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The Transactional Model of Stress

One of the most commonly used theoretical models of stress in psychology is Lazarus and Folkman’s (1987) stress response model. According to this model, when a person is faced with a potential stressor (this may be a person, event, situation, object, etc.), the person appraises the potential stressor by answering two questions: (i) 'Is this stressful?’ and (ii) 'Can I cope with this?’ There are four possible ways that the first question may be appraised: (1) irrelevant; (2) benign; (3) harmful and a threat; and (4) harmful and a challenge. This first question is in relation to things that are happening in the external world. The second question is related to an individual’s capacity to deal with the potential stressor and therefore is an appraisal of the individual’s ability to respond to it. Responses to the second question may include: (1) direct action to deal with the stressor; (2) seek information about the stressor; (3) do nothing; or (4) develop a means of coping with the stress in terms of physical activity (or exercise), relaxation or a defence mechanism (typically for stressors that are out of one’s control).