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Stress & Coping Week 2

by: Freddi Marsillo

Stress & Coping Week 2 PSYC 3199

Freddi Marsillo
GPA 3.55

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These notes are what we covered during the second week of class.
Psychology of Stress and Coping
Class Notes
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This 10 page Class Notes was uploaded by Freddi Marsillo on Thursday September 8, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSYC 3199 at George Washington University taught by Howe in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see Psychology of Stress and Coping in Psychology at George Washington University.

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Date Created: 09/08/16
Stress & Coping Week 2 Notes 9/8/16 12:19 PM Can Stress Be Positive? Stress and challenge Richard Lazarus: • Challenge: context presents demands that can be met and overcome • Stressor: context presents demands that tax or exceed a person’s resources Good challenges? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: • Flow: a state of high immersion in a process, with accompanying sense of energy, focus, involvement, and happiness in task • Elements of flow: o Intense focus on the present o Action and awareness merge o Reflective self-consciousness is absent o A sense of personal control o Experience of time is distorted o Activity is intrinsically rewarding Method of studying flow Experience sampling method (ESM) • Provide person with booklet of questions, pager (more recently, smartphone apps) • Timer goes off randomly during the day, person completes questions about experience • Assess associations between situation and experience Situations associated with flow • Involvement in activity with clear goals and progress • Task has clear and immediate feedback, allowing one to negotiate changing demands and adjust performance • Good balance between perceived challenges and perceived skills, allowing confidence in success Challenge, stress, learning – “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” Stress inoculation • Stress inoculation: exposure to mild stressors now may increase ability to handle stressors later? Primate Studies • Stress inoculation: young monkeys (4 months old) removed from group and put in isolation one hour a week for 10 weeks • Later in development: o Reduced HPA response to novel environments, smaller cortisol response during weaning o Lower adrenocortical response during separation in adolescence o Less HPA response and faster recovery when restrained, 8 years later o Better inhibitory control of responses at 2.5 years • Severe early stressors lead to permanent deficits in stress response system • Suggests repeated mild challenges are the key Human Studies • Infants and children: not much research on exposure to mild stress • Adults: virtual reality stress inoculation has some immediate positive effect for soldiers, but few tests of long-term effects yet • Adults: moderate stress in early marriage related to better later adjustment after childbirth in those with good problem-solving skills Positive effects of more severe stress? • Crystal Park: Meaning making • Meaning: perceptions of importance o Global meaning: enduring beliefs and valued goals o Situational meaning: significance of a particular event or situation • Dimensions of global meaning o Beliefs about the world as benevolent or not, as just and fair or not o Beliefs about oneself as worthy or not, as in control or not o Sense of purpose and goals that direct actions How might global meaning shape outcomes to more severe stress? • Do stressors challenge global meaning? • Do severe events lead people to engage in reflection or “meaning- making”? • What effect does active meaning-making have? Do stressors challenge global meaning? • Key thesis of many theories that severe events “shatter” global meaning • Limited research, but findings are more muted • Some short-term shifts found: o E.g., mothers of children undergoing bone marrow transplants: modest shifts in beliefs about benevolence and chance • Effects of challenge are clearer: consistent findings that violations of beliefs lead to distress Do severe events lead people to engage in reflection or “meaning-making”? • Yes: meaning-making attempts are reported by most people facing highly stressful events What effect does active meaning-making have? Both positive and negative effects have been found • National sample of adults after 9/11: search for meaning related to more PTSD symptoms • Bereaved HIV+ men: search for meaning that led to more positive meaning associated with better physical health Effect of search may differ from effects of meaning made In parents dealing with pre- or perinatal loss: • Asking “why?” associated with poor adjustment • Finding an answer to “why?” associated with better adjustment What effect does active meaning-making have? In general, meaning-making and meaning made that involve: • Blame and negative evaluation lead to poorer outcomes • Nonjudgmental reflection lead to more positive outcomes Positive Stressors: Summary • Challenges are often experienced as positive, if they lead to flow experience • Early exposure to stress may inoculate against future problems when facing stress, but this probably depends on the severity of early exposure and ability to overcome it • Meaning-making can lead to positive outcomes after severe stress, but this appears to depend on the nature of the meaning made Is it all in our minds? Lazarus’s Transactional Model – Part 1: Appraisal • The stressful nature of an event depends on how a person appraises the situation • Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman (1984): appraisal as an active cognitive process with two components: o Primary appraisal o Secondary appraisal Primacy Appraisal • “Is anything at stake here, and if so, what?” • Types of appraised situations: o Harm or loss (the damager has already occurred) o