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Stress, as understood in common use, is usually associated with the feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed. It is primarily a psychological condition that results from internal perceptions though it is induced indirectly by external factors or events. For most people, stress happens as a reaction to things that are perceived to be threatening. It arises from the belief that one’s resources are insufficient to be able to cope with what situations require. People generally experience stress when they think they are unable or are barely capable of delivering what is expected of them.
Different individuals have varying reactions or mechanisms in dealing with stress. These mechanisms are also known as coping or defense mechanisms. They are generally classified into two categories (the good or productive and the bad or counterproductive) but they can also be further subdivided into three categories based on adaptive functioning (highly adaptive, mental inhibition, and active mechanisms).
Highly adaptive coping mechanisms are also known as problem-focused mechanisms and they are generally good or productive. These mechanisms can be characterized by a person’s inclination to face a problem or stressor head on. A person who employs these mechanisms constructively deals with stress. Affiliation, humor, sublimation, positive reappraisal, anticipation, and altruism are some of the mechanisms that fall under this category.
Affiliation happens when a person turns to a social network for support or to share or diffuse the burden. Humor is the act of highlighting comic or amusing moments in stressful situations instead of focusing on the banes. Sublimation takes place when a person channels his or her anxiety into socially acceptable outlets or activities. Positive reappraisal is the process of redirecting thoughts to positive things that enable self-reflection and the chance for personal growth. Anticipation is positive expectation. Altruism, on the other hand, refers to focusing on other people’s welfare instead of dwelling on concerns that only affect the self.
Mental inhibition or disavowal mechanisms, another category of stress defense, are stress coping ways that cause a person to have a reduced level of awareness of the emotions that arise from stress. Some of these mechanisms may be considered good and some can be counterproductive depending on the situation or the person. Examples of mental inhibition are displacement, repression, reaction formation, dissociation, and rationalization.
Displacement occurs when a person focuses his or her emotions on less threatening instances. Repression is comparable to denial and it refers to an attempt to eliminate all thoughts and emotions that are connected to the cause of stress. Reaction formation is the substitution of stress-related feelings or behaviors with the corresponding antitheses to eliminate thoughts or behaviors that are deemed unacceptable. The opposite of affiliation, dissociation is a mechanism wherein a person refuses public contact or involvement with things that can be directly or indirectly associated with stress or stressors. Rationalization is the defense mechanism employed by individuals to hide true motivation by explaining actions or circumstances in ways that don’t make them unpleasant or threatening.
The third category of ways in dealing with stress, the active mechanisms, is composed of coping mechanisms in which an individual either takes action or backs away. Two mechanisms belong to this category: acting out and passive aggression. Acting out is generally considered a counter-normative and dysfunctional mechanism since it causes a person to refuse to address a problem. On the other hand, passive aggression happens when a stressed out individual vents his or her anxious emotions by showing hostility to other people. Persons in passive aggression reject help from other people and are likely to incessantly, irately, and irritatingly complain.
The different ways people react to stress are worth knowing and familiarizing with as they can offer insights on how one can properly or more suitably handle stressful situations. Stress is a common problem everyone may encounter every once in a while. There are advantages in understanding and learning the steps in dealing with stress.
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