Occupational Health & Safety Management
HRM 3400 – Winter 2012 – Anna Blake
Lecture 5 – Psychosocial Hazards – Feb 6
- Is neither all bad nor all good.
- Can be either healthy or unhealthy.
- Is an inevitable part of life.
- Can provide motivation to achieve goals.
- Can be a destructive force that causes illness or injury.
What is Stress?
- Stress is the body’s reaction (physical, mental and emotional) to change,
conditions and demands (positive or negative) that in some way affects you.
- Stress happens not only in response to change but can occur with anticipation or
imagination of change.
- Stress varies, from minor (common, everyday) stress to major (traumatic) stress.
- Each of us as a tolerance for change
o Those with low tolerance to change my experience stress symptoms a lot
What Triggers Stress?
- Both positive and negative events in one’s life can trigger stress.
- There are many causes of stress
o External stressors
o Emotional stressors
o Pushing your body too hard
o Chemical dependency
Eustress vs. Distress
- Not all stress is bad.
- Eustress is anything that helps you to achieve your goal.
o It is positive – or helpful – stress that can challenge us to act in creative
and resourceful ways.
o Too little stress can be bad for us, since stress can motivate us to do our
- The opposite of eustress is distress, negative or destructive stress.
o Distress is any change that affects you in a way you perceive as harmful.
- Ideally, you’re looking for the proper balance.
o Just enough stress to motivate you to achieve not an overload that would
o Your performance level is at its highest when you experience a moderate
amount of stress. What is Stress Management?
- Stress management means gaining control over your life.
- It means dealing effectively with both the symptoms and the causes of stress.
- This is the environment that can contribute to stress.
- Stressors can be external forces and events to other’s behaviours or decisions
which may have an effect on your life.
- Three main types of stressors
o Environmental (or social)
The Stress Response
- Building an effective stress management program requires understanding the
interrelationship between the stressor (the cause) and the stress response (The
What Can Stress Do? – The Stress Response
- What exactly happens when you face a stressful situation?
- Your body operates on an alarm system that is activated regardless of the source
- Within seconds after activation, chemicals, hormones and neural impulses are
fired within your body.
Fight or Flight
- The innate response of our ancestors in stressful situations.
- When in life-threatening circumstances, the body prepared itself to flee or flight.
- It didn’t matter which path was chosen.
- Both actions burned up the adrenalin from the stress response.
- The physical activity returned the body to a balanced state.
- The fight or flight response was appropriate because it kept our ancestors out of
- People today have the same survival instinct.
- Unfortunately, fight or flight may not be an appropriate response when dealing
o A salesperson that’s rude.
o A car that won’t start.
o A visit from your in-laws.
o A bill from your attorney.
- The problem with stress in modern society is that the body has nowhere to go
with it. People have no outlet for the increased level of adrenalin and hormones
triggered by stress.
- What type of action is good for people in modern society in order to deal with a
stressor? Positive Action
- Positive action is
o Something you are not in control of
o Something that improves the situation
- Positive action can take many forms. Essentially, positive action means
intervening in the stress cycle. It means managing your stress before it manages
- Which of the following do you think are positive actions?
o Communication effectively
o Managing your time
o Exercising physically
o Practicing sound nutrition
o Employing relaxation techniques
Three Stages in the Body’s Response
What Does Stress do to you?
- Short term – HR increases, BP rises, sweating, slowed digestion, liver releases
sugar, muscle tension increases.
- Long term illness – cardiovascular/ immunity
o Hypertension, CHD
o Gastro-intestinal (ulcers, IBS)
o Reduced immunity / auto immune disease
o Psychiatric disturbance
Personality and Stress
- Researchers continue to study the relationship between stress and personality.
- What may be a stressor for one person may not be a stressor for another.
- Each person has a unique personality, life experience, socialization and set of
- These factors determine how a particular person perceives a particular event,
and thus how that person responds to that event.
- Personality types influence stress reactions.
Two Personality Types
- Type A
o Hurried o Nervous
- Type B
- Not all professionals believe that people fit neatly into one category. However, the
categories give you a basis from which to examine your personality type.
- Personality engineering is the intentional alteration of the stressful aspects of
personality. Alteration of, for example, your values, attitudes or behaviour
patterns, is a step toward reducing stress.
- Three powerful methods of stress reduction include
o Sound nutrition
o Regular exercise
o Relaxation practice
- A stress management program could include a variety of methods, depending on
the methods that suit the individual needs.
- One size does not fit all.
Mental Illness in Canada
- Disability, not life expectancy, is the top health issue for our times.
- Mental health problems are the primary and secondary issues in 60% of disability
- Mental illness costs $16 billion a year in Canada or 14% of net operating revenue
of all Canadian businesses.