What is stress?


Student A is very upset and stressed about getting 79/100 while Student B is happy about getting 79/100. It is the same event, yet two people react differently to it.


Why is that so?

People might not react in the same way to the event because they see it in different ways and mean different things to them, which can have result in very different feelings. We use the word appraisal to refer to this process.


Whether an event is seen as stressful depends on two types of appraisal. The first type, primary appraisal, is deciding whether the situation is a problem or not. Imagine that a friend asks you to take part in a fun run for charity. You might think: “Oh no, I can’t do that, I’m not fit and I’ll just make a fool of myself.” Or you might think: “Oh good, what a great way to help. Even if I have to walk round, I’ll be able to collect some money”. So for the first person, the event would be stressful, and for the second a happy event.



The second type of appraisal secondary appraisal, is whether you think you can cope with the problem. This means looking at your own strengths and how you have coped previously, if you can get help from people around you.

In the example of the fun run, the first person might know that they are unfit and unlikely to be able to finish even by walking round. This belief of their lack of strength makes the situation seem difficult. And maybe the second person is fit and knows that the fun run will be fine for them.




Here’s a model of how people think about an event: