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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Perceptions of Physical Fitness                                                            
Believing one is physically fit is associated with feeling stress free
Most health conscious people today probably are aware that regular moderate exercise has many mental and physical health benefits, such as lower levels of stress. Recent research seems to suggest believing that one is physically fit may also be important. Unfortunately, the studies on which these conclusions are based have some problems that make clear interpretations impossible. Researchers at Santa Clara University and the Stanford University School of Medicine recently published the findings from a study aimed at clearing up the issue.
What was the research about?
Seventy-two faculty and staff of various ages were recruited from Santa Clara University to participate in the study. The participants engaged in two stressful tasks. One involved giving a brief speech, and the other involved reading the names of colors printed with ink that was a different color (e.g., the word red printed in green ink). Before, during, and after the stressful tasks, blood pressure and pulse rate were recorded and the participants responded to a questionnaire measuring calmness. The participants also responded to questionnaires measuring anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and perceived physical fitness and engaged in a treadmill activity that was used to measure actual physical fitness. Sex, height, and weight also were recorded.
The results showed that perceived physical fitness was associated with changes in systolic blood pressure and calmness throughout the course of the stress tasks, even after taking into account other factors that were associated (i.e., actual physical fitness, gender, height, and weight). Additionally, higher levels of perceived, but not actual, physical fitness were associated with less anxiety, less depression, and higher self-esteem. Thus, both actual and perceived physical fitness are important for stress relief.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are trying to manage their stress should not only work on becoming physically fit but also may want to consider thinking about whether they actually believe that they are physically fit.
Source: Plante, T. G., Caputo, D., Chizmar, L. (2000). Perceived fitness and responses to laboratory induced stress. International Journal of Stress Management, 7, 61-73.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Progressive Relaxation vs. Classical Music
Progressive relaxation is more relaxing
When people are stressed, they have many options for reducing the stress they are experiencing. A number of stress management techniques (e.g., progressive relaxation) or other means (e.g., classical music) can be used. A researcher at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences recently investigated whether actual stress management techniques are any better at relieving stress than are other approaches to relaxation.
What was the research about?
Sixty participants ranging from 18 to 59 years of age were recruited from the community. Each participant was assigned to one of four conditions after engaging in a stressful activity. To make participants stressed, they were given 15 minutes and asked to prepare a 5-minute speech about their personal faults or undesirable habits that was to be videotaped after the 15 minutes had passed. In the progressive relaxation condition, participants engaged in progressive relaxation, which is a stress management technique that involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups one at a time. In the classical music condition, participants listened to a segment of Sonata in D major for Two Pianos by W. A. Mozart. In the attention control condition, participants listened to stories on audiotape and wrote down as much as they could remember afterwards. In the silence control condition, participants waited silently. Before, during, and after the speech-writing task, measures of attention, relaxation, and heart rate were obtained.
The results demonstrated that progressive relaxation led to more relaxation than did classical music, attention, or silence. All for conditions did lead to a lower heart rate, though. It appears as though there is something special about stress management techniques that make them more effective than other, less formal, attempts at stress reduction. Classical music, for example, did lead to more relaxation than did attention or silence, but it only served as a distraction from the stressor. Progressive relaxation not only provided a distraction but also assisted with receptivity, which is another component of relaxation.
Why should it matter to me?
People should be aware that some approaches to relaxation and stress reduction in general are more effective than others are.
Source: Scheufele, P. M. (2000). Effects of progressive relaxation and classical music on measurement of attention, relaxation, and stress responses. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 207-228.


