Coping mechanisms can be described as the sum total of ways in which we deal with minor to major stress and trauma. Some of these processes are unconscious ones, others are learned behavior, and still others are skills we consciously master in order to reduce stress, or other intense emotions like depression.
Not all coping mechanisms are equally beneficial, and some can actually be very detrimental. The body has an interior set of coping mechanisms for encountering stress. This includes the fight/flight reaction to high stress or trauma. A person perceiving stress has an automatic boost in adrenaline, prompting either action, or inaction. People have a variable level of physical reaction to different levels of stress. For some, merely getting interrupted from a task can cause an inappropriate fight/flight reaction. This can translate to “fight” mechanisms, where a person gets very angry with others for interrupting him.
Alternately, flight may include physically leaving, or simply being unable to regain focus and get back on task.
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Other unconscious coping strategies can include the way our minds deal with a constant barrage of stress. People in the psychiatric field suggest that mental illnesses tend to be coping mechanisms that evolve from certain stressors. For example, multiple personality disorder may result in children who are severely abused. Panic disorder may be the body’s coping mechanisms for inappropriate fight/flight reactions to minor stressors.
Some mental illnesses also have a genetic basis, but stress certainly often plays a role in making these illnesses more severe. Coping is thus expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. Psychological coping mechanisms are commonly termed coping strategies or coping skills. Unconscious or non conscious strategies (e. g. , defense mechanisms) are generally excluded. The term coping generally refers to adaptive or constructive coping strategies, i. e. the strategies reduce stress levels. However, some coping strategies can be considered maladaptive, i. e. , stress levels increase. Maladaptive coping can thus be described, in effect, as non-coping. Furthermore, the term coping generally refers to reactive coping, i. e. , the coping response follows the stressor. This contrasts with proactive coping, in which a coping response aims to head off a future stressor. Coping responses are partly controlled by personality (habitual traits), but also partly by the social context, particularly the nature of the stressful environment.
The effect of stress is directly linked to coping. The study of coping has evolved to encompass large variety of disciplines beginning with all areas of psychology such as health psychology, environmental psychology, neuro psychology and developmental psychology to areas of medicine spreading into the area of anthropology and sociology. Dissecting coping strategies into three broad components, (biological/physiological, cognitive, and learned) will provide a better understanding of what the seemingly immense area is about. Significance of the Study
This study is deemed significant to the following: Primarily to the Students, this study will enable them to determine level of stress and develop personal strategies to reduce stress which may post threat to their sense of well being and disrupt their normal functioning in etherealized learning experience. For clinical instructors, results of this study could serve as a guide in planning for activities or strategies that would help the students exercise control over the stressful situations in the Related Learning Experience.
For the Administrators, this study will serve as a basis to encourage them to support and approve school activities which will benefit the student’s well-being. Primarily to the Students, this study will enable them to determine level of stress and develop personal strategies to reduce stress which may post threat to their sense of well being and disrupt their normal functioning in etherealized learning experience. For the different School Organizations and Student Council, this study will aid them to develop different organizational activities or programs that will help the student members to release their tension and manage stress.
For the Future Researchers, this study will serve as a reference and baseline information to further develop on studies that enhance the stress and coping mechanisms. Scope and Delimitation of the Study This study will focus on the stress and coping mechanisms of individual preferences of the selected Third Year Medical Technology students of University of Perpetual Help System Laguna. A research – made questionnaire was used as a research instrument. Furthermore, the result of the study holds true for the stress and coping mechanisms of different students. Chapter 2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
This chapter presents the literatures reviewed, which may be utilized in defining the methodology and/or interpretation of data. Literature reviewed includes local and foreign books, local and foreign researches, articles, and internet materials. Related Literature The effect of stress is directly linked to coping. The study of coping has evolved to encompass large variety of disciplines beginning with all areas of psychology such as health psychology, environmental psychology, neuro psychology and developmental psychology to areas of medicine spreading into the area of anthropology and sociology.
Dissecting coping strategies into three broad components, (biological/physiological, cognitive, and learned) will provide a better understanding of what the seemingly immense area is about. The body has its own way of coping with stress. Any threat or challenge that an individual perceives in the environment triggers a chain of neuroendocrine events. These events can be conceptualized as two separate responses, that being of sympathetic/adrenal response, with the secretion of catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine) and the pituitary/adrenal response, with the secretion of corticosteroids (Frankanhauser, 1986).
The sympathetic/adrenal response takes the message from the brain to the adrenal medulla via the sympathetic nervous system, which secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine. This is the basic “fight or flight” response (Cannon, 1929), where the heart rate quickens and the blood pressure rises. In the pituitary/adrenal response, the hypothalamus is stimulated and produces the corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) to the pituitary gland through the blood veins, then the adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released from the pituitary gland to the adrenal cortex.
