Eustress and Distress: Reactivation

by Jan Felicjan Terelak (Author)
©2019 Monographs 288 Pages


The author of the book provides a comprehensive examination of stress, an integral part of people’s lives. In the first chapter, he reviews the 20th-century theories of stress, from biological mechanisms of stress through medical concepts to contemporary models of psychological stress. The second chapter provides a detailed classification of sources of stress, based on physical, chronobiological, psychological and social factors. In the third chapter, the author focuses on reactions to stress and presents them from physiological, emotional, cognitive and behavioral perspectives. The fourth chapter focuses on two theoretical constructs: resistance to stress and coping with stress. The author presents task-oriented, emotion-oriented and avoidance-oriented strategies of coping with stress and underlines the role of social support in dealing with stress.
The author emphasizes the fact that stress has many faces. It can be seen as "eustress", which has an important motivational function, forcing us to make efforts and achieve life goals, or "distress", which distracts us from achieving our goals and comfort of life.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Preface
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1 Theoretical foundations of stress
  • 1.1 Biological take on stress
  • 1.1.1 Claude Bernard’s law on the relative stability of the internal environment
  • 1.1.2 Walter Bradford Cannon’s homeostasis model
  • 1.1.3 Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)
  • 1.1.4 Neuropsychological model of optimal activation by Donald O. Hebb
  • 1.2 Medical concepts for stress
  • 1.2.1 Model of stress antecedents as precursors of disease
  • Daily stressful life events
  • Occasional crisis events
  • Incidental life crises according to Gerard Caplan
  • Cyclical life crises according to Erik H. Erikson
  • Existential life crises according to Kazimierz Dąbrowski
  • 1.3 Psychological theories of stress
  • 1.3.1 John Dollard’s frustration–aggression model
  • 1.3.2 Phenomenological concepts of stress
  • Irving L. Janis’ clinical stress concept
  • Michael J. Apter’s Reversal Theory
  • 1.3.3 Cognitive risk assessment model of Richard S. Lazarus and Susan Folkman
  • 1.3.4 Aaron Antonovsky’s stress salutogenic model
  • 1.3.5 Janusz Reykowski’s stress information model
  • 1.3.6 Resource distribution models
  • Conservation of Resources Theory Stevan E. Hobfoll
  • Self-regulation of Resources Theory Roy F. Baumeister
  • 1.4 Psychosocial models of stress
  • 1.4.1 Jan F. Terelak’s Chronohabilistic Stress Model
  • Exogenous model of the circadian rhythm phase regulatory system
  • Mixed model of mutual regulation
  • 1.4.2 Robert A. Karasek’s Model of Job Strain
  • 2 Identification of stressors
  • 2.1 Physical environment as a source of stress
  • 2.1.1 Climate and its components
  • 2.1.2 Excessive noise
  • 2.1.3 Lighting inadequate for the performed tasks
  • 2.1.4 Natural and artificial sources of ionizing radiation
  • 2.1.5 Microwave electromagnetic fields
  • 2.1.6 Vibration as mechanical vibration transmitted to the body
  • 2.1.7 Hypoxia
  • 2.1.8 Accelerations exceeding the Earth’s gravitational values
  • Restrictions on arbitrary movements
  • Loss of consciousness caused by acceleration +Gz
  • Aviation illusions, the so-called somatogravic illusion
  • 2.1.9 Zero gravity as a contradiction to the law of gravitation of the Earth
  • 2.1.10 Other environmental stress factors
  • 2.2 Chronobiological environment as a source of stress
  • 2.3 Psychological environment as a source of stress
  • 2.3.1 Performance-distorting factors
  • 2.3.2 Excessive or action-limiting situations
  • Sources of data on the psychological effects of the restriction
  • Model of mutual regulation of stimulation levels by Jan F. Terelak
  • Stress of social isolation in cyberspace8
  • 2.4 The social environment as a source of stress
  • 2.4.1 Certain organizational stress factors
  • Group structure
  • Social communication
  • Organizational culture
  • Jeffrey H. Greenhaus and Nicholas J. Beutell’s Theory of Sources of Conflict Between Work and Family Roles
  • Work as a source of stress
  • Workplace harassment
  • Extreme work
  • Telework
  • Workaholism
  • Unemployment
  • Acculturative stress
  • 3 Diagnosis of stress response
  • 3.1 Stress response model
  • 3.2 Symptoms of response to incidental stress
  • 3.2.1 Physiological correlates of stress responses
  • 3.2.2 Emotional and behavioral stress indicators
  • 3.2.3 Cognitive stress indicators
  • 3.3 Symptoms of response to chronic stress
  • 3.3.1 Fatigue and exhaustion
  • 3.3.2 Occupational burnout16
  • 3.3.3 Psychosomatic disorders and neuroses
  • 3.4 Traumatic stress symptoms
  • 3.4.1 Shell shock syndrome
  • 3.4.2 Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 3.5 Alcoholism and toxicomania as stress responses
  • 3.6 Destructiveness: self-destructiveness and socio-destructiveness
  • 4 Coping with stress
  • 4.1 Theoretical status of the concept of stress resistance
  • 4.2 Ability of coping with stress
  • 4.3 Types and forms of coping with stress
  • 4.3.1 Individual methods of coping with stress
  • 4.3.2 Social patterns of coping with stress
  • 4.3.3 Three aspects of support in a stressful situation
  • Immune coping
  • Personal coping
  • Social coping
  • 4.3.4 Types and forms of coping with stress
  • Family as a basic social coping
  • Educational systems as a form of support
  • Religion as a support in the situation of existential stress
  • Social security systems and charities
  • Cultural institutions and organization of leisure time
  • Healthcare institutions
  • General conclusions
  • Summary
  • List of figures
  • References


