Individual Differences in Stress
Individual differs in the way they interpret and respond to stress. Some people are able to manage stressful situations even if they are exposed to numerous major potentially stressful life events. Other people develop physiological, psychological, and related symptoms due to stress. Why does the response of the people differ to a similar set of life events?
For example, imagine you and your friend both have a psychology exam two days later. If you both rate the degree of stress the exam is causing, would you give similar ratings? The ways an individual experiences and handles stressors are important factors. There are certain factors lying behind the individual when stress is experienced.
- Job experience
- Social support
- Locus of control
- Hostility and optimism
- Type A and Type B personality
Perception is how we interpret the situation. If we interpret the situation in a meaningful way, we perceive the situation in a positive way. However, if we take the situation as troublesome or disturbing, we become more vulnerable to stressors.
For example, after downsizing a company a person may fear and worry that he/she will lose job and opportunities, thereby creating distress, while starting a new job and moving to a new city can signify a new and exciting opportunity ahead to the other person. This event is like a source of eustress, not distress. Hence, individual differences in stress occur due to perception.
Jobs also create individual differences in managing stress. A job is a profession that can be a pleasurable or positive emotional experience resulting from one’s job. A bad, unpleasant job, on the other hand, may yield what is called low job experience which may lead to both turnover and absenteeism. Voluntary withdraws are common if employees face too much stress on the job. It seems people who are more resistant to stress tend to stay longer with the organization.
It is commonly noticed that experienced employees with potential handle their jobs with less stress and experience more satisfaction from their job. Satisfied workers have been found to exhibit pro-social behavior and activities, while the unsatisfied employees were found to have some complications in their behavior.
Social support is the availability of comfort, information, advice, money, and encouragement from others. Employees greatly benefit from a strong social support system from coworkers or supervisors. This helps to share problems and joys with similar natured people. If there is a weak social support system, a situation can be very stressful for the individual, and a negative effect can arise.
Locus of Control
Locus of control is a belief that explains the number of control people has over their own lives, and whether the person sees his or her as behavior controlled by external forces (external locus) or internal forces (internal locus). People perform best in the most stressful situations when they have a moderately strong internal locus of control. This type of person is more satisfied and motivated by a performance-based reward system.
When internal and external are confronted with a similar stressful situation through their own initiatives, independent actions, and complex thinking, while externals leave it to external factors to arrive at the result. Externals remain passive or feel helpless in stressful situations.
It also creates individual differences in stress. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief that he or she has the ability, motivation, and situational contingencies to complete a task successfully. Self-efficacy is a self-perception of how well a person can cope with situations as difficulties arise. People with high self-efficacy feel capable and confident, taking stressful situations as a challenge to perform well. They react less negatively to the strain created by long work hours and work overload than those with low levels of self-efficacy. The beliefs in one’s own capacities and skill helps individual with high self-efficacy to combat stress and deal effectively in a stressful situation.
Hostility and Optimism
People differ from one another in the way they express hostility and optimism. Hostility refers to the emotional reaction that drives a person towards the road of destruction, damaging the objects which is the source of frustration or threat. Optimism in Webster’s New World Dictionary (1988) is defined as the tendency to take the most hopeful or cheerful view of matters or to expect the best outcome, the practice of looking on the bright side of things.
A person with a hostile nature is suspicious, quick to get angry, and distrusts others. Evidence supports that hostility leads to heart disease because hostile individuals experience more stress in a difficult situation. They are pessimistic and tend to focus more on negative characteristics of a situation, and expect things to get worse, rather than better. An optimistic attitude, on the other hand, helps to handle a person’s stress better. Optimistic individuals will be able to see the positive characteristics of the situation and recognize that things will improve, thereby reducing the level of stress.
Type A and Type B Personality
Type A persons tend to be impatient, short-tempered, rapid talker, and a regular interrupter of communications. Type A people experience distress because they have a strong sense of time urgency which may lead to coronary heart disease when the person is exposed to a stressor. Type B person, on the other hand, tends to work steadily, have a relaxed approach to life, and have an even temper. Type B people experience less stress than type A.