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ESS3808Sport Psychology

Martin I. JonesBSc MSc Phd PGCHE CPsychol CSci AFBPsS SFHEA

Stress and Coping

What is stress and Why should I be interested in stress?

Quality of experience, produced through a person-environment transaction, that through over- or under-arousal, results in psychological or physiological distress

Aldwin (1994)

The non-specific result of any demand upon the body, be the effect mental or somatic

(Hans Seyle)

Dr Hans Seyles General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS, 1956)AdaptationTIMEoverload specificity individual differences reversibility

A relationship between a person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his/her well-being

Lazarus & Folkman (1984)

Acute stress

Sudden, typically short-lived, threatening event


Chronic stress

Ongoing environmental demand (e.g., marital conflict, work stress, personality)

Increased stress could cause illness and injury

Prolonged stress could contribute to burnout syndrome

Stress leads to fatigue

Unnecessary muscle activityBracingInhibited coordination

Broadly speaking, stress disrupts performance

Particularly true in fine motor control and decision rich tasks

Eustress is a positive stressful experience, a state of physical and psychological well-being that is associated with increased motivation and the acceptance of a challenge.

Stress can result from being over- or under-stimulated

Too little stress can be as harmful as too much

Normal and hard wired

What is pressure?

Circumstances that increase the importance of good or improved performance (or avoiding poor performance)

Baumeister (1984)Italics added by me

Baumeister & Showers (1986), competitive pressure is caused by a range of factors

Performance-contingent rewards (e.g., trophies) and punishments (e.g., job loss)

Audience and social evaluation (e.g., being watched by spectators and judged/evaluated by others like the media)

Social comparison (e.g., feeling like your performance will be compared with others)

Ego relevance (i.e., when the situation is important for someones self-esteem or self-worth)

Perceived pressure (i.e. stress appraisal) can have different effects on athletes

Some athletes respond negatively and perform poorly

An acute and considerable decrease in skill execution and performance when self-expected standards are normally achievable, which is the result of increased anxiety under perceived pressure (Mesagno & Hill, 2014)Questionable?

Others respond positively and perform well

Clutch PerformanceAny performance increment or superior performance that occurs under pressurized circumstances Otten, 2009

Appraisal of pressure (stress) is variable

For every example of an athlete who coped well with high pressure competition, theres an example of someone who did not

StartFinishBreak time10 minutes8 minutes1 minute9 minutes5 minutes6 minutes7 minutes2 minutes4 minutes3 minutesTime is up!

Performance StressStress is a person's response to a cue such as an environmental condition or a stimulus. The stress process is the appraisal of a stressor and activation of the sympathetic nervous system

fight-or-flight response

Produced through a person-environment transaction

Cognitive Transactional Model

Lazarus & Folkman (1984)

Why do some soldiers handle battle better than others?


The interpretation of stressful events is more important than the events themselves


It is neither the environmental event nor the persons response that defines stress


It is the individuals perception of the psychological situation that defines stress


Stress is a function of the persons feeling of threat, vulnerability, and ability to cope rather than a function of the stressor


Distinguishes three kinds of appraisal


Appraisal is not always at the level of consciousness.

Primary appraisal



The event has no implication for the individuals well-being


The event may increase well-being


The situation is perceived as harmful, threatening, or challenging


Involves actual significant physical or psychological loss

Psychological damage that has already been done


The anticipation of harm or lossAllows to anticipate and prepare for the future


The event is perceived as stressful

The focus is on positive excitement

Refers to the persons confidence in overcoming difficult demands

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of human freedoms to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose ones own way.

(Victor Frankl, 1985)

Secondary Appraisal

Concerned with a persons evaluation of his/her ability to cope with the situation

Which coping options are available

What is the likelihood that one can apply the strategy

What is the likelihood that any given options will work: will it reduce stress?


Continuous Reappraisal On The Basis Of New Information

Identical To The Initial Process

May Lead To More Stress


Constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific internal and/or external demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person Lazarus and Folkman (1984)


Coping is a process of constant evaluation of the success of ones strategies


Coping is learned as one encounters situations


Coping requires effort


Coping is an effort to manage


Success is not contingent on mastery - just good enough

When we cannot change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

(Victor Frankl, 1985)

In the mainstream psychological literature, it has been shown that personality predicts appraisal and coping efforts in the health domain when dealing with a variety of stressful contexts (OBrien & DeLongis, 1996)

The ability to cope is enhanced when people believe they can successfully bring about desired consequences


peoples judgements of their capabilities to organise and execute courses of action

Bandura (1977, 1986, 1997)

MasteryexperiencesVerbal persuasionVicarious experiencesPhysiologicaland affectivestatesCOGNITIONGoalsAttributionsDecisionsProblem solvingBEHAVIOURChoice /selectionEffortPersistenceAFFECTAnxietyArousalDepressionConfidenceFlowEfficacybeliefs

Problem-Focussed Coping

Changing the situation

Redefining the problem

Looking at alternative solutions

Evaluating the implications of the alternatives

Choosing the best one to act on

Athletes have reported using a variety of problem focused strategies in response to stressors encountered.

Approach-cognitive strategies (Anshel, 2001), Being aware of cues (Dale, 2000), Task-orientated coping (Amiot, Gaudreau, & Blanchard, 2004), Concentrating on goals (Gould et al., 1993a),Time management (Gould et al., 1993a), Learning about opponents (Holt, 2003), Practice (Holt & Mandigo, 2004), Appropriate training (Park, 2000).

Emotion-focussed coping

Controlling and possibly changing the emotional response to an event

Cognitive responses such as avoidance or minimization

The goal is to decrease emotional distress

Often used when the individual feels that nothing can be done about the situation

Athletes have reported using a variety of emotion focused strategies in response to stressors encountered.

Seeking social support (Crocker, 1992; Park, 2000),Imaging/ visualizing (Dale, 2000; Gould et al., 1993a), Venting unpleasant emotions (Gaudreau & Blondin, 2002), Humour (Giacobbi, Foore, & Weinberg, 2004), Remaining confident (Poczwardowski & Conroy, 2002).

Avoidance Coping

Behavioural (e.g., physically removing self fromstressor)

Cognitive (e.g. blocking) avoidance ofa stressor (Anshel, 2001)

Emotion-focused and avoidance coping tend to experience greater cognitive anxiety

(Hammermeister & Burton, 2001; Ntoumanis & Biddle, 2000).

Coping effectiveness

Coping effectiveness in a sport setting refers to the extent to which a coping strategy, or combination of strategies, is successful in alleviating the negative emotions caused by stress

Problem-focused coping will be more effective during encounters in which the athlete has the potential for personal control

Emotion-focused coping has been proposed as being more effective during encounters in which the athlete has very little control

Do athletes have coping styles or is coping dynamic based upon appraisal and previous coping attempts?

The majority of research in sport suggests that coping is both recursive and dynamic and thus supports the transactional perspective

(e.g., Anshel, 1996; Anshel et al., 2001; Gould et al., 1993a,b; Holt & Hogg, 2002; Poczwardowski & Conroy, 2002).

The Physiology of Stress

Nervous system

Endocrine system

Central nervous system is made of