblish how much stress each life event caused.  The participants rated 43 life events with marriage at a rating of 50 used as a benchmark.  

Results:  there were storng correlations between all particpant groups except one as there was less correlation between black and white people.  Otherwise, there was general agreement with regards to what was stressful.  

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Combined Approach

The combined approach uses both self report and physiological methods.  In order to measure levels of stress by using both the subjective and objective method it can be deemed that if they are similar or agree then the measurements are valid due to the support they offer each other.  This is known as concurrent validity.  Using self report can add more detail to physiological measures because individuals are able to report how they are feeling as well as having data to ascertain their stress symptoms.  It is a more holistic method as the measurements can be tested for correlation.  

JOHANSSON

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Cognitive Approach to Managing Stress

The cognitive approach claims that the human mind is like a computer and works through the basis of an input (stimulus), process and output (behaviour).  The faulty thinking distorts the persoins processing ability and so if the processes of these stimuli is altered the stress can be managed.

Managing stress can hence take place by using stress innoculation therapy which has three stages.    The first is conceptulaisation in which therapists help patients recognise their stresses and their response to these and how successful their responses to these have been.  Self defeating thoughts are also identified.

Stage two involves skill acquisition and rehearsal whereby the therapist helps the patient practice positive coping statements for stressful situations and may also provide relaxation techniques.  In the final stage there is application and follow through where the individual applies their new skills to stressful situations in the real world.

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Meichenbaum's Study

Aim:  to help people become desensitised to stress.

Method:  is a field experiment.

Participants:  21 students aged 17 to 25 who responded to an advertisement.

Procedure:  participants were put into three groups, SIT, Standard Desensitisation and Control Group.  Eash participant was using a test anxiety questionnaire.  Eight SIT sessions giving them insight into their thoughts before tests, given positive statements and relaxation techniques to use in tests.  Eight systematic desensitisation sessions but only given relaxation techniques.  Control group were told they were on a waiting list for therapy.

Results:  Performance in tests in the SIT group improved the most although both therapy groups showed improvement over the control group.  

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Behavioural Approach to Managing Stress

One way stress can be managed is through operant conditioning, through rewards and punishments.  This is because the improvement is the reward and the reinforcement that encourages them to keep on working towards their goal.

The bio-feedback method can therefore be used to manage stress.  In this method the functions of different body systems can be monitored by machines, eg a blood pressure machine can give feedback on someones blood pressure and can indicate if someones blood pressure has gone down.  

The results of these are relayed to the individual and if their behaviour is abnormal the person adjusts their behaviour accordingly so body functions are back to normal.  This is so that the individual can develop self regulation skills in order to help health and wellbeing.  In stress it is often used alongside relaxation techniques and can help stress related symptoms like high blood pressure and eating disorders.

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Budzynski's Study

Aim:  to see if bio feedback techniques work and help reduce tension headaches or whether the effect is due to the placebo effect.

Method:  Laboratory experiment

Participants:  18 American's who responded to an advertisement (two males and sixteen females)

Procedure:  Group one is real bio feedback training with relaxation using the EMG.  Group two is pseudo-feedback and Group three is the control group.  All groups kept a diary of their headaches rating them from mild to severe.  Groups one and two are told to practice relaxation techniques for 20 minutes a day.  

Results:  After three months Group One's muscle tension was lower than the other groups as was their reporting of headaches.  

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Social Approach to Managing Stress

The social approach suggests that our behaviour is directly related to and influenced by the people around us.  It is therefore concerned with our relationships with other people and so it can be inferred that stress is caused when individuals cannot turn to other people for help or relaxation and have to face stressful events alone.  Social support systems alleviate this problem as they are a network of people who provide positive feedback and emotional support.

They also give honest confrontation and support throughout the recovery process.  When someone is stressed they can feel unmotivated and discouraged and so the social support system is in place that at these times the individual has someone to turn to who will encourage the recovery process. 

Social support system may include several people who require help so they can help each other in activities designed to reduce stress and relax instead.  This allows people to motivate one another to continue life with improved behaviours as individuals receive feedback from others.

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Waxler-Morrison's Study

Aim:  to look at how a woman's social relationships influence her response to breast cancer and survival.

Method:  Quasi experiement

Participants: 133 women under 55 in Canada

Procedure:  women responded to a questionnaire about social support, education, responsibility, friends, marital status, church membership and perception of support.  Their diagnoses were taken from medical records which were checked again four years later.

Results:  practical help given by others was essential for support.  Jobs were seen as important for support and most survivors reported supportive husbands. 

Conclusion:  there was a significant relationship between the amount of support reported and survival rates.

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