One of the precursors of stress from the 19th century, the outstanding French biologist Claude Bernard, speaking the language of contemporary man, drew attention to the skillful management of one’s “inner environment” (French: milieu intérieur). As a biologist and philosopher, he used the cell structure model and drew attention to the semipermeable membrane, which is responsible for maintaining the internal stability of the cell environment. His intuition regarding the biochemical mechanism responsible for maintaining this relative stability of the cell’s inner environment, despite external threats, was only confirmed after more than 100 years by three 2013 Nobel Prize winners in the field of physiology and medicine - James E. Rothman from Yale University (New Haven), Randy W. Schekman from University of California (Berkeley) and Thomas C. Südhof from Stanford University (Palo Alto) for “discovering the organization of the main cellular transport system that uses bubble-like vesicles surrounded by lipid membranes” as well as the 2016 Nobel Prize winner, Yoshinori Ohsumi from Tokyo University, for his discoveries regarding the autophagy process.

This model became the basis of the Theory of Homeostasis by American physiologist Walter B. Cannon, who at the turn of the 19th and 20th century developed it in relation to people, colloquially calling it the “wisdom of life”. Both models are referred to by psychological concepts of stress, using terms: “adaptation” or “adjustment”, bearing in mind, however, their limitations due to the complexity of mental processes, which, unlike animals’, are not based on passive adaptation based on the innate image of the enemy species, which is synonymous with the threat triggering the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ reaction. Although homo sapiens no longer has an enemy species at the cognitive level, if a situation is defined as a threat, there are still some atavistic reactions to stress, observed at the physiological level, causing the “mobilization of energy”, which are generally redundant and inadequate to the situation that a person can perceive in three dimensions: past, present or future. The cognitive mechanisms of dealing with dangerous situations are addressed by the R. Lazarus’s and S. Folkman’s cognitive theory of stress, which understands adaptation to a stressful situation as a transaction between humans and danger, which is active coping.

Concepts such as stress, coping with stress or adaptation and adjustment are related to individual human problems described mainly by psychologists, pedagogues, doctors and sociologists. It is therefore possible to write about stress from many points of view, which exceeds the competence of a single author. ←13 | 14→Sticking to the psychological point of view, it should be emphasized that man has a rich repertoire of natural systems of adaptation to stress. On the one hand, a preventive system that takes into account the ability to learn, to regulate the level of stimulation or organization of the conceptual system, and on the other hand, a pathological system that manifests itself in learning disorders, neuroses or psychoses. However, the point is to prevent the activation of pathological adaptive systems. All these issues form the basis of monographs presenting contemporary knowledge of stress theories, sources of danger and responses to them, as well as coping. It is worth noting that if from the turn of the 19th and 20th century to the middle of the 20th century individual biological mechanisms of homeostasis and cognitive concepts of assessment of stressful situations and own resources were more emphasized, in the second half of the 20th century and in the early 21st century the focus of research interests shifted towards clinical symptoms of extreme stress (e.g. PTSD) due to the global threat.

As early as during World War II, Roy R. Grinker and John P. Spiegel (1945) drew attention to “war neurosis” as a typical reaction to extreme existential trauma. The authors described in great detail the immediate and long-term effects of combat stress, from demobilization reactions and panic to neurotic reactions and mental illnesses. After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after the Korean and Vietnam wars, many new researches on the delayed psychological effects of war trauma have emerged (Rahe, 2007a). Nowadays, since the First Gulf War, and during the permanent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in the situation of the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and the so-called Islamic State, as well as the Russian aggression against Crimea, much attention has been paid primarily to chronic stress and social support in extreme situations (Bronstein, Montgomery, Dobrowolski, 2012; Solomon, Mikulincer, 2007).

