to accompany and give back hope

Parish Nursing Bulletin



Series on Stress: Part 5

Factors Influencing Our Perception of Stress

Why do some people perceive a situation as stressful when others don't? Even within ourselves, why are we stressed one day but not another by the same situation?

Stress has been defined as "a condition that occurs when an individual perceives the demands of a situation as exceeding (his/her) resources". The way we see both demands and resources will influence our individual responses to a situation. Factors that affect our perceptions include things related to the event (e.g. controllability, predictability, duration & intensity of the stressor), and personal factors (e.g. early experience, optimistic/ pessimistic personality traits, irritability, inadequate sleep).

Take, for example, an emergency hospital admission. This is more stressful than a planned one because it is less controllable and predictable (variations related to the event itself).

However, some people will find the same emergency admission much more stressful than others (individual variations). People whose previous experiences with the health care system have been positive and who tend to be optimistic are more likely to feel that they have the resources to deal effectively with the situation. Those whose early experiences of doctor's visits were painful, or those who tend toward pessimism, may feel sure that the hospital admission will lead to pain and deteriorating health. If they've also been having trouble sleeping and are feeling irritable, they are likely to be hypersensitive to even minor symptoms.

Now that we know more about factors causing stress, what do we do about it? Watch next week for ways of managing stress!


© 2009 Parish Nursing Ministry