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STRESS

Stress is the process by which a person both perceives and responds to events that are judged to be challenging or threatening (Straub, 2007). It also refers to the consequence of failure of an organism to respond adequately to mental, emotional, physical demands whether actual or imagined. Stress is a response to environmental (or internal) events that the organism appraises as challenging. This challenge might be a threat to existing resources (such as food, status, a mate, or information), an opportunity to obtain the missing resources with effort, or simply any event (extreme cold, pain) that requires a response that may exceed the resources of the organism. The response involves sympathetic arousal for quick action (consistent with emotion), but also the release of slower-acting glucocorticoid hormones for sustained action. Although it does not involve a specific affect, stress is often associated with certain emotions, depending upon the specific appraisals of the stressor. Thus a threat appraisal triggers both the stress response and anxiety. Once the threat is removed, anxiety (and autonomic arousal) diminishes, but the glucocorticoid stress response will already be in full swing. The present study will thus use a social threat (anticipation of giving a speech to an audience) in order to initiate the stress response (with associated anxiety), but will distinguish the effects of stress from anxiety by removing the threat prior to cognitive testing (Hans, 2006). Stress is simply a fact of nature- forces from the inside or outside world affecting an individual, while the individual responds to stress in ways in ways it affects the individual as well as the environment. The fight or flight response is controlled by two branches of our nervous system, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When a threat or challenge is perceived, the bodys sympathetic nervous system is switched on, raising the level of two hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones cause a series of

biological changes, such as increase heart rate, dilation of nostrils and bronchial tubes, raises blood pressure, increases blood flow to brain and muscles, which gear up the body to either flee from the perceived danger, or stay and fight. Once the perceived danger or challenge is no longer a threat, the bodys parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, and returns all body systems back to normal levels of functioning. However, when the body suffers a long period of chronic stress, many of the bodys functions are thrown out of whack, resulting in a depletion of the bodys resources, weakening and possible failure of the immune system, the pituitary gland can not produce enough stress hormones, and other negative health effects (Amanda, 2008). Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving one more vulnerable to anxiety and depression (Amanda, 2008).