Chapter 17 - Stress and Physical Well-being Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 17 - Stress and Physical Well-being Deck (21):

Define 'Stress'

A psychological and physical response of the body that occurs whenever we must adapt to changing conditions, whether those conditions are real or perceived

Thus stress is a psychological and physiological response to internal and external sources of tension that challenge a person's ability to cope.


What are the characteristics of a stressor?

  • Nature of Stressor
    • Physical
    • Psychological
  • Duration
    • ​​Short-term
    • Long-term
  • Strength/Intensity
    • Low Intensity
    • High Intensity


What is the fight-or-flight response?

It is an innate and evolutionary phenomenon critical for our survival. It is referred to as an 'adaptive response' because, in the early days of human and animal evolution, those with quick instinctual responses that were activated by the sympathetic nervous system had a greater chance of survival.


What is the HPA Axis?

The HPA Axis is activated during times of physical, psychological or environmental stress. These are the structures involved in the activation of the fight-or-flight response.


What is Eustress and Distress?

  • Eustress refers to a positive psychological response to a perceived stressor
  • Distress refers to a negative psychological response to a perceived stressor


What is 'GAS'?

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) was identified by Hans Selye and is a three-phase pattern of physiological responses.



GAS - 1. Alarm

    • First stage of GAS where the fight-or-flight response is activated to prepare the person to deal with the challenge or stressor. Alarm is experienced in two phases: shock and then countershock


GAS - 2. Resistance

    • The adaptive stage where, even though the parasympathetic nervous system reduces heart rate and respiration rate, blood-glucose levels and stress-related hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) continue to circle through the body. This elevated state of arousal enable the person to adapt to the stressor. Prolonged exposure, can cause damage to organs and depress the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to illness.


GAS - 3. Exhaustion

    • If the resistance stage, lasts for an extended period of time, the bosy simply cannot cope with the stressor and its resistance begins to drop as the person enters the stage of exhaustion. The body's resources are severely depleted and the thus is susceptible to more serious life-threating illnesses.


What is the transactional model of stress and coping?

Lazarus and Folkman's Transactional Model of Stress and Coping emphasised the importance of the interaction between the individual and their environment in assessing whether the stressor is threating, challenging or potentially dangerous.

It involves both primary appraisal and secondary appraisal


What is primary appraisal?

Primary Appraisal is the initial evaluation process where the person determines whether the event is a threat or challenge.

  • Harm/loss
  • Threat
  • Challenge
  • Neutral/irrelevant/benign



What is secondary appraisal?

Secondary Appraisal is the stage where the person considers what options are available to them and how they will respond. This appraisal is made at a more conscious level.

Both stages involve emotional forecasting


What is problem-focused coping?

Looks at the causes of the stressor from a practical perspective and works out ways to deal with the problem or stressful situation with the objective of reducing stress.

Strategies include;

  • Taking control
  • Information seeking
  • Evaluating the pros and cons


What is emotional-focused coping?

Involves trying to reduce the negative emotional feelings associated with the stressor such as embarrassment, fear, anxiety, depression, excitement or frustration.

Strategies include;

  • Meditation
  • Relaxation
  • Talking to friends or family
  • Denial
  • Ignoring the problem
  • Distraction
  • Physical exercise
  • Expecting the worse case scenario


Strengths and Limitations of the Transactional Method of Stress and Coping


  • used human subjects in developing the model
  • used cognitive approach to stress with a focus on how people cope with psychological stressors
  • it took both mental processes and emotions into account when examining how an individual interprets a situation as stressful or not.



  • the greater focus on psychological factors meant that less emphasis was placed on the physiological elements of the stress response
  • it did not include cultural, social or environmental factors in looking at how individuals perceive a stressful event.


What are the factors affecting the stress response?

  • Social factors
  • Cultural factors
  • Environmental Factors


What is Allostasis?

Allostasis is where the body maintains stability or homeostasis through change.


What is homeostasis?

Where our automatic bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion and respiration are maintained at a state of equilibrium or balance by the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.


What is allostatic load?

Our internal systems were not designed to be repeatedly activated for long periods of time. So when a person experiences a number of negative or distressing events in their life, such as the death of a loved one or divorce, these stressors trigger the fight-or-flight response where the body is repeatedly forced to adapt to the situation.

This summative effect of these stressful events is known as allostatic load.

'The price the body pays for adapting to various psychological and social challenges.


What is allostatic overload?

When the demands of the stressor exceed the body's ability to repeatedly adapt, we enter allostatic overload. In this stage the body is depleted of its resources and is unable to make the necessary physiological adjustments to adapt to even the most trivial stressor.

There appear to be four situations when allostatic overload can occur;

  1. Repeated exposure to new stressors in the person's environment
  2. Inability to adapt to the stressor (inability to establish allostatis and homeostasis)
  3. Once activated, stress response takes a long time to shut down so that stress hormones remain in circulation for longer
  4. Inadequate activation of the fight-or-flight response leading to other bodily systems trying to compensate


Strategies for coping with stress include...?

  • Biofeedback: uses instruments to monitor and provide feedback about a person's heart rate, respiration rate, brainwaves etc... Through operant conditioning the person is taught to change these levels by altering thoughts and emotions.
  • Meditation and Relaxation: Meditation redirects a person's usual flow of conscious thought to a more focused pathway that leads to a deep state of calmness and relaxation. Relaxation is different to meditation in one key way - you are not actively  altering conscious thoughts.
  • Physical Exercise: helps alleviate stress while keeping fit and healthy. Also known as 'moving meditation'
  • Social Support: considered a protective factor that is important in maintaining both mental and physical health