Monday, October 1, 2018

Ethnicity-Related Sources of Stress
People encounter many stressful events in their lives. Unfortunately, ethnic minorities have additional sources of stress related to being in an ethnic minority group. Several researchers at New Jersey colleges and universities recently reviewed the research findings on ethnicity-related sources of stress.
What was the research about?
In particular, they described ethnicity-related sources of stress stemming from discrimination, stereotypes, and conformity pressure.
Ethnic discrimination involves unfair treatment that a person attributes to his or her ethnicity. At lest five types of ethnic discrimination occur: (a) insults and ethnic slurs; (b) shunning; (c) actions that express negative evaluations; (d) denial of equal treatment or access; and (e) actual or threatened harm. Ethnic discrimination is a source of stress because members of ethnic minority groups can become stressed about the ever-present possibility of being discriminating against. Ethnic minorities need to decide whether ethnic discrimination will occur in situations they encounter, decide whether to become part of these situations or avoid them, and prepare for the possibility of being discriminated against.
Two ethnicity-related sources of stress are stereotype threat and stereotype-confirmation concern. Stereotype threat is the condition of being at risk of appearing to confirm a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs. Stereotype-confirmation concern is the long-term or recurring experience of stereotype threat. Worrying about acting in ways that others would expect based on stereotypes about one’s ethnic minority group can be stressful.
Own-group conformity pressure is the experience of being pressured or held back by one’s ethnic group’s expectations specifying appropriate or inappropriate behavior for the group. Some African Americans who do well in school, for example, get ridiculed by their peers about “acting white.”
Ethnicity-related sources of stress are real. Research has shown that they are related to negative mental and bodily declines in health
Why should it matter to me?
Member of ethnic minority groups may want to look at discrimination, stereotypes, and conformity pressure as possible reasons for the stress they experience and focus on them when trying to mange their stress.
Source: Contrada, R. J., Ashmore, R. D., Gary, M. L., Coups, E., Egeth, J. D., Sewell, A., Ewell, K., Goyal, T. M., Chasse, V. (2000). Ethnicity-related sources of stress and their effects on well-being. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 136-139.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Stress Susceptibility in Adolescence
Stressful events often become more disruptive for people while they are adolescents. In fact, people tend to feel worse and to be more depressed during adolescence than they do at younger or older ages. Although it may seem like these differences are in some way due to puberty, current research findings suggest otherwise. A researcher at the Department of Psychology and Center for Developmental Psychobiology at Binghamton University recently described the relevance of changes that occur in the brain during adolescence.
What was the research about?
A number of changes go on in the brain during adolescence. Regarding stress susceptibility, the most relevant changes occur in the prefrontal cortex and the limbic brain regions. In these two areas, the increases and decreases in brain activity caused by certain types of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, may be at least partially responsible for the higher rate of sensation seeking, risk taking, and drug use among adolescents.
Why should it matter to me?
People in their adolescence should be aware of their vulnerability to stress and that they may feel drawn toward sensation seeking, risk taking, and drug use. In this way, they can try to avoid some of the negative consequences that sometimes accompany such activities.
Source: Spear, L. P. (2000). Neurobehavioral changes in adolescence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 111-114.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Positive Emotions During Stress
Although people generally do not feel good when they are stressed, some positive emotions can and do occur during stressful periods in people’s lives. Researchers at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco recently published a review of research that shed some light on what people can do to experience positive emotions during stress.
What was the research about?
Specifically, they demonstrated that positive emotions can occur during stress and discussed three types of coping that are associated with positive emotions during stress.
The first type of coping they covered was positive reappraisal, which involves focusing on the positive rather than the negative aspects of events. Positive reappraisal can be accomplished by finding opportunities for personal growth, noticing actual personal growth, and realizing how one’s own actions can benefit other people. Through positive appraisal, people can change the meaning of situations in a way that allows them to experience positive emotions. 
The second type of coping they covered was problem-focused coping, which involves thinking and behaving in ways that allow people to attack the underlying cause of their stress. This form of coping is effective when people can establish some amount of control over stressful situations.
The third type of coping they covered was the creation of positive events, which involves taking a mental “time-out” by thinking positively about ordinary events. Examples include savoring a compliment one received in passing and taking a moment to admire a beautiful sunset. Such time-outs give people a short break from ongoing stress.
Why should it matter to me?
If people want to take advantage of the positive emotions that are possible when they are stressed, they may want to consider using positive reappraisal, problem-focused coping, and the creation of positive events.
Source: Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Stress, positive emotions, and coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 115-118.

Monday, September 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.

Tuesday, September 4, 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.

Thursday, August 30, 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.


Monday, August 20, 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.

