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Chapter One:

The Meaning of Stress

In This Chapter:
The Nature of Stress

Stress and Disease

Definition of Stress

Multiple Meanings of Stress

Assessing Stress

The Function of Stress

The Stress Response

Stress Prevention and Management Model

The Nature of Stress
We are going to explore stress through a holistic lens

We will focus on understanding its physiological,

psychological, emotional, and spiritual underpinning

This holistic lens will provide tools to transform not only

the way we handle stress, but the way we live our lives
The Nature of Stress, Cont
We will need to:
Discuss themes and topics which may cause us to feel
vulnerable or shameful
Reflect honestly on certain instances when we feel most
overwhelmed by anxiety
Relate the material to our own experience in order to
incorporate the skills we learn into our lives

So why is the study of stress important?

Disease, then & now
In the early 1900s the leading causes of death were
infectious diseases:
Gastrointestinal infections

Vaccines and modern medicine have eradicated many

infectious diseases
Disease, then & now
Today, the leading causes of death are mostly lifestyle

These diseases occur after years (or decades) of not

correcting or changing unhealthy habits

Most of these are related to stress

Chronic stress weakens the bodys physiological systems
and advances the disease process

While most infectious diseases are treated with

medications, lifestyle diseases are more difficult to
Disease, then & now
How is Stress a Problem?
About 75 - 90 % of all doctor visits are because of stress-related
Stress is linked to the 7 leading causes of death in the U.S.
1. Heart disease
2. Cancer
3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
4. Stroke
5. Accidents
6. Alzheimers
7. Diabetes

About 90% of all adults report that they have experienced stress
at some time in their lives
Definition of Stress
Stress can be defined as a psychological
and physiological reaction to a real or
perceived threat that requires some
action or resolution
Multiple Meanings of Stress
Stress can be triggered by a real or imaginary

Stress is a response that operates on cognitive,

behavioral, and biological levels

Stress is a survival mechanism to increase internal

awareness of danger and transform all the bodys
resources to a heightened state of readiness
Multiple Meanings of Stress, contd
Hans Selye describes stress as:
the nonspecific response of the body to any demand
placed upon it to adapt, whether that demand produces
pleasure or pain

Today, many use stress to describe the level of

tension they feel is placed on their minds, bodies, and
souls by the demand of their jobs, relationships, and
responsibilities in their personal lives
Multiple Meanings of Stress
What stresses you?

How do you recognize stress in your life?

How do you respond to anticipated or actual

Whats in a Name?
The word stress is derived from the Middle
English stresse, meaninghardship and the Old
French estrece, meaningoppression
Todays interpretation of stress was spurred by
Austrian-Canadian biologist Hans Selye
Today, doctors warn about the epidemic of
health problems that result from excessive
A state in which all the physiological
systems work in unison to keep the internal
environment stable and balanced
keeps the body constant in the face of the changing
external environment
involves various chemical and physical responses.
Hans Selyes General Adaptation
1. Alarm Stage Acute stress reactivity
characterized by disruption of the bodys
2. Resistance Stage Presence of the stressor
necessitates bodily adaptations and coping
mechanisms resulting in stress products
3. Exhaustion Stage Prolonged exposure to
stressors leads to the depletion of resistance
energy resulting in illness or even death
Hans Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome
Allostasis and Allostatic Load
The combined physiological and psychological
adaptation to the experience of threats or

Allostatic load:
describes what happens when the same adaptive
system that was designed to protect us actually
tears us apart
Responses to Stress

People respond to stress in different ways:


Note: humans worry about imagined fears much

more than other animal species
Major Responses to Stress
Physiological Cognitive Emotional Behavioral

Heart palpitations Impaired memory Fear Crying

Sweating Disorientation Worry Rage

Dry mouth Unrealistic demands Panic Withdrawal

Fatigue Disasterizing Guilt Substance abuse

Insomnia Illogical thinking Anger Self-medication

Nausea Externalized blame Denial Impulsiveness

Dizziness Obsessiveness Hopelessness Phobias

Loss of appetite Loss of humor Numbness Hyperactivity

High blood pressure Suicidal ideation Depression Lethargy

Personality traits Surrender Despair Aggression

Weight loss or gain Excessive fantasies Impatience Rambling

Types of Stress
Acute stress (short-term) is activated by sudden
threat or danger
Chronic stress (long-term) brings on wear-and-tear
of the body over time
Hyperstress is an excessive amount of stress that
overloads the system
Hypostress means inadequate stress to keep the
body tuned and ready for action
Types of Stress (contd)
Hans Selye defined 3 types of stress:

