Health News | Students who reinterpret their stress response as improving performance are less anxious: study
Washington [US], Sept. 19 (ANI): Re-evaluating how we perceive stress can make a big difference to a person’s mental health, general well-being and success, according to psychologists at the University of Rochester.
The results of the study published in the “Journal of Experimental Psychology: General” revealed that students who reinterpret their stress response as improving performance are less anxious and generally healthier.
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Sweaty palms during a job interview. A heartbeat that races before the walk down the aisle. Stomach pain before a final exam. Many of us have experienced a classic stress reaction under new, unusual or high pressure circumstances.
For their latest study, the Rochester researchers trained teens and young adults at a community college to treat their stress response as a tool rather than a barrier.
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The team found that in addition to reducing students’ anxiety, this reset of the ‘good stress’ mindset helped them perform better on tests, procrastinate less, stay enrolled in classes. and tackle academic challenges in a healthier way.
To reframe their understanding of stress, students performed a standardized reading and writing exercise that taught them that their stress responses had a function in performance contexts that applied directly to them, such as taking tests. .
“We use a ‘saying is believing’ type of approach whereby participants learn about the adaptive benefits of stress and are invited to write about how this can help them achieve,” said lead author Jeremy. Jamieson, associate professor of psychology in Rochester and senior researcher in the University’s Social Stress Laboratory.
He studies how experiences of stress affect decisions, emotions and performance. The study builds on his previous research on optimizing stress responses.
Conventional thinking suggests that stress is inherently bad and should always be avoided. This can sometimes be misguided as stress is a normal and even defining feature of modern life.
“For example, students preparing for their first job interview may perceive their pounding hearts and sweaty palms as signs that they are nervous and about to ‘bomb’ when in fact the response to the stress helps deliver oxygen to the brain and release hormones that mobilize energy, ”Jamieson said.
Throughout life, people must acquire a wide and diverse range of complex social and intellectual skills, and then apply those skills in order to thrive. This process is inherently stressful, but it is also essential for being a productive member of society.
“Furthermore, if people simply disengaged from the stressors they were facing, it could seriously disadvantage them. Thus, in order for people to thrive in modern life and overcome threats to their personal and global survival, they have to find a way to embrace and overcome stressful demands, ”added Jamieson.
People experience an increase in sympathetic arousal – which can be sweaty palms or a faster heartbeat – during stressful situations.
“Instead of seeing everything as ‘bad’ stress, stress responses, including arousal to stress, can be beneficial in terms of psychological, biological, performance and behavioral outcomes,” Jamieson continued.
Stress reassessment is not intended to eliminate or alleviate stress.
“It doesn’t encourage relaxation, but rather focuses on changing the type of stress response: if we think we have enough resources to meet the demands presented to us – no matter how high the demands are – if we think we can handle them, our body will react with the challenge-response, which means that the stress is seen as a challenge rather than a threat, ”explained Jamieson.
Looking at the levels of cortisol and testosterone in both groups, Jamieson said, “Generally speaking, cortisol is a catabolic stress hormone and elevations are seen when people are threatened. Thus, it is often interpreted as an indicator of “negative stress”, although it is not. always “bad”, whereas testosterone is an anabolic hormone that promotes optimal performance. “
Jamieson added that they found that manipulating the reassessment resulted in increased testosterone and decreased cortisol in students for classroom exam situations, which is a useful model for performing at its peak.
The lead author also shared tips for parents whose children are stressed and anxious, especially during the pandemic.
“The first step is to dissociate stress from distress and anxiety. Stress is simply the body’s response to any demand, good or bad. Excitement is a state of stress, just like anxiety,” Jamieson said.
“It’s also important for parents to understand that difficulties are normal and can even promote growth with the right support. No one innovates and thrives without stepping out of their comfort zone,” added Jamieson.
In order for children to grow, learn and succeed, they will need to be engaged and take on difficult tasks. The goal should not be to help children get an A, but rather to push the limits of their knowledge and ability, the author said.
“Normalizing stressful experiences and overcoming obstacles can help children understand that they can do difficult things. Reducing stress by removing obstacles, like eliminating exams, facilitating lessons, etc. can even hinder their ability to do so. progress, ”Jamieson concluded.
The US Department of Education funded the study. In addition to lead author Jamieson, the research team consisted of Rochester psychology professor Harry Reis and Rochester graduate students and members of the Social Stress Lab: Alexandra Black, Hannah Gravelding, Jonathan Gordils, and Libbey Pelaia. . (ANI)
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