Coping with Stress: Responding vs Reacting
Therapy in L.A.


e-mail IPN
  psych bytes
June 2002
Compiled by Joyce Parker, Ph.D.
From Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.

A combination of internal and external stress can trigger feelings and behaviors that are part of a stress reaction. Stress can cause psychosomatic reactions in the body. So being able to respond to stress in adaptive and healthy ways can reduce the negative impact of stress. Below is a chart adapted from Dr. Kabot-Zinnís book that compares a maladaptive response to stress with a healthier, mindful response.

External Stress Events and Internal Stress Events

  • Perception

  • Appraisal
  • Cardiovascular

  • Musculoskeletal

  • Nervous System

  • Immune System
Reacting to Stress                         vs.
  • Fight or Flight

  • Alarm reactivity
Responding to Stress
  • Mindfulness: Appraisal of thoughts, feelings, and perceived threats
  • Awareness

  • Relaxation
Stress Reaction
  • Hypothalamus

  • Pituitary

  • Adrenals

  • Leads to acute hyperarousal

  • Internalization of stress

  • Inhibition of the stress reaction

  • Becomes disregulation and maladaptive coping: hyperarousal, arrhythmia, sleep disorders, chronic headaches, backaches, anxiety

  • Self-destructive behaviors: overworking, hyperactivity, overeating, substance dependency
Stress Response
  • Hypothalamus

  • Pituitary

  • Adrenals

  • Possible arousal, but also an awareness of the body: muscle tension, breathing

  • An awareness of the full context includes: emotion-focused strategies, problem-focused strategies, seeing options, quicker recovery of mental equilibrium, homeostasis

  • Calmness and balance of mind
  • Physical/psychological

  • Exhaustion

  • Loss of drive, enthusiasm

  • Depression

  • Genetic predispositions for heart attack, cancer

The author of this article, and founder of the website, Joyce Parker, passed away in 2011. To honor her we are keeping her articles posted at this website.

back to psych bytes

home | article of the month | featured therapist | news & events
psych bytes | book review | about our group
therapist profiles | locate a therapist

Copyright Independent Psychotherapy Network ©1998