Threat (there is possibility of damage in the future) o Opportunity (possibility for growth, mastery, or gain) • Goals “at stake” – examples include: o Physical comfort and safety (threat: physical discomfort, harm) o Social relationships (threat: loss of important other) o Achievement (threat: failure) o Self-worth (threat: humiliation, loss of face) o Moral value (threat: blame by others, sense of culpability) Secondary Appraisal • “Can I do anything about it?” • Common aspects of secondary appraisal o Is the outcome at all predictable? o Is the outcome controllable? (Outcome expectations) o Locus of control: can I control the outcome or is it controlled by forces external to me? (Internal versus external locus of control) o Self-efficacy: do I have the personal capacity to bring about the desired outcome? (efficacy expectations) o What actions would work to resolve the threat? Aspects, not types of appraisal Lazarus: primary and secondary appraisal are different aspects of the same appraisal process What shapes appraisals? Schemas or beliefs built on prior experience • Schema: a mental structure of preconceived ideas o Ways of organizing information about the world o Can influence attention (more likely to notice things that fit into schema) o Can influence attention (more likely to notice things that fit into schema) o Can influence how we search for new information (looking for things that confirm the schema) o When faced with things that contradict schema, we are more likely to re-interpret them to be consistent with it Activation of schema • Schemas can be activated or primed by immediate context Is appraisal deliberate or automatic? • Probably both • Dual process models of appraisal o Associative processing: ▯ Automatic, quick, effortless, preconscious ▯ Relies on associations learned through repeated experience ▯ “Default mode” o Reflective processing: ▯ Deliberate, slower, effortful, conscious, controlled ▯ More verbal, intentional, rule-based reasoning ▯ Probably activated when expectations are violated How do these shape appraisal? Evidence that appraisal of threat depends on: • Automatic detection system • How it is regulated by “top-down” processing Neurologically: may reflect action of • Amygdala • Prefrontal cortex Examples • Associative: social anxiety involves heightened sensitivity to threat in ambiguous social situations • Reflective: following mood inductions, initial self-descriptive essays are congruent with mood, but over time they become discrepant, suggesting reflective processing helps regulate mood Appraisal processes related to stress reaction • Aaron Beck developed cognitive/behavioral model of emotional disorders, also applied to stress response • Schemas are the “what” of thinking • Beck also noted problems in the “how” of thinking • Developed cognitive therapy to challenge both schemas and cognitive processing All or nothing thinking – sometimes called “black and white” thinking • “If I’m not perfect, I have failed” • “Either I do it right or not at all” Over-generalizing – seeing a pattern based upon a single event or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw • “Everything is always crappy” • “Nothing good ever happens” Mental filter – only paying attention to certain types of evidence • Noticing our failures but not seeing our successes Disqualifying the positive – discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another • “That doesn’t count” Jumping to conclusions – there are two key types of jumping to conclusions: • Mind reading (imagining we know what others are thinking) • Fortune telling (predicting the future) Magnification (catastrophizing) and minimization – blowing things out of proportion (catastrophizing) or inappropriately shrinking something to make it seem less important Emotional reasoning – assuming that because we feel a certain way what we think must be true • “I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot” Should/must – using critical words like “should,” “must,” or “ought,” can make us feel guilty, or like we have already failed • If we apply “shoulds” to other people, the result is often frustration Appraisal and attention • Schemas constrain attention to some parts of the external or internal environment, shaping appraisal • Appraisals may in turn intensify attention, creating a “trap” Rumination • What if the attention is to internal thoughts? • Susan Nolens-Hoeksma introduced the idea of negative rumination o Which is the constant recycling of negative thoughts about self and world How does rumination affect stress response? • Quinn & Joorman (2015) • Included people high and low in trait rumination or “brooding” • Had people engage in social stressor task (prepare and give brief talk and then do math in front of person while being videotaped, with tape to be shown to other students) • Then engage in executive functioning test (n-back task) Results • Brooding increased association between depression and executive functioning errors after stressor Overall: • Negative iterative thinking (rumination) contributes to risk for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease • Characteristics: o Negative focus o Negative view of self o More abstract focus on meanings and implications However: • However, positive iterative thinking (mulling over without negative frame) can contribute to: o Anticipatory planning o Adaptive behaviors that reduce threat • Characteristics: o Can also have negative valence (real or potential problem) o But high levels of optimism and positive self-belief o More concrete and detail-oriented focus Active reappraisal as coping through meaning-making Park: active reflection may lead to changes in meaning Goals may become more or less salient after reflection • “Other things became more important to me” • “I learned to live one day at a time, rather than in my head in the future” Transactional Model so far 9/8/16 12:19 PM 9/8/16 12:19 PM


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