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Lecture 6

PSY333H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Explanatory Style, B Cell, Middle Age

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Nevena Simic

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Health Psychology: Lecture 6
Stress Defined:
Stress: negative emotional experience.
- Accompanied by predictable
Behavioural changes
Sources of Stress:
1. Relationships
- College students: 1/3 stressful events caused by relationships
- Married couples: up to 80%
What do couples stress about?
- How to spend money
- Work-family time balance
- Fair distribution of childcare/household tasks
- Illness/divorce
2. Work pressure
- Long hours, constant deadlines, responsibility
Ex) final exam time
- “My life is in your hands” jobs= high stress (doctor, firefighter, air traffic
- Coworkers/bosses, lack of resources, physical environment
- Longer commutes= higher stress (higher cortisol)
Commuting is stressful: Evans & Wener, 2006.
- Commuting longer times caused more stress
- The longer the commute the more present cortisol was.
- Also, rated their stress levels. A direct relationship between length of
commute and levels of stress.
- Read an essay and had to catch errors, the longer the commute the fewer
errors the participants were able to pick up on.
3. Environmental pressures
- Noise, crowding, natural disasters
- Poverty
4. Internal conflict
- Torn between goals (travel/work; eat/lose weight)
5. Lack control
- Wait in line at post office; traffic jam
- Illness diagnosis
Stress Defined:
Has 2 components:

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- Physical: involves direct material or bodily challenge
- Psychological: involves how we perceive circumstances in our lives
Three ways of examining stress:
1. Stress as stimulus:
- Focus on environment
- Physical/psychological challenges= stressors
2. Stress as response:
- Focus on people’s reactions
- Physical (heart pounds, mouth dry) & psychological (thought/emotion
patterns) reactions
- Strain
3. Stress as process
- Relationship between person and environment
- Transactions= continuous interactions and adjustments
- Person and environment each affecting and being affect by the other
Stress: the circumstance in which transactions lead a person to perceive a
discrepancy between physical or psychological demands of a situation and the
resources of his or her biological, psychological, or social systems.
Psychological appraisal and the experience of stress:
Lazarus=psychological view of stressors
- Primary appraisal
Perception of new or changing environment as beneficial, neutral, or
negative in its consequences
Harm, threat, challenge?
- Secondary appraisal
Assessment of one’s coping abilities and resources and judgment as
to whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat, or
Psychology & stress:
Appraising events as harmful, threatening, or challenging and assessing one’s
capacity to respond to those events
Events that tax or exceed one’s resources= perceived as stressful
“The experience of stress”:
In our textbook.
Potential stressor: chest pain, what is this pain? Am I in danger?
Primary appraisal: irrelevant: “happened before. Good: “don’t have to write exam.”
Bad: “I could die. Harm: damaged my heart. Threat: cant work; how pay my bills.
Challenge: I can make job change.

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Secondary appraisal: I’m alone and can’t get help- ill die. The ambulance is on its
way- ill be ok. This is a wake up call- I need to make changes.
Stress is in the eye of the beholder:
Individual differences are huge factors
- What is stressful for some people isn’t for others
Perceptions of discrepancies between environmental demands and actual resources
- Can be either real of just believed to exist
- Stress often results from inaccurate perceptions
Factors leading to stressful appraisal:
1. Personal factors
- Intellect, motivation, personality
I. Self-esteem: higher= more likely to meet demands
- Bad situation but I can overcome it
- Challenge rather than threat
II. Motivation: more important threatened goal= more stress
III. Belief system: irrational beliefs increase stress
2. Situational factors
- Events that involve strong demands and are imminent tend to be seen as
more stressful
- Ex) physically uncomfortable or painful medical procedure (surgery) >
blood pressure test next week
What makes events stressful?
- Negative events are more likely to produce stress than are positive events
(shopping, party planning= +stress)
- Uncontrollable or unpredictable events are more stressful than controllable
or predictable events.
- Ambiguous events are often perceived as more stressful than are clear-cut
- Overloaded people are more stressed than are people with fewer tasks to
- More vulnerable to stress in central life domains than in peripheral ones
Appraisal Exercise:
The experience of stress
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