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Environmental Stress. Salma Abdul & Elnaz Naseri . What is Stress?. Early Definition: Emphasizes on: Responses of the individual or, The situations that caused disruption of ongoing behavior and functioning. Interactive Approach: Relational, interactive model:

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environmental stress

Environmental Stress

Salma Abdul & Elnaz Naseri

what is stress
What is Stress?
  • Early Definition:
    • Emphasizes on:
        • Responses of the individual or,
        • The situations that caused disruption of ongoing behavior and functioning.
  • Interactive Approach:
    • Relational, interactive model:
        • Stress is a process that occurs when there is an imbalance between environmental demands and response capabilities of the organism

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characteristics of stressors
Characteristics of Stressors
  • Four general types of environmental stressors are:
        • Cataclysmic events
          • Sudden/major adaptive response
          • Effects whole community

e.g.; Flood

        • Stressful life events
          • Incidents in life
          • Social or personal adaptive response

e.g.; Gain or loss of job

        • Daily hassles
          • Events of ordinary life

e.g.; argument with a friend

        • Ambient stressors
          • Continuous, stable and intractable conditions of physical environment

e.g.; living with chronic air pollutions

Sociologist’s view:

Chronic Strains: The persistent, difficult, and demanding experience of daili life

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Stress Buster #1: Follow a healthy diet with lots of Vitamin C, B, Zinc, Magnesium and Mineral

eight dimensions for characterizing sources of environmental stress
Eight Dimensions for Characterizing Sources of Environmental Stress
  • The degree to which stressor is perceptually salient
  • Type of adjustment required
  • Value or valence of events
  • Degree of controllability
  • Predictability of stressors
  • Necessity and importance
  • Whether the source is tied to human behavior
  • Duration and periodicity

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physiological perspective
Physiological Perspective
  • Walter Cannon
    • Sympathetic nervous system
  • and Hans Selye
    • Pituitary-adrenocortical axis
        • Both models concentrates on homeostatic processes
      • Stress Buster #2: incorporate exercise into your everyday life
psychological perspective
Psychological Perspective
  • Primary appraisal:
        • Process of evaluation of the stressor
  • Secondary appraisal:
        • Only when threat, harm, or challenge is felt
        • One evaluates his or her coping resources
          • Problem-focusing coping
          • Emotion-focused coping
    • So,

primary appraisal= threat? harm? challenge?


Secondary appraisal: not enough resources?



other models of environmental stress
Other Models of Environmental Stress
  • Stimulation Level:
    • Inverted-U-shape
    • Arousal and information overload are the underlying mechanism of the inverted-U-shape function between crowding or noise with human responses
    • Too much or too little stimulus produces stress
dinesh nagar 1 janak pandey s study
Dinesh Nagar 1 Janak Pandey’s Study

Affect and Performance on Cognitive Task as a Function of Crowding and Noise:

  • Sixty undergraduate males participated in an experiment with a 2 × 3 factorial design involving two levels of density and three levels of noise to demonstrate effects of the independent variables (density, noise) on cognitive task performance and affect. As predicted, it was found that crowding and noise lead to deterioration of subject's performance on cognitively complex tasks but not on simple (cognitive) task. Also, density and noise generated a negative feeling in the subjects. Significant two-way interaction for complex task, showed variation in performance of Ss of high and low density under low and high noise conditions. In addition, crowded-condition subjects reported more dissatisfaction about their performance and evaluated the presence of the experimenter as significantly less pleasant than their noncrowded-condition counterparts.
other models cont
Other Models Cont…
  • Adaptation and Coping
    • Are there costs associated with human adaptation to environmental demands?
        • Cognitive fatigue?
        • Overgeneralization?
        • Direct physiological effect?
    • What would Dubos say?
  • Control:
      • Strong need for environmental mastery
      • Sense of self-efficacy
        • Lack of Control:
          • Negative Affect
          • Cognitive deficits
          • Reduced motivation to behave instrumentally when the option is available
      • Actual or perceived control leads to fewer negative consequences
  • Predictability:
    • Distraction is the principal mechanism of task decrements noted in noise. (Poulton, 1977, 1978)
    • Link between predictability and control
        • Aversive events that are unpredictable are more difficult to control and prepare for
    • The concept of interruption
        • Changes in response sequences that have previously been organized produce stress
      • Stress Buster #4: Attention: This too shall pass!!
effects of stressors1
Effects of Stressors
  • Physiological Effects
  • Task Performance
  • Affect and Interpersonal Behaviour
  • Observation
  • Adaptation
physiological effects
Physiological Effects
  • Endocrinological responses used to measure stress.
  • Aversive stimuli cause increased catecholamine and corticosteroid output that is detectable either in blood or in urine.
  • Increased blood pressure, skin conductance, respiration rates, muscle tension, heart rate.
the fight or flight response cannon 1915
The Fight or Flight ResponseCannon (1915)
  • is our body's primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to "fight" or "flee" from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.
  • Activation in the sympathetic system
effects of stress on the immune system segerstorm miller 2004
Effects of Stress on the Immune System (Segerstorm, Miller 2004)
  • Conducted nearly 300 studies on the effects of health on the immune system
  • Lab studies that stressed people for a few minutes found a burst of one type of “first responder” activity mixed with other signs of weakening.
  • For stress of any significant duration – from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life – all aspects of immunity went downhill.
  • long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system.
  • Stress Buster #5: Deep Breathing and spend some time outside
exam stress in students lekander 2006
Exam Stress in Students(Lekander, 2006)
  • examined how a major med school exam affects stress hormone levels, the immune system and lung function among students with and without allergies.
  • Twenty-two students with hay fever and/or asthma and 19 healthy students took the test.
  • Mental stress that students experience while studying for their exams may affect their immune defense system, making them more prone to colds and the influenza virus, other effects may include aches, irritability in bowel movements, fatigue and insomnia.
  • Conditions are even worse if they have an allergy
  • study also showed that blood concentrations of a group of inflammation products called cytokines had changed and shifted against a pattern associated with allergic inflammation in students with allergies, but remained normal in healthy students.
stress worsens allergies asthma and allergy foundation of america 2008
Stress Worsens Allergies(Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2008)
  • A new study is proving that there is a link between how bad your allergies are, and how much stress you're under.
  • http://video.google.ca/videosearch?q=study+on+stress&hl=en&emb=0#q=study%20on%20stress&hl=en&emb=0&start=10
task performance
Task Performance

Poorer performances in tasks that require rapid response, sustained attention, or attention to multiple tasks.

Memory span in working memory may be shorter under stress.

Weaker comprehension of complex information such as context or thematic structure.

affect and interpersonal behaviour
Affect and Interpersonal Behaviour
  • People typically become unhelpful, aggressive and uncooperative when under stress
  • Tend to make quicker decisions, usually being fixated on only 1 or 2 possibilities and fail to examine the whole picture.
affect and interpersonal behaviour1
Affect and Interpersonal Behaviour
  • Studying the effect of stress on performance and judgment, Dorner and Pfeifer subjected 40 subjects to a computerized forest fire fighting game. Half of the subjects were placed under conditions of stress (a disturbing noise) and the others were left to focus on their task. The exercise involved varying levels of difficulty and lasted five hours. The researchers found that subjects under stress performed equally to those not stressed, but their problem solving patterns were different. Stressed subjects focused on the general outline of the problem, while non-stressed individuals relied on in-depth analysis. Consequently, stressed subjects made fewer errors in setting priorities whilst on-stressed subjects controlled their fire fighting operations better.
  • Dorner, D. and Pfeifer, F. (1993) .Strategic thinking and stress., Ergonomics Vol. 36, No. 11, pp.1345.1360.
  • Verbal Indicators: speech faults (e.g. repetition, sentence change, tongue slips), filled pauses (e.g., ah, um), increased pitch.
  • Nonverbal Indicators: defensive body posturing (e.g, leaning away, crossing arms/legs, reduced eye contact and greater automanupilative behaviours such as fidgeting with clothes, and stereotyped objective play (e.g., tapping pen).
  • Adaptation may be good in the short run but prolonged cumulative costs can be detrimental to health.
  • If summoned over long time periods, chronic stressors may cause cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems and lowered immunity.