The adrenal cortex in turn secretes cortisol, a hormone that will report back to the original brain centers together with other body organs to tell it to stop the whole cycle. But since cortisol is a potent hormone, the prolonged secretion of it will lead to health problems such as the break down of cardiovascular system, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, and the recently established immune system. Also when the organism does not have a chance for recovery, it will lead to both catecholamine and corisol depletion and result in the third stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome of exhaustion (Seyle, 1956).
Social support has also been established by studies to be linked to stress (Bolger & Eckenrole, 1991; House, et. al, 1988). This can be seen as a dimension of the biological component since it is closely linked to the biological environment of that individual. There are many aspects to social support; the major categories would be of emotional, tangible, and informational. Personality types as so called Type A Personality have been defined to have such characteristics as competitive, impatient and hostile. Hostility has been linked to coronary heart disease which is thought be caused by stress (Rosenman, 1978).
Eysenck (1988) has coined the term Type C Personality for those who are known to be repressors and are prone to cancer. Hardiness also is a personality that seems to have much to do with how an individual handles stress. Hardiness is defined as having a sense of control, commitment, and challenge towards life in general. Kobasa (1979) has studied subjects who were laid off in large numbers by AT&T when the federal deregulation took place, and found that the people who were categorized as having hardy personalities were mentally and emotionally better off than the others. Although it may be possible o modifying ones personality, research has shown it to be heritable (Rahe, Herrig, & Rosenman, 1978; Parker, & Barret, 1992).
The cognitive approach to coping is based on a mental process of how the individual appraises the situation. Where the level of appraisal determines the level of stress and the unique coping strategies that the individual partakes. (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). There are two types of appraisals, the primary and the secondary. A primary appraisal is made when the individual makes a conscious evaluation of the matter at hand of whether it is harm or a loss, a threat or a challenge.
Then secondary appraisal takes place when the individual asks him/herself “What can I do? ” by evaluating the coping resources around him/her. These resources include, physical resources, such as how healthy one is, or how much energy one has, social resources, such as the family or friends one has to depend on for support in his/her immediate surroundings, psychological resources, such as self-esteem and self-efficacy, and also material resources such as how much money you have or what kind of equipment you might be able to use.
How much personal control one perceives to have is another factor to consider when looking at coping from the cognitive perspective. Usually an individual will find themselves feeling more stressful in uncontrollable situations. Also, since personal control is a cognitive process, the more one has a sense of personal control, better sense of coping ability one will have. The category of the attribution theory gives a good picture of the extreme ends of the “in control/lack of control” continuum. An individual will perceive to have the most control where the situations fit the categories of internal, transient, and specific.
At the opposite end of the scale is the category of external, stable, and global where the person will perceive lack of control. There are other ways of to approach coping from a cognitive perspective such as that of constructive and destructive thinking as conceptualized by Epstien and Meier (1989) a similar concept to that of optimistic versus pessimistic (Taylor, 1991), the perceived level of self-efficacy and self-esteem and so on. Many researchers who have studied subjects at midterms or finals and have found that coping is clearly a complex process, influenced by both personality characteristics (Bolger, 1990; Friedman et al. 1992; Long & Sangster, 1993), situational demands (Folkman & Lazarus, 1986; Heim et al. , 1993), and even the social and physical characteristics of the setting (Mechanic, 1978).
As we have seen in the various theoretical paradigms of coping, every factor from physiological, psychological, social, to cultural, both affect and are affected by the coping strategies. Just as there is said to be an optimal level of stress for an individual to function most effectively, I propose that there is an optimal level of coping which minimizes cost and maximizes benefits on all levels of the various factors combined.
A coping strategy that may work to improve a romantic relationship may have its negative social, cultural, or even psychological consequences. If you choose not to see your friends so that you have more time to spend with your romantic partner, or you choose to move in with that person when it is considered a cultural taboo, or you are so psychologically dominated by that person that you don’t have a mind of your own. In such cases, the individual has the illusion that they are effectively coping with a particular stress, while what they are really doing is creating many others.
Also, since each factor has the power to influence the others, the true form of the transaction theory can only be captured when time is included as one of the variables. Longitudinal studies are crucial in order to truly reflect the long term effects and processes that take place within the whole coping mechanism. Think about what many college students go through. Leaving the family home, feeling intense pressure to obtain high grades in connection with career aspirations, taking final exams, trying to establish a romantic/social life, dealing with (often very high) costs of college and possibly working at a job during the school year.