The sources of stress

I have chosen to examine case study number two and discuss the problems Michael seems to be experiencing. Michael is middle aged and recently divorced. He has an uncertain job status and some newly acquired bills to pay. All of these factors seem to be working together to bring Michael's health down. The chest pains he is experiencing could be stress related or they could be a symptom of somatoform disorder.

The sources of stress in Michael's life include; divorce, possible layoff, separation from his children, and chest pains. Some of these stressors are daily hassle type of stressors. Daily hassles are the reoccurring sources of aggravation that lead to stress. The financial worries are some thing that almost every person deals with in their life. The fact that he may be laid off causes him to stress about his ability to pay his bills, especially the mortgage on his new townhouse. Stress is the demand to change or cope with a situation and it comes in many forms. Michael's major source of stress appears to be in the life changes type. He is recently divorced after fifteen years of marriage and he is separated from his children. The fact that he can only see them every two weeks is a burden in his life. These factors along with the fear of losing his job and not being able to support his children or himself seem to be exerting the most pressure in his life and therefore causing him the most problems.. These sources of stress appear to be wearing Michael's body down. He appears to have already passed through the alarm stage and the resistance stage. His body might already be in the exhaustion stage where it can no longer repair the damage that stress has done to it because the body lacks the resources to initiate the repairs needed. The chest pains he is experiencing could be the early warning signs of an impending heart attack brought on by to much stress. The constant level of stress is not allowing him to relax and rest his body and the body can not continue to function properly without rest to repair and recharge.

These stressors are being to break down Michael's self esteem and self concept. Self concept, or how a person sees them self, is based on how they think they are doing in life. As the stressors continue to build in Michael's life his concept of himself continues to fall. He sees that he may not be able to provide for himself or his family and his opinion of himself goes lower. As this opinion goes lower so does his self esteem. Michael no longer sees himself as a competent provider so his concept of himself becomes skewed. He now sees himself in a different way and as a result his self esteem goes even lower. His self esteem falls because he no longer has a favorable opinion of himself. Michael feels like he can no longer approve of the job he is doing as a parent or a provider. The failure of his marriage could also give him a lower opinion of himself because he will feel that he has failed as a husband also. Being under constant stress with no way to release the tension will wear away at a person's image of themselves.

Michael needs to make an adjustment to his new lifestyle. He needs to learn to cope with the situation of being divorced and with seeing his children only every two weeks. An adjustment is the system of responses that a person goes through to adapt to a new situation. When winter comes most people will adapt by wearing a coat, in Michael's case he needs to plan ahead to make the time he spends with his children as full and fun as possible. He needs to focus on the positive aspects and build on that. He needs to realize his situation could be worse; he could not get to see his children at all. Focusing on the positive will start to help Michael rebuild some of his self esteem and self concept. Michael also needs to make an adjustment in the way he gets along with his ex-wife. Just because they could not stay married does not mean that they can not treat each other with respect and get along as friends. Working his way through these adjustments will give Michael the opportunity to build a more positive image of himself than he had before. He can see himself as a stronger more independent individual than he was before the divorce. Michael may find an inner strength he did not know he had. Michael could also take the time to take some extra training or get more education to make himself more valuable at work to lower the stress he feel about being laid off. If he still does get laid off the extra training and education will make it easier for him to find another job, possibly one that pays even better than the job he has at the present time..

