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14.E: Stress, Lifestyle, and Health (Exercises)

14.1: What Is Stress?

The term stress as it relates to the human condition first emerged in scientific literature in the 1930s, but it did not enter the popular vernacular until the 1970s. Today, we often use the term loosely in describing a variety of unpleasant feeling states; for example, we often say we are stressed out when we feel frustrated, angry, conflicted, overwhelmed, or fatigued. Despite the widespread use of the term, stress is a fairly vague concept that is difficult to define with precision.

Review Questions

Q1

Negative effects of stress are most likely to be experienced when an event is perceived as ________.

  1. negative, but it is likely to affect one’s friends rather than oneself
  2. challenging
  3. confusing
  4. threatening, and no clear options for dealing with it are apparent

Q2

Between 2006 and 2009, the greatest increases in stress levels were found to occur among ________.

  1. Blacks
  2. those aged 45–64
  3. the unemployed
  4. those without college degrees

Q3

At which stage of Selye’s general adaptation syndrome is a person especially vulnerable to illness?

  1. exhaustion
  2. alarm reaction
  3. fight-or-flight
  4. resistance

Q4

During an encounter judged as stressful, cortisol is released by the ________.

  1. sympathetic nervous system
  2. hypothalamus
  3. pituitary gland
  4. adrenal glands

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

Provide an example (other than the one described earlier) of a situation or event that could be appraised as either threatening or challenging.

Q6

Provide an example of a stressful situation that may cause a person to become seriously ill. How would Selye’s general adaptation syndrome explain this occurrence?

Personal Application Question

Q7

Think of a time in which you and others you know (family members, friends, and classmates) experienced an event that some viewed as threatening and others viewed as challenging. What were some of the differences in the reactions of those who experienced the event as threatening compared to those who viewed the event as challenging? Why do you think there were differences in how these individuals judged the same event?

Solution

S1

D

S2

B

S3

A

S4

D

S5

Answers will vary. One example is divorce. People may perceive a divorce as a threat if they believe it will result in loneliness, change of lifestyle (due to loss of additional income), or humiliation in the eyes of their family. However, divorce may be perceived as a challenge if they view it as an opportunity to find somebody more compatible, and if they consider the process of finding a new partner a pleasant one, perhaps involving mystery and excitement.

S6

Answers will vary. One example is when somebody’s spouse dies or is unexpectedly diagnosed with a fatal disease. In both cases, the stress experienced by the surviving spouse would be intense, continuous, and—according the general adaptation syndrome—would eventually increase vulnerability to illness or disease (exhaustion stage).

14.2: Stressors

For an individual to experience stress, he must first encounter a potential stressor. In general, stressors can be placed into one of two broad categories: chronic and acute. Chronic stressors include events that persist over an extended period of time, such as caring for a parent with dementia, long-term unemployment, or imprisonment. Acute stressors involve brief focal events that sometimes continue to be experienced as overwhelming well after the event has ended.

Review Questions

Q1

According to the Holmes and Rahe scale, which life event requires the greatest amount of readjustment?

  1. marriage
  2. personal illness
  3. divorce
  4. death of spouse

Q2

While waiting to pay for his weekly groceries at the supermarket, Paul had to wait about \(20\) minutes in a long line at the checkout because only one cashier was on duty. When he was finally ready to pay, his debit card was declined because he did not have enough money left in his checking account. Because he had left his credit cards at home, he had to place the groceries back into the cart and head home to retrieve a credit card. While driving back to his home, traffic was backed up two miles due to an accident. These events that Paul had to endure are best characterized as ________.

  1. chronic stressors
  2. acute stressors
  3. daily hassles
  4. readjustment occurrences

Q3

What is one of the major criticisms of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale?

  1. It has too few items.
  2. It was developed using only people from the New England region of the United States.
  3. It does not take into consideration how a person appraises an event.
  4. None of the items included are positive.

Q4

Which of the following is not a dimension of job burnout?

  1. depersonalization
  2. hostility
  3. exhaustion
  4. diminished personal accomplishment

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

Review the items on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Select one of the items and discuss how it might bring about distress and eustress.

