Meeting Life Challenges (Free Access)


  • A feeling where an individuals internal resources are being used or tested
  • There is an individual based difference in the feeling of stressors and different stressors will create different patterns of stress reaction
  • How an individual perceives and understands a situation will determine how stressed they feel
  • Lazarus has distinguished between two types of appraisal, i.e. primary and secondary.
    • Primary appraisal refers to the perception of a new or changing environment as positive, neutral or negative in its consequences.
      • Negative events are appraised for their possible harm, threat or challenge. Harm is the assessment of the damage that has already been done by an event. Threat is the assessment of possible future damage that may be brought about by the event.
    • Secondary appraisal, which is the assessment of one’s coping abilities and resources and whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat or challenge of the event.
  • Controllability of a stressor will also determine how stressed one feels. If the stressful event is perceived as controllable, i.e. whether one has mastery or control over a situation, an individual will feel less stressed.
    • A person who believes that s/he can control the onset of a negative situation, or its adverse consequences, will experience less amount of stress than those who have no such sense of personal control.
  • The stresses which people experience also vary in terms of
    • intensity (low intensity vs. high intensity),
    • duration (short-term vs. long- term),
    • complexity ( less complex vs. more complex) and
    • predictability (unexpected vs. predictable).

Types of Stress

  • Physical and Environmental Stress
    • Physical stresses create a situation where our body equilibrium will change.
    • Environmental stresses are aspects of our surroundings that are often unavoidable such as air pollution, crowding, noise, heat of the summer, winter cold
  • Psychological Stress
    • When needs and motives are obstructed, individuals may feel frustration which increase stress
    • Fights or conflicts may occur between two or more incompatible needs or motives leading to stress
    • Beliefs such as I must or should do x also created internal pressures that increase stress
    • Social pressures may be brought about from people who make excessive demands on us.
  • Social Stress
    • These are induced externally and result from our interaction with other people.
    • Social events like death or illness in the family, strained relationships, trouble with neighbours are some examples of social stresses.
    • These social stresses vary widely from person to person.
  • Sources of Stress
    • Life Events
      • Unpredictability increases stress
      • Small, everyday changes are easier to deal with as we adapt but major life events can be stressful, because they disturb our routine and cause upheaval
    • Hassles
      • These are the personal stresses we endure as individuals, due to the happenings in our daily life, such as noisy surroundings, commuting, quarrelsome neighbours, electricity and water shortage, traffic snarls, and so on.
    • Traumatic Events
      • These include being involved in a variety of extreme events such as a fire, train or road accident, robbery, earthquake, tsunami, etc. The effects of these events may occur after some lapse of time and create trauma and sometimes persist as symptoms of anxiety, flashbacks, dreams and intrusive thoughts, etc.

Effects of stress

  • Emotional Effects:
    • Mood swings, and erratic behaviour that may alienate them from family and friends
    • Physiological Effects:
      • Under stress we produce hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. While they help in dealing with stress, they can also damage the body in the long term if they are felt often and continually.  
    • Cognitive Effects:
      • Decision making will suffer if pressures due to stress continue, one may suffer from mental overload.
    • Behavioural Effects:
      • Stress affects our behaviour in the form of eating less nutritional food, increasing intake of stimulants such as caffeine, excessive consumption of cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs such as tranquillisers etc
    • Stress and Health:
      • Often before a stressful event individuals fall ill. Usually during examination time. Problems such as ulcers, stomach upsets, body aches, nausea, diarrhoea and fever etc are common.  
    • General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
  • According to Selye, GAS involves three stages: alarm reaction, resistance, and exhaustion
  • Alarm reaction stage: The presence of a noxious stimulus or stressor leads to activation of the adrenalpituitary-cortex system. This triggers the release of hormones producing the stress response. Now the individual is ready for fight or flight.
  • 2. Resistance stage: If stress is prolonged, the resistance stage begins. The parasympathetic nervous system calls for more cautious use of the body’s resources. The organism makes efforts to cope with the threat, as through confrontation.
  • 3. Exhaustion stage: Continued exposure to the same stressor or additional stressors drains the body of its resources and leads to the third stage of exhaustion. The physiological systems involved in alarm reaction and resistance become ineffective and susceptibility to stress-related diseases such as high blood pressure becomes more likely.
  • Selye’s model has been criticised for assigning a very limited role to psychological factors in stress.
  • Stress and the Immune System
  • Stress can cause illness by impairing the workings of the immune system. The immune system guards the body against attackers, both from within and outside. The white blood cells (leucocytes) within the immune system are responsible for identifying and destroying foreign bodies known as antigens such as viruses.
  • Antigens create antibodies for this purpose. Stress affects natural killer cell cytotoxicity, which is of major importance in the defence against various infections and cancer. Decreased levels of cytotoxicity are found in highly stressed individuals. Social support reduces stress and improves immune system functioning.
  • Lifestyle Stress: Lifestyle is the overall pattern of decisions and behaviours that determine a person’s health and quality of life.
    • Stressed individuals may be more likely to expose themselves to pathogens, which are agents causing physical illness

Dealing with Stress

Positive Emotions and social resources

  • Our relations with others
    • Buffering hypothesis- social support from others reduce the potential effects of stress (Cohen & Wills, 1985).
    • Direct effects hypothesis- social support contributes to individuals health independent of his/her level of stress.
  • Positive Emotions and Psychological resources
    • Coping with stress

Positive coping strategies

  • Used to reduce the perceived discrepancy between stressful demands and available resources for meeting these demands.
  • Rudolph Moos framework for systems and their relationships
    • Environmental system such as life stressors and social resources
    • Personal System such as Demographic factors and Personal factors
    • Life crisis and transitions such as event related factors
    • Cognitive appraisal and coping process
    • Health and well-being.
  • Emotion focused coping- Coping is done by focusing on the accompanying emotion because the situation may not necessarily change
  • Managing affective states associated with uncontrollable stress.
  • Problem focused coping- Coping with stress is done by targeting the problem head on.
  • Directly modify the source of stress.

