Our delayed driver will probably react less strongly to a queue of ten cars ahead than he would to a queue of 100 cars stretching into the distance.
Frequency of the stressor
Getting out of one traffic jam only to find himself in another can keep our driver’s fuse smouldering. He may meet unexpected traffic hold-ups every day whilst commuting; a car broken down, an accident or a lorry shedding its load. How often stressors occur will determine where your stress balance lies and to what extent your stress response is activated.
Uncertainty about the stressor
As our delayed driver approaches the traffic jam he may immediately treat it as a stressor because he is uncertain how long he will be delayed. ‹“How far does this hold-up go on for?’, he mutters to himself as he views the line of traffic disappearing round the next bend. ‹“What will happen if I’m late for my meeting?’ For many of us, worrying about what is likely to happen is a major source of distress.