According to a recent study, more than 18% of the population feels stressed and anxious.
But where does stress really come from? And what are the consequences for our wellbeing?
To better understand what stress is, my favorite definition comes from the stress and coping theory put forward by Lazarus and Folkman (1984).
Lazarus and Folkman wrote a model that is different to most, which are based on linear stimulus-response causality.
Lazarus and Folkman Model of Stress
According to the authors, stress is the relationship between the environment, and the individual’s perception of a situation. It occurs when situations are perceived as threatening to the individual for their physical or mental integrity.
For the authors, stress does not only correspond to both environmental and individual dimensions. This is why the model is said to be a transactional model. Each individual has their own way of handling this transaction. It is not the gravity of the situation that is stressful, but the way we apprehend it given our personal experience and our characteristics.
Stress is a dynamic relationship between our perception of a situation and the environment. In this context, it is essential to take into account the individual resources but also the social resources used to cope with external solicitations. The Lazarus and Folkman model highlights the individual perception we have of our environment and that the individual continually assesses his or her relationship to the environment, and the implications this may have for one’s personal wellbeing.
3 Processes in the Evaluation Phase
There are three main processes in this evaluation phase:
- Primary Evaluation: This is the first impression one gets of a situation. We can ask ourselves questions such as: Am I in danger? or Is the situation beneficial to me? This primary evaluation can take three forms: that of damage already caused, a challenge or a challenge.
- Secondary Evaluation: This evaluation determines whether we have the resources in the broad sense to deal with the situation, and consider coping strategies.
- Re-Evaluation: This is a change in the initial situation resulting from new information: either from the environment or from the individual themselves. Re-evaluation is also a function of primary assessments. If it is a threat and the person has the means and the resources to deal with it, then the situation is re-evaluated as a challenge. This re-evaluation can be the result of effective coping strategies. For Lazarus and Folkman, coping is the cognitive and behavioural efforts that evolve to control internal and/or external demands that are perceived as impossible.
Coping Strategies for Stress
When we evaluate a situation, we will then implement coping strategies to adapt to the environment to meet the internal and/or external needs that are assessed as threatening or exceeding our resources.
The coping or set off strategies for dealing with the problematic situation may, depending on Lazarus and Folkman’s transactional model, be focused on the management of emotions, or on the other hand focused on solving problems. This can lead to immediate effects such as a positive or negative feeling that in the long run can affect not only morale, but also life in general.
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- Berjot, S., & Finez, L. (2011). Concept de soi et identité dans le contexte du sport. In G. Descamps (Ed.), Psychologie du sport et de la santé (pp. 101-116). Bruxelles : Editions De Boeck.
- De Keyser, V., & Hansez, I. (1996). Vers une perspective transactionnelle du stress au travail: Pistes d’évaluations méthodologiques. Cahiers de Médecine du Travail, 33(3), 133-144.