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Importance of cognitive appraisal

When two persons face a same stressor, why do they have different responses? One feels a sense of oppression; while the other keeps calm. Our stress responses are determined by our cognitive appraisal of the stressor.

In other words, depending on whether we feel the situation we are in is a challenge or a threat, and assessing whether we are capable of handling those events or situations. If we look at things in a more negative way and feel that we are incapable to cope with the situation, we are prone to strong stress responses.

Example 1:

At work, you are assigned a very important task, which you interpret as a challenging and interesting task.  Then,  the pressure of this work becomes a positive motivation.

Example 2:

At work, you are assigned a very important task but you considered it as a threat.  For example, you anticipate that you will be criticised; you are incompetent to complete the task etc. Then, this task would become stress causing you distress.

When facing stress, the body will produce two different responses, the "fight and flight" response.  The former is wanting to knock down the stress to resolve the crisis; the latter is wanting to escape as soon as possible to avoid danger. Appropriately assessing and dealing with stress can help you turn stress into motivation.

Source:iKapa, Introduction to CBT Manual by Professor Per Carlbring

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