Sunday, August 12, 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, August 6, 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, July 30, 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.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Perceptions of Physical Fitness                                                            
Believing one is physically fit is associated with feeling stress free
Most health conscious people today probably are aware that regular moderate exercise has many mental and physical health benefits, such as lower levels of stress. Recent research seems to suggest believing that one is physically fit may also be important. Unfortunately, the studies on which these conclusions are based have some problems that make clear interpretations impossible. Researchers at Santa Clara University and the Stanford University School of Medicine recently published the findings from a study aimed at clearing up the issue.
What was the research about?
Seventy-two faculty and staff of various ages were recruited from Santa Clara University to participate in the study. The participants engaged in two stressful tasks. One involved giving a brief speech, and the other involved reading the names of colors printed with ink that was a different color (e.g., the word red printed in green ink). Before, during, and after the stressful tasks, blood pressure and pulse rate were recorded and the participants responded to a questionnaire measuring calmness. The participants also responded to questionnaires measuring anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and perceived physical fitness and engaged in a treadmill activity that was used to measure actual physical fitness. Sex, height, and weight also were recorded.
The results showed that perceived physical fitness was associated with changes in systolic blood pressure and calmness throughout the course of the stress tasks, even after taking into account other factors that were associated (i.e., actual physical fitness, gender, height, and weight). Additionally, higher levels of perceived, but not actual, physical fitness were associated with less anxiety, less depression, and higher self-esteem. Thus, both actual and perceived physical fitness are important for stress relief.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are trying to manage their stress should not only work on becoming physically fit but also may want to consider thinking about whether they actually believe that they are physically fit.
Source: Plante, T. G., Caputo, D., Chizmar, L. (2000). Perceived fitness and responses to laboratory induced stress. International Journal of Stress Management, 7, 61-73.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Money!
Placing a lot of importance on money for the wrong reasons may be harmful
Some people place a great deal of importance on money. Other people do not seem to care too much about it. Regarding stress, and well-being in general, who is worse off? Although studies have shown that placing a relatively high degree of importance on money can be negatively associated with well-being, they have not really considered the motives people have for making money. Researchers from the University of Maryland recently published a study addressing this issue.
What was the research about?
Across two studies, 266 business students and 145 entrepreneurs responded to questionnaires measuring motives for making money, the relative importance of money or financial goals (compared to other goals), and well-being. The results suggest that placing a relatively high degree of importance on money may not necessarily lead to less well-being. The motives people have for making money seem to account for the negative association between the relative importance of money and well-being. Specifically, the results suggest that placing a relatively high degree of importance on money is negatively associated with well-being for people who want to make money to show off, seek power, or overcome self-doubt but not for people who do not want to make money for these reasons.
Why should it matter to me?
People who place a relatively high degree of importance on money may want to stop and think about why they want to make money because it may have a negative impact on their well-being.
Source: Srivastava A., Locke, E. A., & Bartol, K. M. (2001). Money and subjective well-being: It's not the money, it's the motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 959-971. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Stress and Long-Term Thinking
Stress can make you more likely to base decisions on short-term, instead of long-term, consequences.
Sometimes in our lives we are forced to make choices that have good immediate consequences but bad long-term consequences.  For example, if you continuously stay up late to work on projects at the last minute you finish the projects on time (a good immediate consequence) but suffer from sleep deprivation over time (a bad long-term consequence).  Or you may sit in an uncomfortable chair at work all day and avoid taking stretch breaks to get more work done, only to feel very stiff and sore at the end of the week.  When under stress are we more likely to make decisions based on their immediate or long-term consequences?  A researcher from Harvard University explored how stress affects the way people make decisions with positive short-term but negative long-term consequences.
What was the research about?
Across two studies, 32 Harvard University students viewed a slide show that they controlled.  To simulate a sense of stress and negative emotion, some participants viewed very aversive pictures during the slide show.  Other participants only saw neutral pictures during the slide show.  Participants were told they would receive a certain amount of money for each slide they viewed during the 10-minute slide show.  Thus the more slides they advanced through the more money they would make.  Participants advanced to the next slide by pushing one of two buttons on a control box.  One button represented “good immediate but bad long-term consequences” because it allowed participants to quickly advance the next slide, but it also slowed down the advance of later slides.  The other button represented “bad immediate but good long-term consequences” because it slowed down the advance of the next slide but sped up the advance of later slides.  Results showed that participants who were stressed by viewing the aversive slides, earned less money than participants who viewed the neutral slides.  The stressed participant’s also chose the “good immediate but bad long-term consequences” button on the control box much more than the non-stressed participants.  The second study found the same results comparing a group of students who reported high stress levels because of upcoming exams to a group who had low stress levels.
Why should it matter to me?
We all get stressed at times and may make decisions we end up regretting down the road.  To help avoid making these kinds of decisions under stress, people need to take time to think through the long-term consequences of their choices instead of exclusively focusing on short-term consequences.  This may help reduce stress levels in the long run, even if it does not immediately impact them.
Source: Gray, J. (1999) A bias toward short-term thinking in threat-related negative emotional states. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 65-75. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Don’t Choke!
When the pressure is on, focusing too much on what you’re doing can cause you to choke.
