Stress and Well-Being
Health psychology addresses factors that influence well-being and illness, as
well as measures that can be taken to promote health and prevent illness.
Stressors, demanding or threatening situations
From the person-situation interaction perspective, stress can be defined as a
pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses, and behavioral
tendencies that occurs in response to a perceived imbalance between situational
demands and the resources needed to cope with them.
Researchers may have to rely on people’s self-reports, using life event scales to
quantify the amount of life stress that a person has experienced over a given
period of time.
Respondents may be asked not only whether a particular event occurred but also
whether the event was positive/negative and whether it was a major/minor event
Later research showed that only negative life changes consistently predicted
adverse health and behavioral outcomes, most modern researchers now define
stress in terms of negative life changes only.
The Stress Response: A Mind-Body Link
Stress response has cognitive, physiological, and behavioral components.
Cognitive Appraisal: 4 aspects of appraisal process are particularly significant
- Appraisal of the nature and demands of the situation (primary appraisal),
interpreting the situation as either benign, neutral/irrelevant, or threatening in
terms of its demands and its significance for your well-being.
- Appraisal of the resources available (knowledge/abilities/verbal skills/social
resources) to cope with it (secondary appraisal), you will be appraising your
perceived ability to cope with the situation, that is, the resources you have to
deal with it.
- Judgements of what the consequences of the situation could be, both
seriousness of the consequences and the likelihood that they will occur
- Appraisal of the personal meaning, that is, what the outcome might imply
- Distortions and mistake appraisal can occur at any of the four points in the
appraisal process, causing inappropriate stress responses. Physiological Responses: sensory feedback from our body’s response can
cause us to reappraise how stressful a situation Is and whether our resources
are sufficient to cope with it.
- General adaptation syndrome (GAS) consists of 3 phases: alarm,
resistance, and exhaustion
1. In response to physical or psychological stressor, organisms exhibit an
immediate increase in physiological arousal as body mobilizes itself to
respond to the threat. Activation of SNS and the release of stress
2. During resistance, body’s resources are mobilized by continued
outpouring of stress hormones.
3. If stressor is intense and persists too long, the body will eventually reach a
stage of exhaustion, in which there is increased vulnerability to disease.
Effects of Stress on Well-Being
Our physiological responses may thereby take an unnecessary toll on our
physical and psychological well-being.
There are indications that stress cab combine with other physical and
psychological factors to influence the entire spectrum of physical illnesses. (can
be immediate or less immediate)
Physiological responses to stressors can directly harm other body systems. For
example, secretion of stress hormone can affect the activity of heart, and
excessive secretions can damage the lining of arteries. By reducing fat
metabolism, contribute to fatty blockages in arteries.
Stress also can contribute to health breakdowns by causing people to behave in
ways that increase the risk of illness. (Quit exercising, smoking, alcohol, drug,
Possible that chronically elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol
damage the telomeres and lower telomerase levels, thereby speeding aging
Some studies shown that stress hormones released into bloodstream by adrenal
glands can suppress the activity of specific immune system cells.
2 kinds of immune reactions
1. Natural immunity occurs quickly of an immune challenge and is relatively
nonspecific in nature (inflammation)
a. Cytokines, which help produce fever and inflammation, promote healing
of injured tissue, and activate and direct other immune cells.
2. Specific immunity is a much more targeted process and takes longer to
occur, sometimes up to several days. (identification of specific properties of
invaders and development of specific antibodies)
Overall, research results support a biphasic model in which acute stress
enhances immune response, whereas chronic stress suppresses it. Factors that Influence Stress-Health Relations
Vulnerability factors increase people’s susceptibility to stressful events. Include
low social support, poor coping skills, and tendencies to become anxious or
Protective factors are environmental or personal resources that help people
cope more effectively with stressful events. Include social support, effecting
coping skills, etc.
The knowledge that we can rely on others for help and support in time of crisis
helps blunt the impact of stress.
One way that social support protects against stress is by enhancing immune
Friends can apply social pressure to prevent people from coping with stressors in
The fact that people differ widely in the pattern and intensity of their physiological
responses makes people more/less vulnerable to stressors.
Two types of stress hormones, catecholamines and cortisol, are important links
between physiological reactivity and health.
- Cortisol reduces immune-system functioning and helps create fatty deposits
in the arteries that lead to heart disease
- In contrast catecholamine secretion increases immune –system functioning.
- Increased vulnerability to bodily breakdowns occurs when person respond to
stress with high levels of cortisol instead of catecholamines.
Type A behavior patter, who tend to live under great pressure and demand
much of themselves and others. Typically are workaholics, characterized by high
level of competitiveness and ambition, which can foster aggressiveness and
hostility when things get in their way.
- These people have about double the risk for coronary heart disease compare
to less driven people.
- Most damaging aspect is the negative emotions.
Coping self-efficacy, the belief that we can perform the behaviors necessary to
On average, people with positive attitudes toward their aging lived an average of
7.6 years longer than did their counterparts with negative attitudes.
Children have certain characteristics (adequate intellectual functioning, self-
efficacy, faith/optimism/hope) that contribute to a positive outcome even in the
face of stressful life events. Coping With Stress
Coping strategies can be divided into the three broad classes
- Problem-focused coping strategies attempt to confront and directly deal
with the demands of the situation or to change the situation so that it is no
longer stressful (studying for a test, sign up for a course to improve one’s time
a. Works best in situations where there is some prospect of controlling the
- Emotion-focused coping strategies attempt to manage the emotional
responses that result from it. Appraising the situation in a manner that
minimizes its emotional impact. (going to party forget about the test)
a. In situations that we cannot influence or modify, emotion-focused coping
may be most adaptive approach, for although we can’t master the
situation, we may be able to prevent or control maladaptive emotional
responses to it.
- Seeking social support coping strategies involves turning to others for
assistance and emotional support in times of stress. (student seek help from
Problem-focused and seeking social support were most often associated with
favorable adjustment to stressors. In contrast, emotion-focused strategies that
involved avoiding feelings or taking it out on other people predicted depression
and poorer adjustment.
Tend (nurturant activities designed to protect self/offspring/SO) and befriend
(creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in face of stressors)
pattern is a product of biological mechanisms that underlie attachment and
caregiving behavioral tendencies in women
Stress Management Training
Cognitive coping skills
- Cognitive restructuring, to systematically detect, challenge, and replace
these irrational ideas
- Self-instructional training, people learn to talk to themselves and guide their
behavior in ways that help them cope more effectively
- Somatic relaxation training provides a means of