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Characterising Stress. Part 1: The Range of Stress Reactions

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 1 February 1991



This two‐part article starts by summarising the “story of stress” as developed in the training and development literature and presented on courses for stress management. The story is viewed as helpful but incomplete, for it is only in its simplicity that it accounts for individuals′ similarities, and only in its vagueness does it account for their differences. A need is identified to embellish the story of stress with a comprehensive framework which describes and provides a rationale for both the diversity and similarity of individuals′ stress reactions. In particular, a framework is required which goes beyond “fight or flight” and illuminates how people are physically, behaviourally, mentally and emotionally under stress. What is needed is a coherent and holistic account of personal character in stress. One such characterisation of stress is described, based on stress continuum. At one end of the continuum is located the variety of temporary startle reactions of individuals to transient stressors; towards the middle is the range of stressed responses displayed by individuals experiencing continuing, strengthening and cumulating stressors; and at the other end comes the emergence of stress characters which have cemented habitual and enduring stressed behaviours into characteristic ways of being in the world. Parts 1 and 2 expand upon this continuum. Part 1 provides a holistic description of the full range of individuals′ startle reactions and stressed responses. Part 2 describes the emergence of stress characters, links these characters to the stressors that prompt them and the effects they produce, and considers the methodological implications of the frameworks for those wishing to help alleviate individuals′ stress. Overall, the article develops the original stress story towards one which matches, and beyond that serves to integrate and provide a rationale for, the full qualitative diversity of individuals′ stress.



Stuart, R. (1991), "Characterising Stress. Part 1: The Range of Stress Reactions", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 15 No. 2.




Copyright © 1991, MCB UP Limited

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