Q6

Job burnout tends to be high in people who work in human service jobs. Considering the three dimensions of job burnout, explain how various job aspects unique to being a police officer might lead to job burnout in that line of work.

Personal Application Question

Q7

Suppose you want to design a study to examine the relationship between stress and illness, but you cannot use the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. How would you go about measuring stress? How would you measure illness? What would you need to do in order to tell if there is a cause-effect relationship between stress and illness?

Solution

S1

D

S2

C

S3

C

S4

B

S5

Answers will vary. For example, many people look forward to celebrating the Christmas holiday, but it can be stressful in that it requires some degree of readjustment. Getting together with family may bring eustress, while the schedule and travel demands of may bring distress. Giving gifts to others and seeing their enjoyment may bring eustress, but the financial burden associated with buying presents could produce distress. Each of these things requires making some minor adjustments to one’s life, and thus is considered somewhat stressful.

S6

Answers will vary. Many calls that police officers make can be emotionally draining (e.g., tragic deaths, suicides, and children who live in squalid conditions), which might eventually lead to feelings of exhaustion that one can no longer deal with such things. Depersonalization may occur if a police officer works in an environment in which she feels disrespected and unappreciated, which may lead to cynical and callous feelings toward the public. Constant disrespect from others may diminish a police officer’s sense of personal accomplishment.

14.3: Stress and Illness

The stress response, as noted earlier, consists of a coordinated but complex system of physiological reactions that are called upon as needed. These reactions are beneficial at times because they prepare us to deal with potentially dangerous or threatening situations (for example, recall our old friend, the fearsome bear on the trail). However, health is affected when physiological reactions are sustained, as can happen in response to ongoing stress.

Review Questions

Q1

The white blood cells that attack foreign invaders to the body are called ________.

  1. antibodies
  2. telomeres
  3. lymphocytes
  4. immune cells

Q2

The risk of heart disease is especially high among individuals with ________.

  1. depression
  2. asthma
  3. telomeres
  4. lymphocytes

Q3

The most lethal dimension of Type A behavior pattern seems to be ________.

  1. hostility
  2. impatience
  3. time urgency
  4. competitive drive

Q4

Which of the following statements pertaining to asthma is false?

  1. Parental and interpersonal conflicts have been tied to the development of asthma.
  2. Asthma sufferers can experience asthma-like symptoms simply by believing that an inert substance they breathe will lead to airway obstruction.
  3. Asthma has been shown to be linked to hostility.
  4. Rates of asthma have decreased considerably since 2000.

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

Discuss the concept of Type A behavior pattern, its history, and what we now know concerning its role in heart disease.

Q6

Consider the study in which volunteers were given nasal drops containing the cold virus to examine the relationship between stress and immune function (Cohen et al., 1998). How might this finding explain how people seem to become sick during stressful times in their lives (e.g., final exam week)?

Personal Application Question

Q7

If a family member or friend of yours has asthma, talk to that person (if he or she is willing) about their symptom triggers. Does this person mention stress or emotional states? If so, are there any commonalities in these asthma triggers?

Solution

S1

C

S2

A

S3

A

S4

D

S5

Type A was conceptualized as a behavioral style characterized by competitiveness, time urgency, impatience, and anger/hostility. It was later discovered, however, that anger/hostility seems to be the dimension that most clearly predicts heart disease.

S6

The results of the study showed that people exposed to the virus were more likely to develop a cold if they had high stress scores. The implication of this finding is that during stressful times, like final exam weeks, the immune system becomes compromised. Thus, it’s much easier to get sick during these periods because the immune system is not working at full capacity.

14.4: Regulation of Stress

As we learned in the previous section, stress—especially if it is chronic—takes a toll on our bodies and can have enormously negative health implications. When we experience events in our lives that we appraise as stressful, it is essential that we use effective coping strategies to manage our stress. Coping refers to mental and behavioral efforts that we use to deal with problems relating to stress, including its presumed cause and the unpleasant feelings and emotions it produces.

Review Questions

Q1

Emotion-focused coping would likely be a better method than problem-focused coping for dealing with which of the following stressors?

  1. terminal cancer
  2. poor grades in school
  3. unemployment
  4. divorce

Q2

Studies of British civil servants have found that those in the lowest status jobs are much more likely to develop heart disease than those who have high status jobs. These findings attest to the importance of ________ in dealing with stress.

