By Dr. KC Kelly – Ph.D. and Licensed Psychotherapist
headshot_for_nicoles_site1.jpgRichard Lazarus and Susan Folkman suggested in 1984 that stress can be thought of as resulting from an imbalance between demands and resources, or as occurring when pressure exceeds ones perceived ability to cope.
Stress management was developed and premised on the idea that stress is not a direct response to a stressor, but rather one’s resources and ability to cope and makes changes in his or her life, thus allowing stress to be controllable.
Stress can be good (called eustress) when it helps us perform better, or it can be bad (distress) when it causes upset or makes us sick.
The stress reaction results from an outpouring of adrenaline, a stimulant hormone, into the blood stream when a person is feeling distress. This, with other stress hormones, produces a number of changes in the body which are intended to be protective.
Professionals in the field of psychology have called this outpouring of hormones, the fight-or-flight response because when faced with a stressful situation, a person will either fight or run away from danger.
When encountering stress, a person may experience: an increase in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure (to get more blood to the muscles, brain and heart), faster breathing (to take in more oxygen), tensing of muscles (preparation for action), increased mental alertness and sensitivity of sense organs (to assess the situation and act quickly), increased blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles (the organs that are most important in dealing with danger) and less blood to the skin, digestive tract, kidneys and liver (where it is least needed in times of crisis), an increase in blood sugar, fats and cholesterol (for extra energy), and a rise in platelets and blood clotting factors (to prevent hemorrhage in case of injury).
What are the Common Symptoms of Stress? Physical: fatigue, headache, insomnia, muscle aches/stiffness (especially neck, shoulders and low back), heart palpitations, chest pains, abdominal cramps, nausea, trembling, cold extremities, flushing or sweating and frequent colds, decrease in concentration and memory, indecisiveness, mind racing or going blank, confusion, loss of sense of humor, anxiety, nervousness, depression, anger, frustration, worry, fear, irritability, impatience, short temper, pacing, fidgeting, nervous habits (nail-biting, foot-tapping), increased eating, smoking, drinking, crying, yelling, swearing, blaming and even throwing things or hitting.
What Are the Causes of Stress?
Dr. Selye called the causes of stress stressors or triggers. There are two kinds of stressors: external and internal.
External stressors include:
Physical environment: noise, bright lights, heat, confined spaces.
Social interaction: rudeness, bossiness or aggressiveness on the part of someone
Organizational: rules, regulations, “red tape,” deadlines.
Major life events: death of a relative, lost job, promotion, new baby.
Daily hassles: commuting, misplacing keys, mechanical breakdowns.
Internal stressors include:
Lifestyle choices: caffeine, not enough sleep, overloaded schedule.
Negative self-talk: pessimistic thinking, self-criticism, over-analyzing.
Mind traps: unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, all-or-nothing
thinking, exaggerating, rigid thinking.
Stressful personality traits: Type A, perfectionist, workaholic, pleaser.
It is important to note that most of the stress that many of us have is actually self-generated. This is a paradox because so many people think of external stressors when they are upset (it is the weather, the boss, the children, the spouse, the stock market). Recognizing that we create most of our own upsets, however, is an important first step to dealing with them.
Read an article on Basic Breathing Exercises to reduce stress
Read all our articles on stress

**Much of this information was prepared by Dr. David B. Posen Lifestyle Counselor and Psychotherapist, and Author of “Always Change a Losing Game”

Oakville, Ontario. Permission has been given for this information to be copied and distributed to patients.

Other information was obtained from:

Lazarus, R.S., and Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal and Coping.

For personalized advice for coping with stress you can visit Dr. KC at

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