Stress is the response to a stimulus (an event) which leads to mental or psychological strain. However, it’s important to note that every one of us would have different response patterns to a similar stressful event. Let’s take into account this coronavirus pandemic, although we all faced the same threat, each one of us responded to it in a completely different way. That is what we are going to talk about today, what exactly influences our ability to cope with stressors. Why is it that some of us seem better equipped to deal with the stressors, and some of us just lose the ground.
There are always reasons how and why we respond to certain situations, the way we perceive it, the way we organise and store the recieved sensory information. We’ll dig into it, but first, let’s get to know some of the theories in psychology which attempt to explain the general patterns of our reaction to stress.
How we respond to stress?
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)
Hans Selye, an endocrinologist, is credited with founding the area of stress study and its effects on the human body. He looked into how the body adapts to a stressor through a series of physiological responses. The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), which comprises of three stages, is the name given to this process.
Stage 1: Alarm: The sympathetic nervous system is triggered when the body reacts to a stressor for the first time. The adrenal glands release hormones that cause a surge of energy by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar supply. Fever, nausea, and headaches are typical side effects.
Stage 2: Resistance: As the stressor persists, the body settles into sympathetic division activity, continuing to produce the stress hormones that aid the body’s fight-or-flight response. The early signs of concern go away, and the person may even feel better. This stage will last until the stressor is removed or the organism’s resources are depleted. Researchers have discovered that one of the stress hormones, noradrenaline, appears to influence the brain’s pain processing, resulting in a type of analgesia when a person is stressed (insensitivity to pain).
Stage 3: Exhaustion happens when the body’s resources are depleted. Stress-related illnesses might develop as a result of exhaustion (e.g. high blood pressure, weakened immune system). When a stressful situation is over, the parasympathetic division kicks in and the body tries to recover its resources.
Cognitive Mediational Theory of Emotions
The process through which people analyse and cope with a stressful situation is referred to as stress evaluation. Individuals’ evaluations of the event, rather than the event itself, are the focus of stress appraisal theory. People interpret what is occurring to them and their coping strategies differently. Primary and secondary appraisals, which should be regarded two levels of assessment or evaluation, are the two types of stress appraisal.
Primary Appraisal: The cognitive process that happens when one evaluates whether an incident is distressing and meaningful to him or her is known as primary appraisal. During this phase, a determination is made as to whether the occurrence represents a danger, will cause injury or loss, or will provide a challenge. Harm is connected with pre-existing harm, such as a death or job loss. A threat is the prospect of future injury or loss, such as illness or bad work performance.
Secondary Appraisal: Secondary appraisal is a cognitive process that occurs when a person is trying to figure out how to handle a difficult situation. A person determines what coping choices are accessible during this process. Because a damaging event has already occurred, it necessitates an immediate assessment of coping alternatives, whereas threatening or difficult situations give for more time to acquire information. Prior experience with comparable events or exposure to similar situations gives a frame of reference for determining the alternatives for coping with the issue.
Individual factors affecting our ability to deal with stress
Now that we know some of the theories relating to how one usually responds to stress, I guess we can move ahead and get to know about what differs us in eliciting these stress reactions.
Stress and Personality Types
Of course, one’s personality, or the distinctive and generally consistent ways in which people think, feel, and connect with others, has a lot to do with how one cognitively analyses a stressor. One of the elements that influence how people deal with stress is their personality features.
(a) Type A, Type B, and Type C Personality Types.
Workaholics, Type A persons are competitive or driven, ambitious, dislike wasting time, and are quickly irritated. They are constantly under pressure and have a strong desire to perform many things at once. They are frequently successful but frequently dissatisfied, and they constantly appear to want to move faster and accomplish more, and they are quickly irritated by minor details. A typical Type A finds it difficult to unwind and do nothing; they bring work on vacation, bring a laptop to the beach, and do business over the phone while driving.
People with a Type B personality are known for being laid-back, easygoing, and adaptable. The type B personality is the polar opposite of the type A personality. Whereas those with a type A personality are fastidious, persons with a type B personality are considerably more relaxed and easygoing.
Type C people are generally nice and want to preserve the peace, but they have a hard time expressing emotions, particularly negative ones. They have a tendency to internalize their anger and are frequently depressed as a result of the death of a loved one or the loss of hope. They are frequently alone. These personality traits are significantly linked to the development of cancer. Internalized negative feelings in people with type C personalities can raise stress hormone levels, impair the immune system, and delay healing.
(b) Optimists and Pessimists
Optimists are people who are continually looking for ways to make things better. Pessimists appear to anticipate the worse. A glass is half full for an optimist, whereas a glass is half empty for a pessimist. Optimism has been linked to a longer lifespan and improved immune system performance, according to studies. Over a 30-year span, Mayo Clinic researchers performed a longitudinal study of optimists and pessimists.
Pessimists did not fare well in the poll. They had a considerably greater mortality rate than optimists, as well as more physical and emotional health issues, more discomfort, a reduced capacity to participate in social activities, and less vitality. Optimists had a 50% reduced chance of dying young and were calmer, more tranquil, and happier than pessimists.
Living in a state of financial insecurity is stressful for a variety of reasons. Overcrowding, lack of medical care, increased rates of disabilities due to poor prenatal care, noisy environments, increased rates of illness and violence, and substance abuse are all stressors that can arise when there is insufficient money to provide the basic necessities of life. This is one of the ‘social factors’ that influences how one reacts to the stress.
Excessive and persistent stress can lead to burnout, which is a condition of emotional, bodily, and mental fatigue. When you’re overloaded, emotionally tired, and unable to fulfil continual expectations, it’s called burnout. As the tension mounts, you begin to lose interest in and drive for the position you took on in the first place.
Burnout saps your vitality and decreases your productivity, leaving you feeling powerless, despondent, cynical, and resentful. You may eventually feel as though you have nothing left to contribute. Burnout has negative consequences in every aspect of your life, including your home, job, and social life. Burnout can also lead to long-term changes in your body, making you more susceptible to diseases such as colds and flu. Burnout must be addressed as soon as possible due to its numerous repercussions.
The negative feelings or reactions we have as we try to adjust to life in a new culture are referred to as culture stress. Irritability, anxiety, bitterness, being too critical, impatience, resentment, homesickness, and sadness are all symptoms of culture stress. People may also be afflicted with a bodily ailment.
When transferring to a new culture, cultural stress, often known as culture shock, is quite frequent and should be expected with all international travel. The extent to which you will experience culture shock will be determined by how long you will be gone, how well you are prepared for the impacts of stress, and how open-minded you can stay during your study abroad experience. Culture stress is a sign of the psychological discomfort of discovering various lifestyles, organizational techniques, and value systems that may “threaten” the model you have lived with your entire life.
These are some of the variables that might have an impact on how you react to stress. The response to stress, on the other hand, is not restricted to these four areas. Your quality of life is determined by how you respond to stresses. Your recognized stress reaction patterns, on the other hand, may be actively changed and rearranged.