Stress and Stress Management

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What is Stress?

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Stress or pressure is a normal, necessary part of our daily lives. In order to function in an efficient and effective manner a certain stress level is required. However too much pressure can be a risk to health, can reduce effectiveness, can lead to extreme tiredness and lead to mental breakdown.

Different things can cause stress and they are called stressors.Each person reacts differently to same stressors. This depends on the individuals ability to cope.However a person can learn to manage stress to prevent it from becoming harmful.

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The objective of this activity is to show that different people react differently to stressors. Individually read the list of stressors below and rank them from 1 as most stressfull to 10 as least stressful.

  • coming home late
  • arguing with parents
  • getting homework done
  • getting low grades
  • being told off in front of others
  • playing for your team
  • having an exam
  • doing house hold chores
  • death of a friend
  • trouble at school.

Compare your ranking with those of other individuals


Causes of Stress/Potential Factors

As we have seen previously the main cause of stress is our inability to cope with stressors. Stressors are found in our environment, while our ability or inability to cope depends on how we personally react to situations. Here are some examples of some situations that cause stress.

Some stressors at school:

  • Difficulty to read
  • Unable to finish class work
  • trouble with the teacher
  • truancy
  • Unable to clearly explain situations
  • being bullied
  • homework
  • Poor assessment results
  • exams
  • lack of school material

changing school

Some stressors at home:

  • housework
  • parents/siblings who drink
  • home violence
  • low income
  • no place for quiet time or study
  • illness

Other stressors:

  • caught smoking or drinking
  • preparing for a performance
  • death of a friend or relative
  • loosing a job
  • changing jobs
  • managing difficult relationships
  • moving house
  • losing friends
  • leaving home
  • making decisions

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Think of one of your close friends or family who you think may be stressed or under a lot of pressure. Using ideas from the list above can you identify what could be causing the problem?

Body's Reaction to Stress

The body reacts to stress in different ways In the short term you can notice some of the following:

  • mind becomes alert
  • quick reactions
  • dry mouth
  • tension in neck and shoulders
  • faster breathing
  • faster heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • sweaty palms
  • diarrhoea
  • butterflies in the stomach
  • lump in throat
  • nervous laughter
  • bursting into tears
  • fidgeting
  • nail biting

If the stress continues and you do not do anything to cope with it here are some of the long term effects it can have on the body:

  • headaches
  • diziness
  • ulcers
  • blurred vision
  • forgetfulness
  • indigestion
  • disturbed sleep
  • muscle aches
  • tension
  • fear
  • irritability
  • nervousness
  • loss of confidence
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • nightmares
  • drug dependence
  • excessive drinking
  • heart trouble
  • loss of appetite
  • mental breakdown

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Write a short story

From your own experience write down a situation where you have felt under a lot of pressure. In your account identify at least three physical and three mental/emotional you were affected affected.

Write out what you did to overcome the situation


Assessing one's mental and emotional health

Prevention Strategies/Coping with Stress

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The Carver COPE contains 53 items in which participants are asked to denote how often they usually employ a particular coping style. The participant responds according to a 5-point ordinal scale format with the following choices: “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.” They are then asked to rate which coping strategies “generally” used, which would indicate an overall disposition towards certain coping styles. Use the following scale to determine the coping styles and later categorize these styles into problem-focused, emotional focused or dysfunctional.

Please respond to the questions below. Even though the questions are in the Multiple Choice format, there are no right or wrong answers.

Instructions Please rate each of the following items from 1 to 5 in the space provided. Indicate how often you engage in these types of activities when you encounter a difficult, stressful or upsetting situation.


No. ___1___ ___2___ ___3___ ___4___ ___5___
1 I take additional action to try to get rid of the problem
2 I try to come up with a strategy about what to do
3 I put aside other activities in order to concentrate on this
4 I force myself to wait for the right time to do something
5 I ask people who have had similar experiences what they did
6 I talk to someone about how I feel
7 I look for something good in what is happening
8 I learn to live with it
9 I seek god’s help
10 I get upset and let my emotions out
11 I refuse to believe that it has happened
12 I give up the attempt to get what I want
13 I turn to work or other substitute activities to take my mind off things
14 I concentrate my efforts on doing something about it
15 I make a plan of action
16 I focus on dealing with this problem, and if necessary let other things slide a little.
17 I hold off on doing anything about it until the situation permits
18 I try to get advice from someone about what to do
19 I try to get emotional support from friends and relatives
20 I try to see it in a different light, to make it seem more positive
21 I accept that this has happened and it can’t be changed
22 I put my trust in God
23 I let my feelings out
24 I pretend that it hasn’t really happened.
25 I just give up trying to reach my goal
26 I go to movies or watch TV to think about it less
27 I learn something from the experience
28 I get used to the idea that it has happened
29 I try to find comfort in religion
30 I talk to someone to find out more about the situation
31 I make sure not to make matters worse by acting too soon
32 I keep myself from getting distracted by other thoughts or activities
33 I think hard about what steps to take
34 I do what has to be done, one step at a time
35 I discuss my feelings with someone
36 I act as though it hasn’t even happened
37 I reduce the amount of effort I’m putting into solving the problem
38 I daydream about things other than this
39 I take direct action to get around the problem
40 I try to grow as a person as a result of the experience
41 I think about how I might best handle the problem
42 I accept the reality of the fact that it has happened
43 I try hard to prevent other things from interfering with my efforts at dealing with this
44 I feel a lot of emotional distress and find myself expressing those feelings a lot
45 I restrain myself from doing anything too quickly
46 I talk to someone who could do something concrete about the problem
47 I sleep more than usual
48 I get sympathy and understanding from someone
49 I drink or take drugs, in order to think about it less
50 I pray more than usual
51 I get upset, and I am really aware of it
52 I say to myself “this isn’t real.”
53 I admit to myself that I can’t deal with it, and quit trying

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