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Stress and Performance A Review of the Literature and its Applicability to the Military

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The literature on the relationship between stress and performance is extensive and diverse. The question of how stress affects performance is a relevant one given the nature of todays security environment and the challenges faced by military personnel on frequent and long deployments. As a tool for military planners and trainers to better prepare and support personnel, this review examines and summarizes existing studies on how stress affects performance and how these effects can be controlled and applied to the military context. The studies reviewed are representative and include those relevant to the military context, but the review itself is not comprehensive. Stress is defined as a nonspecific response of the body to a stimulus or event stressor . Under a general model of the stress response, when an individual experiences a stressor, the stressor will lead to a physiological response, one that can be measured by several indicators, such as elevated heart rate. In related literature, the term stress is used to refer to this physiological response. Stressors vary in form and can include extreme temperature or lighting, time pressure, lack of sleep, and exposure to threat or danger, among others. All stressors, however, tend to produce similar physiological responses within the body Selye, 1956. In a military context, we are particularly interested in deployment-related stressors, including those related to peacekeeping operations and hostile fire missions as well as those associated with extended family separation. Stressors involved in peacekeeping and combat operations overlap, but they are also somewhat distinct. Some of the most significant stressors associated with both types of deployments are uncertainty, long work hours, risk of death or disease, boredom, and separation from family Halverson et al., 1995 Campbell et al., 1998.

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  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Stress Physiology
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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