Approaches to Stress Management

We will review four different approaches to defining stress:

  1. Homeostatic / Medical Approach.
  2. Cognitive Appraisal Approach.
  3. Person-environment fit Approach.
  4. Psychoanalytic Approach.

These four approaches to stress will give you a more complete understanding of what stress really is.

The Homeostatic / Medical Approach

Walter B Cannon Was the medical psychologist who originally discovered stress and called it "the emergency response" or "the militaristic response", arguing that it was rooted in "the fighting emotions". According to Cannon, stress resulted when an external environmental demand upset the person's natural steady-state balance referred to as "homeostasis". He called the stress response the fight-or flight response. Cannon believed the body was designed with natural defence mechanisms to keep it in homeostasis.

The Cognitive Appraisal Approach

According to Richard Lazarus (1977), "stress is a situation that someone regards as threatening and as possibly exceeding his or her resources". Lazarus pointed out, that the stress evoked by an event depends on how people interpret the event and what they can do about it. For example, pregnancy may be much more stressful for a 16 year old unmarried schoolgirl than it is for a 25 year old married woman.

Lazarus's Approach to Stress

Lazarus's Approach to Stress

Lazarus saw stress as a result of a person-environment interaction, and he emphasized the person's cognitive appraisal in classifying persons or events as stressful or not.

Individual differ in their appraisal of events and people. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Perception and cognitive appraisal are important processes in determining what is stressful, and a person's organizational position can shape such perception.

To the extent that stress is related to our interpretation of an event, not simply to the event itself, people can learn to cope with potentially stressful events. They can learn to deal with events actively instead of feeling threatened by them. Therefore, stress would have to include not only the unpleasant events (hassles) that we have to deal with but also the pleasant events (uplifts) that brighten our day and help to cancel out the unpleasant events.

The Most Frequent Hassels and Uplifts

Most Frequent Hassels and Uplifts

Thus, Lazarus introduced problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping emphasizes managing the stressor, and emotion-focused coping emphasizes managing your response.

The Person-Environment Fit Approach

Robert Kahn's approach emphasized how confusing and conflicting expectations of a person in a social role create stress for the person. A good person-environment fit occurs when a person's skills and abilities match a clearly defined, consistent set of roles expectations. Stress occurs when the role expectations are confusing and conflicting or Stress when a person's skills and abilities are not able to meet the demands of the social role.

Thus, Kahn was concerned with the social psychology of stress.

The Psychoanalytic Approach

Harry Leves on believes that two elements of the personality interact to cause stress:-

  1. Ego Ideal: is the first element, the embodiment of a person's perfect self.
  2. Self-Image: is the second element - how the person really sees himself or herself, both positively and negatively.

Stress results from the discrepancy between the idealized self (ego ideal) and the real self-image; the greater the discrepancy, the more stress a person experiences- Psychoanalytic theory helps us understand the role of unconscious personality factors as causes of stress within a person.

Check Your Progress 1

  1. Define stress.
  2. What do you mean by General Adaptation syndrome?
  3. Explain the approaches to stress.
  4. Explain in detail the homeostatic approach to stress.

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Principles of Management and Organisational Behaviour Topics