Avoidant Coping

  • Time out from active coping is required to restore the personal resources.

All three coping styles can be distinguished between functional and dysfunctional.

Problem solving skills

  • To enhance psychological adjustment (D’Zurilla & Nezu, 1999).
  • Better physical psychological and social adjustment (Heppner, 2002).

Social Support

  • Living cooperatively in groups.
  • Perceived social support, supportive relationship and social networks.
  • Assessments and interventions.


  • Required while holding emotional traumas and related anxieties.
  • Crying – immediate emotional relief

Faith – religion as a way of coping.

  • Religious experience involves a transcendent factor, a mystical factor and a social factor
  • Meditation, relaxation and exercises

Reframing- step out from the old frame and try to look at the problem from an alternative frame.

  • Benefit finding and benefit reminding
  • Enhanced personal development, a new life perspectives, and strengthened relationships.
  • Humour – see the funny side of the situation.
  • Distraction – rather than monitoring.

Proactive coping: here individuals pre-empt potential stressors and create methods to deal with them in advance

PERMA Model:

 Founder: Martin Seligman

  • Stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement/Accomplishment
    • Positive Emotions (P)
      • Feeling good
      • Feel Appreciated
      • Having Hope
      • Satisfaction
      • Peace
    • Engagement (E)
      • Being completely absorbed in activities
    • Relationships (R)
      • Positive Relationships
      • As humans, we are “social beings
    • Meaning (M)
      • Purposeful Existence
    • Achievement
  • Sense of accomplishment and success.
  • achieving a goal you have set for yourself or succeeding in a task that has value for you.
    • The awareness of PERMA can help you increase your well-being by focusing on combinations of feeling good, living meaningfully, establishing supportive and friendly relationships, accomplishing goals, and being fully engaged with life. 

Happiness and Subjective Well-Being

  • Different definitions for each person
  • Rarely used in research studies because of its subjective nature

Subjective Well-being

  • Combination of positive affect and general life satisfaction
    • General life satisfaction is the subjective appreciation of life’s rewards
    • Used synonymous with happiness in psychology literature.

Ways to build Well-being

  • Assertiveness : Assertiveness is a behaviour or skill that helps to communicate, clearly and confidently, our feelings, needs, wants, and thoughts
  • Time Management: The way you spend your time determines the quality of your life. Learning how to plan time and delegate can help to relieve the pressure
  • Rational Thinking: Many stress-related problems occur as a result of distorted thinking. The way you think and the way you feel are closely connected.
  • Improving Relationships: The key to a sound lasting relationship is communication. This consists of three essential skills: listening to what the other person is saying, expressing how you feel and what you think, and accepting the other person’s opinions and feelings
  • Self-care: If we keep ourselves healthy, fit and relaxed, we are better prepared physically and emotionally to tackle the stresses of everyday life.
  • Overcoming Unhelpful Habits: Unhelpful habits such as perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, etc. are strategies that help to cope in the short-term but which make one more vulnerable to stress.
  • Exercise: A large number of studies confirm a consistently positive relationship between physical fitness and health. Also, of all the measures an individual can take to improve health, exercise is the lifestyle change with the widest popular approval

Stress Management Techniques

  • Relaxation Techniques: It is an active skill that reduces symptoms of stress and decreases the incidence of illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Usually relaxation starts from the lower part of the body and progresses up to the facial muscles in such a way that the whole body is relaxed. Deep breathing is used along with muscle relaxation to calm the mind and relax the body.
  • Meditation Procedures: The yogic method of meditation consists of a sequence of learned techniques for refocusing of attention that brings about an altered state of consciousness. It involves such a thorough concentration that the meditator becomes unaware of any outside stimulation and reaches a different state of consciousness.
  • Biofeedback: It is a procedure to monitor and reduce the physiological aspects of stress by providing feedback about current physiological activity and is often accompanied by relaxation training
  • Creative Visualisation: It is an effective technique for dealing with stress. Creative visualisation is a subjective experience that uses imagery and imagination. Before visualising one must set oneself a realistic goal, as it helps build confidence. It is easier to visualise if one’s mind is quiet, body relaxed and eyes are closed. This reduces the risk of interference from unbidden thoughts and provides the creative energy needed for turning an imagined scene into reality.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Techniques: These techniques aim to inoculate people against stress. Stress inoculation training is one effective method developed by Meichenbaum. The essence of this approach is to replace negative and irrational thoughts with positive and rational ones. There are three main phases in this : assessment, stress reduction techniques, and application and followthrough.