Stress Lecture

What stresses you out? What is stress and how does it affect our body? In this lecture, we will examine stress, the neural substrates of stress, and the ways in which stress manifests itself physically and emotionally.

Keywords: PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, stress, embodied cognition, emotional pain, type a personality, ulcers, stress and mortality, stereotype stress

Session Activities



Read the following before watching the lecture video.

One of the following textbook chapters:

or the stress chapter from either of these free text books:

Extra goodies


Watch Stress: Portrait of a Killer and write a response paper on it.  What did you learn from this movie about yourself?  What are the stress levels like in your life?  What do you need to change?  How is it affecting your academic, personal, physical and even spiritual life?  What stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome are you in?

Further Study

These optional resources are provided for students that wish to explore this topic more fully.

Summary videos of the chapters: Watch video 23 for this chapter

MIT psych 101 video lecture on stress

Crash Course–Emotion, Stress and Health: So, it turns out we have an easy time reading emotions in facial expressions, but emotions can straight up kill us! In this episode of Crash Course Psychology, Hank discusses stress, emotions, and their overall impact on our health.

Crash Course–Sympathetic Nervous System: Hank tries not to stress you out too much as he delves into the functions and terminology of your sympathetic nervous system.

Check Yourself

[accordions id=”1″]
[acchead id=”1″ tab_id=”10″ class=”active”]Check yourself[/acchead]
[accbody tab_id=”10″ in=”in”]Try to answer the question and then click to see if you were correct.[/accbody]
[acchead id=”1″ tab_id=”11″ class=””]Describe the three stages of Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome.[/acchead]
[accbody tab_id=”11″ in=””]The general adaptation syndrome is comprised of three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. In the alarm phase, an organism prepares physiologically and psychologically to respond to a stressor. This includes the release of hormones like cortisol and the activation of the HPA axis. In the resistance phase, the organism mobilizes resources to adapt to the contiued presence of a stressor. This may include reducing non-essential metabolic activities in preference for those that support the stress response. Cortisol levels remain high during this phase if the stressor is chronic. In the exhaustion phase, the physiological cost of maintaining a heightened response to the stressor begins to take its toll. Resources may be diverted away from essential systems (cf. resistance phase) which cause damage to the body and brain.[/accbody]
[acchead id=”1″ tab_id=”12″ class=””]What is hostility in the context of psychological science? What are some of the effects of hostility on health?[/acchead]
[accbody tab_id=”12″ in=””]Hostility is a “personality trait associated with heart disease and characterized mistrust, an expectation of harm and provocation by others, and a cynical attitude.” Hostile personality traits are present in individuals with a so-called “Type A personality.” The heightened, chronic stress responses associated with hostility include high blood pressure and heart disease.[/accbody]
[acchead id=”1″ tab_id=”13″ class=””]Coping strategies for handling stress can be either problem-focused or emotion-focused. Explain how these two approaches are different and similar. Identify general strategies that are examples of problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping.[/acchead]
[accbody tab_id=”13″ in=””]Problem-focused coping strategies are those that seek to change the external source of a stressor. This can include changing the environment itself, or changing how one interacts with the environment to avoid causing stress. Examples of general approaches to problem-focused coping include active coping (trying to remove or work around a stressor), planning(developing strategies for managing a stressor), and instrumental social support (seeking advice about specific actions from others), among others.Emotion-focused coping strategies, meanwhile, are those that seek to change the internalresponse to a stressor. Rather than trying to reduce or remove the cause of stress, these strategies attempt to change the emotional response to the stressor – how it is experienced by an individual. Emotion-focused coping strategies include emotional social support(seeking affirmation and encouragement from others), venting emotions (talking about stressed feelings to others as a means to feeling better), and mental disengagement (trying to think about other, non-stressful things), among others.Both emotion- and problem-focused approaches are viable methods for reducing stress.[/accbody]