At times we have all been under high pressure to perform.  Sometimes we succeed and other times we fail or “choke” under the pressure.  Why do we choke?  Some researchers think we choke because the pressure distracts us from focusing on what we are doing.  Other researchers believe we choke because the pressure causes us to focus too much on what we are doing instead of “just doing it” without thinking too much.  To try and figure out which explanation is correct, researchers from Arizona State University recently conducted an experiment.
What was the research about?
The experiment had people practice putting a golf ball as close to a target spot as possible.  After participants finished practicing, the experimenters put them all under high pressure by offering them double experiment credit if they performed very well on their next 10 putts.  While they took their 10 putts, some participants were told to count backwards from 100 to keep them distracted.  Results showed that participants who were distracted actually did better than those who were not distracted.  The distraction helped because it kept them from focusing too much on what they were doing and overanalyzing their putting.
Why should it matter to me?
When you are under pressure to perform well, try not to think too much about what you are doing, or that may cause you to choke.  One thing you might try is distracting yourself, which should free you to go ahead and “just do it” instead of nervously overanalyzing your performance.
Source: Lewis, Brian P., & Linder, Darwyn E. (1997). Thinking about choking?  Processes and Paradoxical Performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 937-944. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Venting Anger
When you feel angry beating up on a pillow or punching bag actually makes you angrier.
What should you do when you get angry?  Many people believe the best way to safely get rid of anger is by a process called catharsis, or venting your anger.  For example an angry person could work off their anger by doing things like exercising, beating on a pillow, hitting a punching bag or just screaming as loud as they could.  Although this advice is common in the popular media, does it really work at reducing anger?  To answer that question researchers from Iowa State University and Case Western University conducted an experiment.
What was the research about?
Participants in the experiment first read a newspaper article, created by the experimenters, which talked about catharsis.  Some participants read an article that said a Harvard psychologist had determined catharsis worked very well at relieving people’s anger (the Pro-catharsis article).  Other participants read an article that said the Harvard psychologist had determined catharsis did not work at relieving people’s anger (the Anti-catharsis article).  These articles were used to get participants to believe, or not believe, that catharsis worked.
Next participants wrote a short essay discussing their views on abortion and another participant in a different room (who didn’t really exist) graded their essay.  To make the participants feel angry; their essays were always returned with a handwritten comment saying, “This is one of the worst essays I have every read!”  After getting this bad feedback on their essay participants were given 2 minutes to hit a punching bag, if they wanted to, while the experimenter prepared the next part of the study.
To see how aggressive people would be, the participants played a game against another person.  The participant had to hit a button faster than their opponent did; and if they won, they could blast their opponent with a loud noise as punishment.  Some participants were told their opponent was the person who had graded their essay, and others were told the opponent was not the person who had graded their essay.  The “opponent” was actually a computer that randomly let the participant win half of the time.
Results showed that participants who thought catharsis worked, and had hit the punching bag, were actually more aggressive against their opponent in the reaction time game.  They blasted their opponent with louder noise than participants who read the Anti-catharsis article and had hit the punching bag.  Who the opponent was didn’t matter.  Even when the opponent was not the person who graded their essay, the Pro-catharsis participants who had hit the punching bag still blasted him with louder noise.
Why should it matter to me?
When we feel angry many of us are tempted to vent our anger, thinking it will help us calm down.  Unfortunately, this venting actually builds up the anger and makes our problem worse.  A better way to calm down is to get away from the situation and relax.  Later, after we have cooled down, we are better able to constructively deal with the source of our anger.
Source: Bushman, Brad J., Baumeister, Roy F. & Stack, Angela D. (1999). Catharsis, Aggression and Persuasive Influence: Self-Fulfilling or Self-Defeating Prophecies?  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 367-376.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Certain stressful events cause different cardiovascular reactions in men and women.
Although many people have to deal with the same types of stressful situations in their daily lives, not everybody is affected the same way by those situations.  For instance, men seem to be more concerned with performance-oriented situations, such as work challenges and tasks involving physical fitness.  Women, however, seem to be more concerned with socially-oriented situations, such as marital conflict and physical appearance.  If men and women differ in how stressful they view certain events, their bodies may also react differently to those events.  To find out, researchers from Brown University and Ohio State University conducted an experiment.
What was the research about?
One body reaction commonly associated with stress is an increase in cardiovascular activity, such as heart rate and blood pressure.  Therefore, the researchers decided to measure participants' cardiovascular reactions to different stressful events.  To begin the experiment participants sat in a comfortable chair and listened to soft music for 10 minutes.  During this time the researchers measured the participant's heart rate, diastolic blood pressure, systolic blood pressures, and mean arterial pressure.  These measurements served as a stress-free baseline the researchers could then compare later measurements against.  After the baseline readings were taken, participants completed four different tasks.  Three of the tasks were designed to be performance-oriented and one task was designed to be appearance-oriented.  For the performance tasks, participants had to do subtraction problems in their head while being timed, trace a star pattern while only looking at its mirror image, and squeeze a handgrip for 2.5 minutes.  For the appearance-oriented task, participants had to give a four minute speech on what they liked and disliked about their body and physical appearance.  After participants finished each task, the researchers again measured their cardiovascular responses.
The results showed that men's cardiovascular system reacted more than women's during the performance-oriented tasks.  In other words, men's cardiovascular readings rose above their baseline levels during the performance-oriented tasks, whereas women's cardiovascular readings did not rise.  During the appearance-oriented tasks, however, women's cardiovascular readings rose above their baseline levels, whereas men's did not.  These results seem to suggest that men respond more to performance situations, whereas women respond more to appearance situations.

