Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Losses Increase Stress More Than Gains Reduce It

Evidently, losing something is more distressing than gaining something is relieving. A recent study by researchers from Kent State University, Akron City Hospital, and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine investigated the impact of resource losses and gains in pregnant women. 

The study looked at gains and losses in terms of resources, which were defined as things that people value or that act as a way of obtaining what they value. The participants completed questionnaires during and after their pregnancy. 

The main finding was that postpartum anger and depression appeared to be influenced more by resource losses than they were by resource gains.

Source: Wells, J. D., Hobfoll, S. E., & Lavin, J. (1999). When it rains, it pours: The greater impact of resource loss compared to gain on psychological distress. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1172-1182.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Meditation and Stress

Meditation training has been shown to reduce stress for secondary school teachers

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University have recently published a study that demonstrates the effectiveness of meditation in reducing stress for secondary school teachers. Participants in the study were student teachers from a university teaching credential program. The participants learned the RISE program, which combines meditation and cognitive appraisal tools to produce deeper relaxation. Compared to a group of participants who did not learn the RISE program, the group of participants that did learn the RISE program had less symptoms of stress.

One part of the RISE program, meditation, involves focussing on a sound and passively disregarding distracting thoughts or sensations. While meditating, participants simply noted other thoughts or sensations when they arose and returned their attention right back to the sound. Mediation was carried out during times that were set aside by the participants specifically for that purpose.

Another part of the RISE program is cognitive appraisal tools. Cognitive appraisal is just a fancy term for how people think about or interpret things. Participants used three tools to help them make cognitive appraisals that help to reduce stress: silently repeating a certain word or phrase (a mantra), slowing down their actions, and focusing their attention on one thing at a time.

(If you are interested, Stress Less has several products to help you with meditation. Click on the following items for more information: Meditation Video, Mindfulness Meditation Program, Stress Less "Tranquil Meditation" Tape, Zabuton Mat, Zafu Pillow & Mat.)

Source: Winzelberg, A. J., & Luskin, F. M. (1999). The effect of a [sic] meditation training in stress levels in secondary school teachers. Stress Medicine, 15, 69-77.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pet Massage

Massaging your pets can provide stress relief for you and your pets

We have known for a long time that massage can be very beneficial. In particular, getting a massage can help people relieve their stress. What many people do not realize, however, is that massaging their pets can be stress relieving too, not only for them but also for their pets. Research has show that petting a dog reduces the heart rate of the person and the dog. Research also has shown that it prevents the elevation of blood cortisol levels in the pet, an indicator of stress.

According to Amy Marder, VMD, massages can be very calming and soothing for pets and their owners. Dr. Marder is a clinical assistant professor at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and the vice president of Behavioral Medicine and Companion Animal Services at the ASPCA Headquarters in New York City. She urges that if you decide to try using massage on your pets, you should first have your pets examined by a veterinarian. A veterinarian would be able to help you find the right places to massage on your pets, so you do not hurt them and they do not bite or scratch you in return.

Several different kinds of massages can be used. Regardless of the type of massage, however, Dr. Marder emphasizes that you should always let yourself be guided by your pet's reactions, paying particular attention to the eyes. You should also never force massage on pets. When they are done, they are done.

If you are interested in learning how to massage your pets, one book that Dr. Marder recommends is The Healing Touch: The Proven Massage Program for Cats and Dogs by Michael W. Fox, DSc, PhD. (For you convenience, this book is available through Stress Less. Please click here for more information.)

Source: Marder, A. (1999). Healthy pet. Prevention, 51(8), 165-166, 168, 170-171.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Social Support and Stress in Women With Breast Cancer

As research typically shows, in a recent study by researchers from Stanford University and Yale University, increased social support predicted decreased psychological distress. Of particular interest, however, was the prediction of social support from psychological distress and the relations between these two variables over time.

Women with breast cancer and their partners completed questionnaires at the time of surgery and 3 and 13 months afterward. The participants indicated that both social support and psychological distress seemed to decrease over time, and the difference between the patients' and their partners' judgments of the amount of social support available increased over time. Furthermore, although increased social support predicted decreased psychological distress, the relation between these two variables was circular. Psychological distress also predicted social support. The more psychological distress patients experienced, the less social support they received from their partners.

The findings from this study suggest that, although social support may reduce psychological distress, psychological distress itself may inhibit the likelihood of even receiving it in the first place.

Source: Moyer, A., & Salovey, P. (1999). Predictors of social support and psychological distress in women with breast cancer. Journal of Health Psychology, 4, 177-191.