  1. biofeedback
  2. social support
  3. perceived control
  4. emotion-focused coping

Q3

Relative to those with low levels of social support, individuals with high levels of social support ________.

  1. are more likely to develop asthma
  2. tend to have less perceived control
  3. are more likely to develop cardiovascular disorders
  4. tend to tolerate stress well

Q4

The concept of learned helplessness was formulated by Seligman to explain the ________.

  1. inability of dogs to attempt to escape avoidable shocks after having received inescapable shocks
  2. failure of dogs to learn to from prior mistakes
  3. ability of dogs to learn to help other dogs escape situations in which they are receiving uncontrollable shocks
  4. inability of dogs to learn to help other dogs escape situations in which they are receiving uncontrollable electric shocks

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

Although problem-focused coping seems to be a more effective strategy when dealing with stressors, do you think there are any kinds of stressful situations in which emotion-focused coping might be a better strategy?

Q6

Describe how social support can affect health both directly and indirectly.

Personal Application Question

Q7

Try to think of an example in which you coped with a particular stressor by using problem-focused coping. What was the stressor? What did your problem-focused efforts involve? Were they effective?

Solution

S1

A

S2

C

S3

D

S4

A

S5

Emotion-focused coping would likely be a better coping strategy in situations in which a stressor is uncontrollable, or in which nothing could otherwise be done about it, such as a fatal illness.

S6

Social support seems to have a direct effect on immune system functioning. Social support can affect health indirectly by influencing health-related behaviors, such as exercise and eating properly.

14.5: The Pursuit of Happiness

Although the study of stress and how it affects us physically and psychologically is fascinating, it is—admittedly—somewhat of a grim topic. Psychology is also interested in the study of a more upbeat and encouraging approach to human affairs—the quest for happiness.

Review Questions

Q1

Which of the following is not one of the presumed components of happiness?

  1. using our talents to help improve the lives of others
  2. learning new skills
  3. regular pleasurable experiences
  4. identifying and using our talents to enrich our lives

Q2

Researchers have identified a number of factors that are related to happiness. Which of the following is not one of them?

  1. age
  2. annual income up to \(\$75,000\)
  3. physical attractiveness
  4. marriage

Q3

How does positive affect differ from optimism?

  1. Optimism is more scientific than positive affect.
  2. Positive affect is more scientific than optimism.
  3. Positive affect involves feeling states, whereas optimism involves expectations.
  4. Optimism involves feeling states, whereas positive affect involves expectations.

Q4

Carson enjoys writing mystery novels, and has even managed to publish some of his work. When he’s writing, Carson becomes extremely focused on his work; in fact, he becomes so absorbed that that he often loses track of time, often staying up well past 3 a.m. Carson’s experience best illustrates the concept of ________.

  1. happiness set point
  2. adaptation
  3. positive affect
  4. flow

Critical Thinking Questions

Q5

In considering the three dimensions of happiness discussed in this section (the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life), what are some steps you could take to improve your personal level of happiness?

Q6

The day before the drawing of a \(\$300\) million Powerball lottery, you notice that a line of people waiting to buy their Powerball tickets is stretched outside the door of a nearby convenience store. Based on what you’ve learned, provide some perspective on why these people are doing this, and what would likely happen if one of these individuals happened to pick the right numbers.

Personal Application Question

Q7

Think of an activity you participate in that you find engaging and absorbing. For example, this might be something like playing video games, reading, or a hobby. What are your experiences typically like while engaging in this activity? Do your experiences conform to the notion of flow? If so, how? Do you think these experiences have enriched your life? Why or why not?

Solution

S1

B

S2

C

S3

C

S4

D

S5

Answers will vary, but may include mentioning things that boost positive emotions (the pleasant life), developing and using skills and talents (the good life), and using one’s talents to help others (the meaningful life).

S6

These individuals’ affective forecasting is such that they believe their lives would be immeasurably happier if they won the lottery. Although winning would certainly lead to a surge of euphoria in the short term, long term they would likely adjust, and their happiness levels would likely return to normal. This fact is lost on most people, especially when considering the intensity and duration of their emotions following a major life event.

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