Why should it matter to me?
When men and women work together, it's important for them to realize how each gender reacts to certain types of situations.  Situations that don't seem stressful to men may be very stressful for women and vice versa.  Being sensitive to these differences can help reduce annoyance at another person's stressed out reaction to a seemingly "harmless" event and even prepare working partners to better help each other cope.
Source: Stroud, Laura R., Niaura, Raymond S., & Stoney, Catherine M. (2001). Sex differences in cardiovascular reactivity to physical appearance and performance challenges. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 8, 240-250. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Can “living in the moment” reduce stress?
The term “mindfulness” has its roots in the Buddhist tradition. It refers to being aware of and paying attention to what is taking place in the present. If you are like many people, you probably spend little time in a mindful state. It is hard not to be distracted by what the world is throwing at us on a constant basis. Try this – spend the next five minutes in a quiet space. Pay attention to what is going on around you, AT THE PRESENT TIME. Do not think about what you are having for dinner. Do not think about that argument you had with your spouse the other day. Do not think about how to get your kids to study more. Do not think about whether you will have enough money after retirement. It’s hard, isn’t it? With this said, there is evidence that being able to at least approach a mindful state of mind can have psychological benefits, including the reduction of stress.
What was the research about?
Kirk Brown and Richard Ryan, of the University of Rochester, conducted a formal test of the psychological benefits of mindfulness. What they found was that people who reported being “more mindful” than others also reported having positive psychological traits as high self-esteem, higher life satisfaction, more positive feelings, less anxiety, and less depression. They next tested whether inducing a mindful state can alleviate stress during an extremely stressful period – the time following cancer surgery. They trained a group of cancer patients to enter a mindful state. What they found was that indeed, patients who were trained to become more mindful did, in fact, report less stress. This suggests that being more mindful can reduce stress, even during the most stressful times of our lives.

Why should it matter to me?
The results of this study strongly support the notion that mindfulness may have powerful psychological benefits. The fact that it appears to reduce stress in cancer patients is evidence that it may have a wide range of therapeutic applications. You may be able to reduce your own level of stress, in addition to reaping the other psychological rewards of mindfulness by practicing techniques designed to induce a state of mindfulness in yourself.
Source: Brown, Kirk, W., & Ryan, Richard, M. (2003).The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848.