Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Defining Stress

Stress is a biological or psychological response to a stressor, which can be instigated by an external or internal stimulus. I appreciated Dhabhar's (2011) suggestion that a comprehensive definition of stress is a sequence of events that include a stimulus that instigates cognitive processes, which, in turn, provoke a physiological response. When defining stress, it seems important to discuss the individual personalization of a stress response, since the response generated by an individual is both mediated and moderated by antecedent variables that may be an exclusive confluence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors (Lazarus, 1991).

As Lovallo (2005) explained, stress is a tension that must be addressed by the organism to regain physiological and psychological balance. The tension experienced by stress upsets the body's natural tendency toward homeostasis. I am partial to Lazarus' (1991) idea of the way an individual appraises stress dictates the way the individual responds to a situation. Lazurus further believed that people have characteristic moderating variables that are in place prior to facing a stressor or challenge. Perhaps these moderating variables would include individuals' genetic underpinnings, their temperament and personality, and their previous environmental experiences, such as family characteristics. Lazarus refers to these as antecedent variables.

Relevance to Lazarus' Appraisal Model

My perception of stressors seem to be well explained by Lazarus' appraisal model. My experience is that when contending with both short-and long-term stressors, I seem to have extensive and efficient resources with which to mediate my level of stress. I do not usually experience negative emotions while initially evaluating and managing the stressor. As explained by Lazarus, I likely have moderating variables in place that enable me, and have enabled me in the past, to believe I can manage most stressors.

Lazarus (1991) further explained that mediating variables arise as circumstances progress, and although these are not predictable, they too are appraised by the individual. The individual's appraisal will predict the severity of stress they experience as well as how they will manage the circumstances. within the ideas of Lazarus and Folkman (1984), the way we appraise the stress dictates how we respond to it.

Insights Resulting from Self-Evaluation
After completing the Holmes and Rahe self-evaluation, my first thoughts were that have a fairly luxurious lifestyle to count Christmas and vacations as stressors. I was able to see that I have circumstances that have the potential to cause stress, although I do not experience much stress. This likely has to do with personal moderating variables to an extent, and my overall perspective and way of approaching stressors with the idea that most stressors can be mitigated, overcome, surmounted, or otherwise dealt with. I am well aware of my resources and my capacity to work through the challenges I do have. How various individuals manage the same stressor may be one component of a personal way of perceiving and managing stress. In this way, an evaluation such as Holmes and Rahe's provides information on potential stressors - circumstances and situations that have the potential to produce a predicted response (Contrada, 2011). It does not, however, provide a prediction of one's stress level based on the specific situation or set of circumstances experienced by an individual.

In sum, Lazarus believed that an experience or circumstance is only as difficult or challenging as an individual evaluates or construes it to be (Lazarus, 1991). It is the way that an individual perceives a situation that causes his or her emotional response. Additionally, how an individual manages a situation, for example with problem solving, can have an invigorating affect on the individual's ability to manage stress.

Contrada, R. J. (2011). Stress, adaptation, and health. In R. J. Contrada & Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 1–9). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Dhabhar, F. S. (2011). Effects of stress on immune function: Implications for immunoprotection and immunopathology. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 47–63). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. (1988). Coping as a mediator of emotion. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 54(3), 466-475.

Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psychologist, 46(8), 819-834. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.46.8.819

Lovallo, W. R. (2005). History of the concept of stress.  In Stress and health: Biological and psychological interactions (2nd ed., pp. 29–40). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.

No comments:

Post a Comment