Michael seems to think that his chest pains are coming from his stress levels and that they are going to kill him but he does not seem to be doing anything about the stress levels. Michael should see a medical doctor about his chest pains to make sure he does not have an unrelated problem and once he knows for sure he can start doing something about his stress. Talking to a counselor may help Michael adjust the way he deals with the day to day stress in his life. The counselor will be able to give Michael some tips and pointers about dealing with stress and ways to avoid or alleviate it. Taking time to exercise will also help Michael get rid of some of the stress and it will have the added benefit of strengthening the rest of his body including his heart so that he will be more able to fight off diseases and the affects of age. Exercise will help cause Michael to use his muscles and after a good workout he will be able to feel the muscles relax. The health benefits of exercise seem to get greater every day as doctors find out more about how the body works. Michael may also want to explore taking some classes in meditation or relaxation so that he can have more than one tool in his box when it comes to dealing with stress. Being able to relax and unwind after a busy or stressful day is one way we can help our bodies get the chance to enter the resistance stage and repair the damage stress has done to them. Meditation is a form of relaxation that relaxes both the body and the mind. Being able to rest both decreases the risks of heart attack and stroke and this will help Michael live a longer healthier life and give him more time to spend with his children.

I have chosen the social-cognitive theory to explain Michael's situation to him. This theory believes that the things we have learned, valued, and expected play a vital role in our behavior. Michael has learned in his lifetime that people grow up and get married. The failure of marriage is divorce. Michael was taught to value marriage as a sacred institution. When Michael married he expected it to last forever. All of these things caused Michael to behave a certain way before and after his marriage. The failure of his marriage has caused Michael to think less of himself. His life has not turned out the way he expected it would. As a result of the divorce, Michael no longer feels like he knows what to expect out of his life and he feels that he has no control over what will happen next. Another part of the social-cognitive theory is that the environment has an influence on us and reciprocally we can influence the environment around us. Through this part of the theory Michael has had his life influenced by the environment around him; now Michael needs to exert his influence over that environment to make his life better. Things may not have turned out like he expected but, that does not mean that his life is over or has no meaning or purpose. If Michael makes positive adjustments in his life, he will be able to be anything he wants to be again. Any positive thing can be turned bad and any negative thing can be turned into a positive.

Michael is in the middle adulthood stage. In this stage his life will slowly start to fall from the peak he reached in young adulthood, at least his physical and mental peak. In this stage of this life Michael will begin to start having to cope with losses in bone mass, height, hearing, vision, and possibly hair as well. In this stage memory loss may begin. Michael will probably gain weight and find it harder to do the things he once did. These factors are probably contributing to Michaels stress levels. He knows that he is not the physical man he once was and that he is not in the physical condition he once was. Because he is not as young as he was he feels that the chest pains will kill him. If he was still in his late teens or early adulthood he would not be worried about the pains because he would still feel that he would live forever and that nothing could hurt him. Because he is in this stage of life he knows that the end is closer than it was and it puts more pressure on him to do everything right because he may not have time to fix it later. Because of his physical falloff he may think that he will no longer be desirable to the opposite sex and that he may end up alone. The fear that the chest pains will kill him before his children grow up only adds to his feelings of failure as a father. Earlier in his life these things would not bother him as badly because time would not be as much of a factor.

Since Michael just went through a divorce he is in the ending phase of a relationship. He has already watched the relationship deteriorate to the point it could not be saved and ending it was the best alternative they could come up with. Michael will probably not want to get into another serious relationship any time soon. At one time this relationship was built and continued because of their interest in each other. The fact that they had two children tells me that they had a healthy sex life at one time during the relationship. Because of the problems he is experiencing now he probably would not find any one else attractive enough to want to build a new relationship with. Considering the personal state Michael is in with all of the stress and possible health problems he is probably not very attractive to other people at this time either. All of this will make Michael feel more alone than he really is. The feeling of having to do everything by himself will add to his frustration and stress levels. If Michael is able to get help with his stress and find an inner balance again he would then be about to re-enter the relationship cycle and start anew life with someone else.

At this time Michael's life is in a bad state but, if he is willing to seek and accept help he will be able to get things turned around again. He must make adjustments that allow him to accept his new life style and to be able to build on what he has left in his life. Michael has some positive things going for him still and he needs to focus on them to start making the turn around. Relieving his stress is a primary concern and so are the chest pains. He needs to seek help for both conditions. They may be related since stress is a confirmed contributor to heart attacks and strokes.


Nevid, J., and Rathus, S. 2005, Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium, 9th edition. Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.

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