stress and stress management aqa psychology a2

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Stress and stress management: module 3:

· What do psychologists mean by stress?

Lazarus & Folkman (1954): stress is a relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his/her resources and endangering his/her well being.

· Stress has three concepts (Baun 1990; Hobfoll 1981):

1) Environmental stressor-“I have a stressful job”. Stress can be regarded as the stimulus in the environment that causes the stress response. These are perceived as threatening or harmful, psychologists call these STRESSORS e.g. major life events such as death, daily hassles such as car braking down, and chronic stress such as poor housing.

(A stressor is a stimulus that is threatening or harmful, causing a stress response.)

2) Internal response or strain-“I feel stressed out”. Stress can be regarded as a response to a stressor. The response consists of two interrelated parts; psychological and physiological.

The psychological part involves behaviour such as running away from a stressor and accompanying emotions such as fear.

The physiological part involves heightened body arousal such as pounding heart and dry mouth.

These interrelating parts are known as strain.

(Strain is the psychological and physiological response to a stressor.)

Ø Link: the response to a stressor involves the actions of the autonomic nervous system. The organism is prepared for intense activity, whether fighting or running away.

3) Interaction between the person and the environment-“I have too much to do, too little time and it is making me feel stressed”. Stress also involves an interaction between the person and their environment that depends on cognitive appraisal of the situation. This suggests that stress is a response that occurs when a person thinks they cannot cope with the pressure in their environment.

This explains why the same stimulus may have a different effect on another person, e.g. two men stuck in traffic one rages out and the other sits calmly and yet both are late for important meetings.

A person is an active agent who can influence the effect of stressors through behavioural, cognitive and emotional strategies. More over the same person might react differently to the same stressor at another point in time, e.g. heat is good on holiday bad when at work.

· The transactional model of stress:


Event is seen as highly stressful!!


Primary Appraisal: do I perceive the event as stressful?

Secondary Appraisal: can I cope with the situation?



External Event: e.g. giving a presentation to an audience

Is an interaction between the individual’s ability to cope and the demands of the environment. It is commonly accepted among psychologists and is the basis of the definition of stress.

Primary appraisal: this is where the person appraises the event itself and decides whether or not it is potentially stressful to the person.

Secondary appraisal: this is where the person decides how well they can cope with the event. If the person is unable to cope with the stressful event then it is…


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