Psychology in Action

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Any stimulus that causes stress is called a stressor. There are both beneficial (eustress) and beneficial (distress) types of stress. A. Sources of Stress - The major sources of stress are discussed: life changes, chronic stress, job stress, hassles, frustration, conflict, and cataclysmic events. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) measures stress related to changes brought about by major life events and is presented in Table 3.1. Chronic stress may be some of the most damaging of all stressors and chronic exposure to high levels of job stress and little personal control can lead to burnout. Some believe that hassles can be more significant than major life events in creating stress. Conflicts may be of three types: approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, and approach-avoidance. Research Highlight: Hurricane Katrina and Local College Students Two educators at Southeastern Louisiana University study students displaced from Hurricane Katrina including correlated physical and psychological problems and how various students coped in the post-Katrina environment. Gender and Cultural Diversity “Karoshi”: Can Job Stress Be Fatal? – The Japanese word “karoshi’, which translates “death from overwork”, introduces a brief discussion of the relationship between job stress, overwork and the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. B. Effects of Stress - When stressed, the body undergoes physiological changes due primarily to the SAM system (Sympatho-Adreno-Medullary) and the HPA axis (Hyplthalmic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical). During acute stress, cortisol can interfere with information processing including memory. The sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system is activated, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels. This sympathetic activation is beneficial if people need to fight or flee (“fight or flight response”), but it can have negative consequences to health. Hans Selye described a generalized physiological reaction to severe stressors, which he called the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). The general adaptation syndrome has three phases: the alarm reaction, the resistance phase, and the exhaustion phase. Long-term exposure to stress can suppress the immune system and render the body susceptible to much disease from colds to cancer and cardiovascular disorders. Psychoneuroimmunology studies the effects of psychological factors, the nervous and endocrine systems, and the immune system. Psychology at Work: Is My Job Too Stressful? – A twelve question survey asks students to consider their likes and dislikes in current and future jobs. Four factors are presented that research shows are conducive to increased job satisfaction and reduced stress: supportive colleagues, supportive working conditions, mentally challenging work, and equitable rewards (Robbins, 1996).
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