Monday, December 10, 2018

Autogenic Training
Through autogenic training, people can learn how to enter a state of passive relaxation that allows them to gain control over bodily processes involved in stressful experiences that are normally not under conscious control. People can learn how to regulate blood circulation, for example. When people are trying to deal with stress, they often feel anxious, depressed, or both. Researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy recently reported the results from a study investigating the usefulness of autogenic training in alleviating such negative feelings.
What was the research about?
One hundred and thirty-four people who were already seeking treatment for minor psychological problems, such as those related to anxiety and depression, participated in the study. Over a three-month period, some participated in an autogenic training program and some were put on a waiting list (and began the program afterward). All participants responded to questionnaires about their mood before, during, and after the three-month period.
The results of the study showed that participants who participated in the autogenic training program tended to have improved moods over the course of the study but that participants on the waiting list did not. Thus, autogenic training can help people deal with feelings of anxiety and depression associated with stress.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are feeling anxious or depressed from stressful events in their lives can use autogenic training to learn how to alleviate these feelings.
Source: Farnè, M. A., & Gnugnoli, D. (2000). Effects of autogenic training on emotional distress. Stress Medicine, 16, 259-261.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Exercise Intensity
How hard should people exercise?
Most people are aware that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. Experts have recommended that people exercise at certain intensity levels to receive the most benefit from doing it. What if people are allowed to choose the intensity level of their exercise by themselves? Researchers at the University of Wales recently reported the results from a study aimed at finding an answer to this question.
What was the research about?
Twenty-six physically fit undergraduate students participated in the study. Some were told to exercise at a specified intensity level that was believed to be highly effective. The rest were told to exercise only as hard as they wanted to. All the participants exercised for a period of 20 minutes, indicated their levels of well-being, distress, interest, fatigue, and intensity every 5 minutes.
Although participants who chose their own intensity level and those who did not tended to report the same levels of well-being, distress, and fatigue, participants who chose their own intensity level actually exercised harder and were more interested in doing it. Thus, people seem to benefit the most mentally and physically when they exercise at their preferred level of intensity, at least among those who are physically fit.
Why should it matter to me?
People who have trouble motivating themselves to exercise may become more interested in doing it and actually exercise harder if they let themselves exercise only as hard as they want to instead of worrying about trying to exercise at some specified level of intensity.
Source: Parfitt, G., Rose, E. A., Markland, D. (2000). The Effect of prescribed and preferred intensity exercise on psychological affect and the influence of baseline measures of affect. Journal of Health Psychology, 5, 231-240.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Stress and Heart Problems
Certain types of stress responses in men may be linked to heart problems
Responding to stressful situations with anger, hostility, and aggression can have adverse health consequences. This form of responding, referred to as the AHA! syndrome, seems to be related to coronary heart disease. People who respond in this way are more likely to have elevated total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins, two risk factors for the development of coronary heart disease. Researchers at the University of Ballarat and Curtin University of Technology in Australia recently published the results from a study aimed at identifying the specific parts of the AHA! syndrome that are related to total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins.
What was the research about?
Ninety-eight healthy, 22- to 57-year-old, male employees of a large oil and gas company based in Australia participated in the study. The participants responded to questionnaires measuring a variety of personal characteristics related to the AHA! syndrome and general health. Total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins levels were also recorded.
The results showed that the tendency to feel angry and act in an angry way in response to being frustrated, criticized, or treated unfairly was associated with having elevated levels of total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins. Moreover, although age and saturated-fat intake were also related to these risk factors, the association with the anger response was actually stronger. Thus, men who typically feel angry and act in an angry way in response to being frustrated, criticized, or treated unfairly may have greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Why should it matter to me?
Men who respond to stressful situations in this way may have a greater chance of developing coronary heart disease, and consequently, may want to try responding to stressful situations with less anger, hostility, and aggression.
Source: Richards, J. C., Hof, A., Alvarenga, M. (2000). Serum lipids and their relationships with hostility and angry affect and behaviors in men. Health Psychology, 19, 393-398.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Goal-Related Stress
Self-esteem stability is related to the stress of goal pursuit
People sometimes feel good about themselves and sometimes feel bad about themselves. The degree to which such feelings remain the same over time varies quite a bit among people. People with a stable self-esteem are generally unaffected by evaluations made by themselves (e.g., thinking back about past successes and failures) or others (e.g., a compliment). People with an unstable self-esteem, on the other hand, have fragile, vulnerable feelings of self-worth and are influenced a great deal by evaluations made by themselves or others. A group of researchers at The University of Georgia recently published the findings from a study exploring the associations between self-esteem stability and several other personal characteristics. As part of the study, they examined whether self-esteem stability is related to the amount of stress involved in the pursuit of goals.
What was the research about?
One hundred and twenty-six undergraduate students participated in the study. During one phase of the study, the participants completed a brief self-esteem questionnaire every 12 hours for a week. The consistency of the responses throughout the week was used as a measure of self-esteem stability. The participants also listed some of their goals and rated the extent to which they experienced various emotions when pursuing them.
The researchers found that self-esteem stability was related to the amount of stress involved in the pursuit of goals. Specifically, the more unstable self-esteem was, the more people tended to feel tense, to have trouble relaxing, and to be unsure about themselves when pursuing their goals.
Why should it matter to me?
People with an unstable self-esteem may want to try to stop letting evaluations of themselves unduly influence how they feel about themselves. In this way, they may be able to avoid some of the stress associated with the pursuit of their goals.
Source: Kernis, M. H., Paradise, A. W., Whitaker, D. J., Wheatman, S. R., & Goldman, B. N. (2000). Master of one's psychological domain? Not likely if one's self-esteem is unstable. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1297-1305.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Stressful Thinking
Trying to think about the positive is better than trying not to think about the negative
When experiencing stress, many people try to keep the thoughts that are bothering them out of their mind. This form of mental control is called thought suppression. Unfortunately, thought suppression can backfire under certain circumstances and actually make unwanted thoughts more apparent and bothersome than they otherwise would have been. Thought suppression will often backfire, for example, if people have too much on their mind or get tired of trying to suppress the unwanted thoughts. Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio recently published a set of studies that investigated an alternative form of mental control, concentrating on desirable thoughts.
What was the research about?
Across three studies, undergraduate students completed tasks that involved unscrambling sentences. Each scrambled sentence could be made into either a positive or negative statement. Some participants used thought suppression, in that they were told to avoid forming negative statements. Other participants concentrated on desirable thoughts, in that they were told to only form positive statements.
In one of the studies, some of the participants also tried to remember a six-digit number so that they would have a lot on their mind during the unscrambling task. In another one of the studies, the participants unscrambled sentences a second time. While doing it the second time, they created both positive and negative statements, whichever came to mind first, to see whether the form of mental control that they used backfired.
As in previous research, thought suppression tended to backfire. Attempts to concentrate on desirable thoughts, however, did not tend to backfire. Clearly, concentrating on desirable thoughts is a better strategy. Trying to keep unwanted thoughts out of one's mind is less likely to work and may actually make things worse.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are stressed out by thoughts they cannot seem to get out of their mind may want to consider trying to concentrate on desirable thoughts.
Source: Wenzlaff, R. M., & Bates, D. E. (2000). The relative efficacy of concentration and suppression strategies of mental control. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1200-1212.