Stress Buster #6: Meditation

general adaptation syndrome selye 1936
General adaptation syndromeSelye (1936)
  • Alarm Reaction - the sympathetic nervous system is activated
  • Resistance Stage - the object adapts to the source of the stress
  • Exhaustion Stage - the organism can no longer keep responding in a phase of resistance and then collapses
  • Characterized by intensity, frequency, periodicity, and duration
  • Unpredictable noise exposure increases catecholamine, blood pressure and increases heart rate and skin conductance.
  • Noise may produce both decrements in some tasks and enhanced performance on others.
  • Loss of altruistic behaviour and increased aggression and hostility under extreme noise.
the effects of noise on preschool children s reading skills maxwell evans 2000
The Effects of Noise on Preschool children’s reading skills. Maxwell & Evans (2000)
  • The study examined the relation between exposure to chronic noise and pre-reading skills in pre-school-aged children.
  • The study was conducted in a child care center located in a small town. Children were divided in groups of a quiet class room or a noisy classroom
  • In the noisy class situation, noise levels were generated by people within the building and a consequence of poor acoustical design.
  • Children performed better in the quieter condition on the cognitive measure of pre-reading skills requiring recognition of numbers, letters, and simple words.
the effect of elevated train noise on reading ability bronzaft mccarthy 1975
The Effect of Elevated Train Noise on Reading Ability. Bronzaft & McCarthy (1975)
  • Classrooms of public school students were either located on the east side of the building which was very noisy due to a railway track nearby (approximately 80 trains passed by on a weekday from 9-3), or they were put in a much quieter classroom on the other side of the building.
  • Students on the noisy side of the school building did more poorly on the achievement tests than those on the quiet side of the building, they also had a much harder time concentrating in class and appeared to be inattentive.
work stress park 2007
Work Stress (Park, 2007)
  • Work-related stress has a direct bearing on the current and long-term productivity of Canadian workers in terms of reduced work activities, disability days and absenteeism.
  • High self-perceived work stress was strongly related to taking disability days. Almost one in five men and women who perceived their regular work days to be stressful took at least one disability day during the two weeks prior to the survey.
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children have stress too
Children Have Stress Too
  • "Stress can infect and affect the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and academic well-being of children. It can interfere with their motivation, attention, perception, memory and the entire learning process," says Dr. Harold Minden, a psychology professor and expert on stress at York University.
  • YouTube - Psychology students tackle real-world issues.mht
children and stress
Children and Stress
  • Children experience stress just as adults do but it often goes unrecognized.
  • There are many factors that could contribute to stress in children's lives. Children often experience stress from ongoing situations, some of which may be beyond their control.

Some possible stressful situations for young children:

  • Accepting a new baby in the family
  • Losing a loved one or pet
  • Experiencing a change in routine or feeling insecure
  • Adjusting to a new school, a new teacher or a new bus driver
  • Making choices when faced with too many choices
  • Learning a new skill
  • Making new friends or being excluded from activities with friends
  • Coping with a new caregiver or a new child care setting
  • Experiencing divorce or parental separation
  • Living with parents who are stressed
ways to deal with stress
Ways to Deal With Stress
  • First, recognize stress:
  • Stress symptoms include mental, social, and physical manifestations. These include exhaustion, loss of/increased appetite, headaches, crying, sleeplessness, and oversleeping.
  • Look aroundSee if there really is something you can change or control in the situation.
  • Set realistic goals for yourselfReduce the number of events going on in your life and you may reduce the circuit overload.
  • Remove yourself from the stressful situationGive yourself a break if only for a few moments daily.
  • Don't overwhelm yourselfby fretting about your entire workload. Handle each task as it comes, or selectively deal with matters in some priority.
  • Don't sweat the small stuffTry to prioritize a few truly important things and let the rest slide.
  • Learn how to best relax yourselfMeditation and breathing exercises have been proven to be very effective in controlling stress.  Practice clearing your mind of disturbing thoughts.
ways to deal with stress1
Ways to Deal With Stress
  • Change the way you see your situation; seek alternative viewpointsStress is a reaction to events and problems, and you can lock yourself in to one way of viewing your situation.  Seek an outside perspective of the situation, compare it with yours. and perhaps lessen your reaction to these conditions.
  • Avoid extreme reactions;Why hate when a little dislike will do? Why generate anxiety when you can be nervous? Why rage when anger will do the job? Why be depressed when you can just be sad?
  • Do something for othersto help get your mind off your self Get enough sleepLack of rest just aggravates stress.
  • Work off stresswith physical activity, whether it's jogging, tennis, gardening.
ways to deal with stress2
Ways to Deal With Stress
  • Avoid self-medication or escapeAlcohol and drugs can mask stress.  They don't help deal with the problems


  • Try to be positive!Give yourself messages as to how well you can cope rather than how horrible everything is going to be.  "Stress can actually help memory, provided it is short-term and not too severe.  Stress causes more glucose to be delivered to the brain, which makes more energy available to neurons.  This, in turn, enhances memory formation and retrieval.  On the other hand, if stress is prolonged, it can impede the glucose delivery and disrupt memory
thank you
Thank you
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