Why Stress Affects Everybody Differently
The word "stress" technically refers only to how our body reacts to stressors, different
external inputs. Many stressors are not inherently stressful. There are conscious and
unconscious things that occur in our inner world that determine whether a stressor in the external world will trigger our stress response, called mediating responses and
moderating factors. (1) Some stress is good for us and motivates us. But signs that stress has gone too far include emotional distress, sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating. Scientific studies suggest that up to 85% of all health problems are related to stress. (2)
Stressors have 3 general categories: catastrophes, major life changes and daily hassles. Catastrophes are sudden, often life-threatening calamities or disasters that push people to the outer limits of their coping capability. These include natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Major life changes include death of a loved one, divorce, imprisonment, job loss and major disability. Daily hassles include everyday annoyances due to jobs, personal relationships and everyday living circumstances. (3)
Mediating processes and moderating factors determine how we react to an external
stressor. One mediating process is appraisal. Stressors can be interpreted in different ways, such as harm or loss, as threats or as challenges. When appraising the situation, aspects such as how predictable and controllable a stressor is, whether is stable or unstable, global or specific, and internal or external, affect how the individual will react to the stressor. (5) If the event is judged to be uncontrollable, it will be more stressful, if it's more stable and global, people will react in a helpless manner, if it's more internal, people will feel worse about themselves.
Another mediating process is coping. There are two main strategies of coping: problem-
focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping tries to manage
and alter stressors and is more useful in situations in which a constructive solution can be found. Problem-focused coping strategies include confronting (changing a stressful situation assertively), planful problem solving (solving through deliberate, problem-focused strategies) and most importantly, seeking social support. (5)
Emotion-focused coping tries to regulate the emotional responses to stressors and is more useful in situations in which the problem must be accepted. Some of these coping
strategies include self-controlling, distancing, positively reappraising (finding positive meaning in stressful experience by focusing on personal growth), accepting
responsibility, and escaping/avoiding (often by drinking, overeating, using drugs, etc.). (5) The idea behind this mediating process of coping is repeated later in this paper when coping ability is considered a personality trait by a study by the University of Utah.
Moderating factors, as...