Difficult issues related to the taxonomy of sources of danger include multilateral relations between man and the broadly understood environment: physical, biological, social and spiritual environment. Therefore, the division into four categories - environmental (climate, noise, lighting, ionizing and microwave radiation, vibrations, hypoxia, gravity - acceleration vs weightlessness), chronobiological (circadian rhythm, sudden change of time zone), psychological (deprivation vs overload, disruptions, wrongdoings, threats, challenges etc.), social (social status, social roles, management styles, competition, awards vs penalties, career, work/house relations etc.) - adopted in this monograph is for illustrative purposes only. Content identification is difficult due to the variety of non-specific and specific (in particular) reactions that need to be diagnosed from the point of view of their harmfulness to the comfort of life and/or health. Four perspectives of stress response characteristics have been ←14 | 15→adopted: physiological (EEG, ECG, heart rate, breath rate, sweating, temperature, etc.), emotional (stimulation, expression, speech, etc.), cognitive (memory disorders, mental impairment, etc.), behavioral (psychomotor response time, visual-motor coordination, etc.).

Dealing with stress is described in psychology in two terms that differ significantly: resistance to stress and coping with stress. In the monograph it is assumed that “resistance to stress” has no scientific status in psychology, and if it is sometimes applied it is only an analogue of immunological resistance, defined in biology as the insensitivity of an organism to pathogenic microorganisms or their venom (toxins). In psychological practice there are two notions of resistance to stress: microanalytical, describing it as a feature of temperament and intelligence, and macroanalytical, defining it as a style of action conditioned by certain natural mechanisms of temperament. On the basis of this temperament-related understanding, three basic ways of coping with stress are assumed: (a) by a change of temperament, (b) by avoiding or preferring stressful situations according to one’ s temperamental characteristics, (c) one’s individual style of action.

Scientific status is, however, given to the term coping with stress, the essence of which is not only the ability to passively adapt to stressful environmental conditions, but above all to learn various ways of dealing with stress throughout one’s life. Remedial skills in stressful situations depend not only on the type of situation and strategies of coping with stress, but also on various personality traits, age, gender, education, current health condition, etc. The most frequently mentioned in the subject literature are problem-solving (task-oriented) strategies, emotion-oriented strategies, as well as avoidance strategies. One of the important ways of dealing with stress is social support, which is defined, among other things, as relationships between people, allowing a person to feel and perceive that they have people to rely on around them. Support can be of a certain nature: emotional (experiencing empathy, being able to trust someone, being surrounded by care, friendship, feeling), instrumental (experiencing help in different areas of life and in a specific way, e.g. borrowing money, doing part of a task), information support (receiving information that can help in dealing with certain tasks or problems). There are no clear opinions on the positive or negative role of social support, as it sometimes leads to learned helplessness. Apart from individual forms of social support, various forms of institutional support, including in the first place service-minded institutions grouping government administration, as well as non-governmental institutions, are listed. The forms and quality of institutional support depend to a large extent on the political system of a given country and the political culture of its administration. ←15 | 16→An institutional form of social support is particularly useful in global crisis situations (wars, disasters, catastrophes, epidemics, migration, unemployment, etc.). Nowadays, thanks to universal access to the Internet and television, social media are a new form of support.

1 Theoretical foundations of stress

The theoretical foundations of stress have a rich history, which we use as a criterion to organize our deliberations on the various concepts of stress. Looking for the beginnings of modern history of stress we come across a 17th century engineering model of Robert Hooke’s bridge structure, in which the author distinguished such physical components of the bridge as: load, stress and strain, which three centuries later found their application in describing various aspects of stress both in biological and psychological terms.

A model of the structure of the R. Hooke’s bridge was in a sense a forerunner of the 19th century model of “milieu intérieur” by French biologist Claude Bernard and the 20th century model of “homeostasis” by American physiologist Walter Cannon, as well as the model of “General Adaptation Syndrome” by Hans Sely, a Canadian doctor of Hungarian origin, and a number of psychological models using the term “adaptation to stress”, among which two models by American psychologists are at the forefront: “frustration model” by J. Dollard and N.A Miller and the “cognitive” model of Richard S. Lazarus and Susan Folkman. We will discuss selected models of stress, because the detailed history of this issue is the subject of the Encyclopedia of Stress and many other studies (Fink, ede., 2007).

