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INTRODUCTION TO STRESS

Whether we feel overwhelmed by everyday challenges or unable to cope with unmanageable demands, most people experience stress to some degree. One universally accepted definition posits that stress is experienced when an individual believes that the needs of a given situation exceed the personal and social resources they can mobilize to cope. Stress involves perception, appraisal, and responses to harmful stimuli. At the most basic level, stress is an innate response to something potentially dangerous or life-threatening.

THE EVOLUTIONARY ORIGINS

While we think of stress as entirely undesirable, it is essential to recognize that the stress response exists for a good reason, for example, birthing a child, becoming married, graduation, changing jobs, etc. In potentially hazardous situations, the body produces high-stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline levels, which trigger a ‘fight or flight response. In other words, stress signals the body to confront a threat or retreat to safety. In evolutionary terms, this would have improved our ability to respond quickly to - and survive - life-threatening or dangerous situations.

In the modern world, however, we are unlikely to encounter the same threats that elicited fight-or-flight responses in our ancestors. Yet, we continue to respond to stress in ways that reflect the demands of these earlier environments. Perceived threats that do not require a fight-or-flight response - such as exams, public speaking, or attending a job interview - may still have harmful consequences.

EXCESSIVE LEVELS OF STRESS

While short-term stress can be protective and help deal with challenges, there may be times when prolonged exposure to stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. Stress that endures and exceeds one’s ability to cope may have severe physiological, psychological, and behavioral implications. These include stress-related worry, rumination, sleep disruptions, increased heart rate, and blood pressure, memory impairments, and one’s ability to learn new information. Moreover, long-term stress may cause life-threatening health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

Resources and Additional Readings

Ellis, B.J., Jackson, J.J., & Boyce, W.T. (2006). The stress response systems: Universality and adaptive individual differences. Developmental Review, 26, 175–212.

 

Kalmbach, D.A., Anderson, J.R., & Drake, C.L. (2018). The impact of stress on sleep: Pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders. Journal of Sleep Research, 27, 1-39.

 

Kim, H.G., Cheon, E.J., Bai, D.S., Lee, Y.H., & Koo, B.H. (2018). Stress and heart rate variability: A meta-analysis and review of

the literature. Psychiatry Investigation, 15, 235–245.

 

Lazarus, R.S. & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Springer.

 

Raposa, E.B., Laws, H.B., & Ansell, E.B. (2016). Prosocial behavior mitigates the negative effects of stress in everyday life. Clinical Psychological Science, 4, 691–698.

 

Salleh, M.R. (2008). Life events, stress, and illness. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, 15, 9–18.

 

Sinha, R. (2008). Chronic stress, drug use, and vulnerability to addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1141, 105-130.

 

Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI Journal, 16, 1057–1072.

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When you have a Therapeutic Mentoring Session with Corinne Pulliam, a Positive Peer Mentoring she will:

  • Recognize her reactions to what the client is telling her.

  • Be non-judgmental and empathic.

  • Show a genuine interest in what the client is telling her.

  • Try to use the language of the client she is interacting with.

  • Validate what the client is telling her and show the client she is actively listening.

  • Find out what else is happening in the client's life (stress, relationship difficulties, etc.)

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