Monday, October 29, 2018

PMS-Related Stress
Calcium supplements can relieve stress associated with PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a source of stress for many women. Symptoms of PMS include fatigue, irritability, abnormal bloating, breast tenderness, mood swings, and depression. For some women, exercise and a healthy diet are enough to take care of the problem. In severe cases, prescription drugs can be helpful (e.g., Prozac, Xanax, oral contraceptives). Lifestyle changes or prescription drugs are not an entirely satisfactory solution for all women, though. Another option is to take dietary supplements. Numerous dietary supplements have been advocated for this purpose, but there is little scientific evidence to support claims regarding their effectiveness. Accordingly, a researcher at SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare recently reviewed the literature to find out which dietary supplements are backed by solid scientific evidence.
What was the research about?
So far, the beneficial effects of only one dietary supplement have received strong scientific support. Calcium, when taken at a dose of 1000 to 1200 milligrams per day, can substantially decrease many of the symptoms associated with PMS. Magnesium, vitamin E, and carbohydrate supplements may also be of some benefit, but the research findings are not as clear as they are for calcium supplements. There is not convincing evidence that vitamin B6, primrose oil, or herbal supplements are helpful. In fact, vitamin B6 in excess of 100 milligrams per day can be harmful and some herbal supplements should not be taken by women who may become pregnant or who are taking prescription drugs to treat severe PMS.
Why should it matter to me?
Women who experience stress as a result of PMS may want to consider taking calcium supplements.
Source: Bendich, A. (2000). The potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19, 3-12.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Looming Maladaptive Style
The way people think can make them vulnerable to anxiety
Some people are more vulnerable to anxiety than others are. One personal characteristic that makes people more vulnerable is having a looming maladaptive style. People with a looming maladaptive style tend to perceive potential threats as rapidly mounting, escalating, or approaching. Such a person might falsely believe that his or her significant other is about to end their relationship, for example. As part of a series of studies, researchers at George Mason University recently explored why people with a looming maladaptive style are especially vulnerable to anxiety.
What was the research about?
Across two studies, undergraduate students were presented with threatening words and pictures. The participants indicated their level of anxiety along with other information related to their reactions to the threatening words and pictures. They also responded to a questionnaire designed to measure the extent to which they have a looming maladaptive style.
The findings confirmed that people with a looming maladaptive style tend to be especially vulnerable to anxiety. Moreover, the present research provided an answer to the question of why a looming maladaptive style makes people more vulnerable to anxiety. They tend to be more vulnerable to anxiety because their tendency to perceive potential threats as rapidly mounting, escalating, or approaching makes them think in ways that are stressful. Specifically, they pay extra attention to the threatening aspects of what they encounter and they more easily remember the threatening aspects of what they encounter.
Why should it matter to me?
People who have difficulties with anxiety might have a looming maladaptive style, and if they do, may want to pay closer attention to whether the way in which they think about potential threats is contributing to their anxiety.
Source: Riskind, J. H., Williams, N. L., Gessner, T. L., Chrosniak, L. D., & Cortina, J. M. (2000). The looming maladaptive style: Anxiety, danger, and schematic processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 837-852.