1.1 Biological take on stress

The biological concepts of risk were based on the knowledge of the adaptation of living organisms to the external environment and attempts to explain the mechanisms of dealing with harmful factors, as well as on the question regarding individual differences in terms of adaptation to different environmental conditions: aquatic, terrestrial and aerial, and climatic: tropical vs polar. Biologists are in agreement that adaptability is the most important feature that distinguishes the world of living beings from inanimate nature. It should be stressed that the adaptation of living organisms to a changing environment is not passive, as most of the adaptation mechanisms, apart from some pathological reactions, are connected with feedback systems. Detailed knowledge of adaptation mechanisms begins with the outstanding 19th century French physiologist Claude Bernard and his American epigone Walter B. Cannon.

←17 | 18→

1.1.1 Claude Bernard’s law on the relative stability of the internal environment

Biologists are in agreement that the ability to adapt to the environment is relatively stable and that it is a prerequisite for independent living. The detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of stability of adaptation dates back to the 19th century times of the outstanding French physiologist Claude Bernard, creator of the law of stability of the internal environment”. (French: milieu intérieur). The author of this law drew attention to the fact that the cell, as the basic unit of life of organisms, lives in its own, isolated from the world environment, in which constant changes take place, often disturbing the body’s functions or threatening its life. This internal environment, which guarantees relative stability, is at the same time a condition for the independent existence of the system. At the intercellular level, this internal environment is the extracellular fluid that fills all intercellular gaps, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and others. Bernard’s merit is not only the claim that the stability of the internal environment is preserved thanks to the physiological and biochemical processes of the system, but also the reference to the semipermeable membrane of the cell as a hypothetical basic mechanism explaining the processes of information exchange between the cell interior and the external environment. It is extremely interesting from a methodological point of view, as theory is far ahead of empirical evidence. An example of this is the case of Bernard, whose hypothesis on the role of the semipermeable membrane of a cell was empirically confirmed only after about one hundred years by three scientists, 2013 Nobel Prize laureates in the field of physiology and medicine - James E. Rothman from Yale University (New Haven), Randy W. Schekman from University of California (Berkeley) and Thomas C. Südhof from Stanford University (Palo Alto) for “discovering the organization of the main cellular transport system that uses bubble-like vesicles surrounded by lipid membranes”.

Let us recall the operating mechanism of a semipermeable cell membrane. The activity of cells of living organisms depends on the proper transport of tiny bubbles. The question answered by the 2013 Nobel Prize winners concerns the mechanism of biochemical opening of these bubbles to information carried by calcium ions. Schekman’s contribution to explaining this mechanism consists in empirical verification (he experimented on yeast cells), which genes are responsible for the proper functioning of the transport system. Rothman answered the question: how do the protein chains on the transporting bubbles connect with the corresponding proteins on the surface of the cell membrane? This allows the material to reach its destination. Finally, the very biochemical mechanism ←18 | 19→of triggering the process of bubbles sticking to the cell membrane, the opening and release of calcium ions as carriers of transport necessary for the cell information was described by Südhof. This mechanism is responsible for the time and logic aspects of semipermeable membrane. New details concerning mysterious bubbles surrounding the lipid membrane were provided by Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi from the University of Tokyo - the 2016 Nobel Prize winner in the field of medicine for his discoveries concerning the autophagy process. The discovery concerning the autophagy process (Greek: auto, and phagein), a method by which cells clean their interior of dead or damaged elements (e.g. proteins and organella) by first chopping them up and then digesting them, is of great importance for understanding the mechanism of preserving the stability of cell life. This mechanism is in fact based on the disposal of unnecessary waste which is surrounded by a film, forming a bubble similar to a bag (autophagosome), transported to a lysosom, which is a specific waste processing plant. Here, its content is decomposed into simpler components, used by the cell as recyclable materials - a building material and/or fuel (energy source). Ohsumi also identified the genes that are responsible for this process. Autophagy takes place both in healthy cells, guaranteeing them a long life, as well as in pathological cells, helping them cope with diseases.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Stress psychology Extreme situations Space psychology Aviation psychology Chronopsychology Antarctic psychology
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 228 pp., 40 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Jan Felicjan Terelak (Author)

Jan Felicjan Terelak is Professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, Head of the Chair of Stress and Labor Psychology and Director of the Inter-University Psychological Laboratory. His scientific activity focuses on the problems of extreme stress psychology, aerospace and space psychology. As a researcher, he was involved in the psychological selection of pilots flying on jet aircraft and candidates for Polish astronauts for several decades. In the conditions of natural experiment, as one of four psychologists in the 20th Century, he conducted observations in Antarctica of a 20-person group of polar explorers for a period of 15 months over adaptation to tormenting social isolation from the perspective of future astronautical flights. He also conducted unique research at the space station on redistributing work and leisure time, and biorhythm disorders.


Title: Eustress and Distress: Reactivation
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289 pages