1. Distress is the negative, harmful, destructive type

of stress
2. Neustress is neutral stress having little impact on
3. Eustress is good stress, the type that inspires and
motivates you
Yerkes-Dodson Curve
Sources of Stress
Physical when the human body is affected by adverse
conditions such as sleep deprivation and infections
Psychological caused by the interpretations of the
events in our life; they are determined by our values,
beliefs, attitudes, and philosophies of life.
Psychosocial - arises from interactions with people
and the society in which you live.
Biochemical - Excessive use of certain substances
such as sugar, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and exposure
to substances in the environment
Stress Management & Prevention: Stages

Stage 1: Life Situations/Chronic Stressors

Stage 2: Perception/Evaluation

Stage 3: Stress Response

Stage 4: Consequences
Stress Management & Prevention: Stages
Five principles of stress
prevention and management
1. Prevention is more effective than management

2. Small changes can lead to big effects

3. Dont count on a magic bullet for solving all

your stress problems

4. Tailor a program to your own schedule and


5. Develop a comprehensive plan for stress

prevention and management
Current Trends in Stress
1. Technostress

2. Decline in Civility & Social Skills

3. Environmental Disconnect

4. Occupational Stress

5. Race and Gender Stress

Current Trends: #1 Technostress
The feeling of being overwhelmed by technology and the
abundance of cyber information such as text messages, email,
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, video games, etc.
Techostress, if unmanaged, can easily lead to:
A) Screen Addiction
B) Information Overload!
C) Poor Boundaries
D) The Shallow Effect
Current Trends: #1 Technostress
Parks and Rec Tom

Parks and Rec - Tom 2

Current Trends: #1 Technostress
Search Overload Syndrome
Current Trends: #1 Technostress, contd
A) Screen Addiction - any online- or device-related,
compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living
and may cause severe stress on family, friends, loved ones,
and ones work environment

B) Information Overload - too much information for the

brain to process. Can lead to:
Inability to focus
Poor memory recall.

C) Poor Boundaries (refers specifically to work) It is not

being able to separate oneself from work. It is the inability to leave the
office or leave the screen (i.e. phone, tablet, computer, etc.)
Current Trends: #1 Techostress, contd
D) Shallow Effect a shallow understanding of
complicated issues because a person is cherry picking
information without fully understanding the concepts or
information as a whole.
Can lead to an inability to focus on something long enough to
understand it
Also affects:
Emotional Maturity
Current Trends: #2 Decline in Civility
Decline in good manners, appropriate behavior, or
social etiquette (e.g. lack of eye contact during face-to-
face conversation)
Partly due to increased email, text, and social media
Decrease in nonverbal communication
Current Trends: #2 Decline in Civility, contd

Alienation isolation from a group or an activity

to which one should belong or in which one
should be involved
Poor Ethics addiction to gambling or online
Poor social interaction & relationships
Loss of innocence
Current Trends: #3 Environmental Disconnect

A state in which people have distanced themselves so

much from the natural environment that they cannot
fathom the magnitude of their impact on it
Nature Deficit Disorder people, especially children, are
spending less time outdoors, resulting in countless
behavioral problems
According to Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Current Trends: #4 Occupational Stress
Job related stress

Causes may include:

Lack of security
too much responsibility
little authority
unrealistic expectations (e.g. deadlines)
lack of appreciation
poor work conditions

Often the first sign is burnout

Workers compensation claims associated with occupational stress on the

Current Trends: #5 Race & Gender Stress
Racial stress caused by changes in racial demographics

Some may feel threatened, misunderstood, alone, or alienated

Many experience the harmful effects of stereotypes,

discrimination, and harassment

Both race and gender stress can start at an early age and can
low self esteem
A Selected History of Stress
Claude Bernard developed the concept of
internal environment
Charles Darwin theorized that fear and stress
are adaptive mechanisms for survival
Freud developed a theory of psychological
disturbance based on the conscious and
unconscious fears that motivate behavior
A Selected History of Stress
Walter Cannon was the first physiologist to begin
talking about stress in the context of emotional

Walter Cannon coined the term fight-or-flight

response to describe the stress response that
becomes activated during perceived threats
A Selected History of Stress
Hans Selye, often recognized as the father of
stress research, studied rats under chronic
stress conditions
He noticed a consistent pattern of bodily
changes emerging (i.e., General Adaptation
Syndrome), including an enlargement of the
adrenal glands, shrinkage of thymus, and
ulceration of the stomach lining
What does it mean to explore stress management holistically?

Most common diseases 100+ years ago? Present day?

Why is stress such a problem?

How can stress be triggered by something imaginary?

When can stress be a good thing?

What are the 3 phases of Selyes G.A.S.?

What are the 3 types of stressors according to Hans Selye?

Why is technostress on the rise? Why manage it?