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Walter Cannon and Hans Selye used animal studies to establish the earliest scientific basis for the study of stress. They measured the physiological responses of animals to external pressures, such as heat and cold, prolonged restraint, and surgical procedures, then extrapolated from these studies to human beings.
Subsequent studies of stress in humans by Richard Rahe and others established the view that stress is caused by distinct, measureable life events, and further, that these life stressors can be ranked by the median degree of stress they produce (leading to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale). Thus, stress was traditionally conceptualized to be a result of external insults beyond the control of those experiencing the stress. More recently, however, it has been argued that external circumstances do not have any intrinsic capacity to produce stress, but instead their effect is mediated by the individual's perceptions, capacities, and understanding.
Models of stress management
Richard 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 one's 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 mediate the stress response and are amenable to change, thus allowing stress to be controllable.
In order to develop an effective stress management programme it is first necessary to identify the factors that are central to a person controlling his/her stress, and to identify the intervention methods which effectively target these factors. Lazarus and Folkman's interpretation of stress focuses on the transaction between people and their external environment (known as the Transactional Model). The model conceptualizes stress as a result of how a stressor is appraised and how a person appraises his/her resources to cope with the stressor. The model breaks the stressor-stress link by proposing that if stressors are perceived as positive or challenging rather than a threat, and if the stressed person is confident that he/she possesses adequate rather than deficient coping strategies, stress may not necessarily follow the presence of a potential stressor. The model proposes that stress can be reduced by helping stressed people change their perceptions of stressors, providing them with strategies to help them cope and improving their confidence in their ability to do so.
Health realization/innate health model
The health realization/innate health model of stress is also founded on the idea that stress does not necessarily follow the presence of a potential stressor. Instead of focusing on the individual's appraisal of so-called stressors in relation to his or her own coping skills (as the transactional model does), the health realization model focuses on the nature of thought, stating that it is ultimately a person's thought processes that determine the response to potentially stressful external circumstances. In this model, stress results from appraising oneself and one's circumstances through a mental filter of insecurity and negativity, whereas a feeling of well-being results from approaching the world with a "quiet mind," "inner wisdom," and "common sense".
This model proposes that helping stressed individuals understand the nature of thought--especially providing them with the ability to recognize when they are in the grip of insecure thinking, disengage from it, and access natural positive feelings--will reduce their stress.
Techniques of stress management
There are several ways of coping with stress. Some techniques of time management may help a person to control stress. In the face of high demands, effective stress management involves learning to set limits and to say "No" to some demands that others make. The following techniques have been recently dubbed “Destressitizers” by The Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. A destressitizer is any process by which an individual can relieve stress. Techniques of stress management will vary according to the theoretical paradigm adhered to, but may include some of the following:
- Autogenic training
- Cognitive therapy
- Conflict resolution
- Getting a hobby
- Deep breathing
- Relaxation techniques
- Artistic Expression
- Fractional relaxation
- Progressive relaxation
- Stress balls
- Natural medicine
- Clinically validated alternative treatments
- Time management
- Listening to certain types of relaxing music, particularly:
Levels of stress can be measured. One way is through the use of the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to rate stressful life events. Changes in blood pressure and galvanic skin response can also be measured to test stress levels, and changes in stress levels. A digital thermometer can be used to evaluate changes in skin temperature, which can indicate activation of the fight or flight response drawing blood away from the extremities.
Stress management has physiological and immune benefit effects.
Effectiveness of stress management
Positive outcomes are observed using a combination of non-drug interventions:
- treatment of anger or hostility,
- autogenic training
- talking therapy (around relationship or existential issues)
- cognitive therapy for anxiety or clinical depression
Since stress activates the body's defense mechanism, blood is frequently drawn away from the extremities and to the torso when a stress attack occurs. Digital thermometers (digital because they measure finger temperature) can be used to detect a person's level of stress. Note that the actual temperature is not the most important characteristic, but rather the change in temperature. [How to reference and link to summary or text] Using this knowledge has proven useful in designing treatment for prevention and control of stress attacks. This technique was pioneered by Dr. Claudio Zapata. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
- Anger management
- Anxiety management
- Behavior modification
- Cognitive techniques
- Psychological resilience
- Relaxation technique
- Cannabis smoking
- Burnout (psychology)
- Work-life balance
- Natural Stress Relief
- Self medication
- Stress (biological)
- Stress reactions
- Bower, J. E. & Segerstrom, S.C. (2004). Stress management, finding benefit, and immune function: positive mechanisms for intervention effects on physiology. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 56(1): 9-11.
- Cannon, W. (1939). The Wisdom of the Body, 2nd ed., NY: Norton Pubs.
- Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal and Coping. New York: Springer.
- Mills, R.C. (1995). Realizing Mental Health: Toward a new Psychology of Resiliency, Sulberger & Graham Publishing, Ltd. ISBN-10: 0945819781
- Ogden, J. (2000). Health Psychology (3rd Edition). Open University Press: Buckingham.
- Rahe RH, Arthur RJ. (1978). Life change and illness studies: past history and future directions. J. Human Stress, 4(1): 3-15.
- Rahe RH et al. (1972). Psychosocial predictors of illness behavior and failure in stressful training. J. health Soc. Behav. 13(4): 393-97.
- Rahe RH, Mahan JL, Jr. Arthur RJ. (1970). Prediction of near-future health change from subjects' preceding life changes. J. Psychosom. Res. 14(4): 401-6.
- Rahe RH et al. (2000). The stress and coping inventory: an educational and research instrument. Stress Medicine 16: 199-208.
- Sedgeman, J.A. (2005). Health Realization/Innate Health: Can a quiet mind and a positive feeling state be accessible over the lifespan without stress-relief techniques? Med. Sci. Monitor 11(12) HY47-52. 
- Selye, H. (1950). Stress and the general adaptation syndrome. Br. Med. J. 4667: 1383-92.
- Spence, J.D., Barnett, P.A., Linden, W., Ramsden, V., Taenzer, P. (1999). Lifestyle modifications to prevent and control hypertension. 7. Recommendations on stress management. The Journal of the Canadian Medical Association,160(Suppl 9):S46-50.12365525Ṇ
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