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Chapter 7

PSYC 3170 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Asian Americans, Common Cold

Course Code
PSYC 3170
Robert Muller

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Moderators of the Stress Experience
Stress moderators – modify how stress is experienced and the effects it has; may have an impact on stress
itself, on the relation between stress and psychological responses, on the relation between stress and illness or
on the degree to which a stressful experience intrudes into other aspects of life
What is Coping?
The impact of any potentially stressful event is influenced by how a person appraises it
Coping – the thoughts and behaviours used to manage the internal and external demands of situations that are
appraised as stressful
The relationship between coping and a stressful event is a dynamic process; coping is a series of transactions
between a person, who has a set of resources, values and commitments, and a particular environment with its
own resources, demands and constraints
oCoping is not a one time action, it is a set of responses, occurring over time, by which the
environment and the person influence each other
Second important aspect of the definition is its breadth – it clearly encompasses a great many actions and
reactions to stressful circumstances
Personality and Coping
The personality that each individual brings to a stressful event influences how they will cope with that event;
these characteristics can be a result of both genes and environmental factors
Some personality characteristics make stressful situations worse, whereas others improve them
Those that improve them can be thought of as internal coping resources that increase resilience
Negativity, Stress and Illness
Some people are predisposed by their personalities to experience stressful events more powerfully which may
affect their psychological distress, their physical symptoms, and/or their rates of illness
oThis line of research has focused on psychological state called negative affectivity – a pervasive
negative mood marked by anxiety, depression and hostility
Those high in negative affectivity express distress, discomfort and dissatisfaction across a wide range of
situations; prone to alcohol dependence, depression and risk of suicide
Neuroticism is related to poor health; study showed those high in it were found to have increased risk for
diabetes, arthritis, kidney or liver disease, stomach/gallbladder problems and ulcers
Negative affectivity can be associated with elevated cortisol secretion, and this increased adrenocortical
activity may provide a possible biopsychosocial pathway linking negative affectivity to adverse health
Negative affectivity linked to higher risk for mortality in old age
Negativity can sometimes create a false impression of poor health when none exists; those high in negative
affectivity report higher levels of distress in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches and other
oNo evidence of underlying physical disorder
People high in negative affectivity also often appear more vulnerable to illness because they are more likely
to use health services during stressful times than are those low in it
Those high in it are more likely to get sick but also show distress and illness behaviour even when not getting
Some describe it as a relatively stable dispositional characteristic to expect negative outcomes in the future,
whereas others view it as an explanatory style that can be learned
Those with a pessimistic explanatory style – explain the negative events of their lives in terms of internal,
stable, global qualities of themselves; may lead to poor health
Pessimism in early adulthood seems to be a risk factor for poor health in middle and late life
Evidence that people with this personality characteristic may have reduced immunocompetence
oIn study of menopausal women, those who showed this explanatory style were found to have
poorer functioning cell mediated immunity
oShows direct relationship between pessimistic explanatory style and a biological pathway that can
have health implications

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Dispositional pessimism may also compromise coping efforts and the use of coping resources, such as social
support in response to threatening health events
Having a pessimistic outlook may be linked to ones larger social and economic circumstances
oStudies show that those from lower SES have greater expectancy that negative events will occur in
the future than those from higher SES
Links between perfectionism and physical health; perfectionism – described as a tendency to experience
frequent cognitions about the attainment of ideal standards and is generally recognized as a multidimensional
construct that can take several forms
Emerging research examining the links between the different dimensions of perfectionism suggests that
certain forms increase risk for poor health outcomes
Socially prescribed perfectionism, belief that others hold unrealistically high standards for their behaviour, is
consistently linked to a variety of negative health outcomes, whereas self oriented perfectionism, the
tendency to set high personal standards that motivate achievement, is not
Also some evidence that perfectionism may increase vulnerability for stress and poor health outcomes in the
context of chronic illness
Self critical perfectionism has been linked to the active generation of stress and increased stress sensitivity in
people with chronic fatigue syndrome
Another study – perfectionism levels were found to be higher among people suffering from chronic fatigue
syndrome compared to healthy controls
Higher stress associated with some forms of perfectionism appears to be one route through which
perfectionism may negatively impact health outcomes
Coping Resources
Optimistic nature can lead people to cope more effectively with stress and thereby reduce their risk for illness
Dispositional optimism – general expectancy that good things, not bad, will happen in the future
Scheier and Carver developed a measure of dispositional optimism to identify generalized expectations that
outcomes will be positive
Optimists may use more adaptive coping strategies such as seeking social support and positively
reinterpreting stressful events and they may take more proactive steps to protect their health
Also have a more positive mood, which itself may lead to a state of physiological resilience
Positive emotional states related to better mental and physical health; optimism also promotes more active
and persistent coping mechanisms
Optimists and pessimists differ in their physiological functioning; pessimistic and anxious adults not only feel
more negative but also have higher blood pressures than more optimistic adults
Optimism protects against coronary heart disease in older men, depression in middle age, lung cancer
mortality and illness related disruption of social activities among breast cancer patients
Self Compassion
Research indicating that self-compassion is one quality that may help buffer the negative effects of stress as
well as enhance other health related outcomes
It involves treating oneself with kindness, feeling connected with humanity, and being mindfully aware of
distressing experiences
It appears to be most beneficial in times of suffering, challenge and in response to personal failing as it helps
to defuse the negative self evaluations, self criticism and self blame that are often experienced in these
Evidence that it provides greater emotional resilience than self esteem and therefore can be even more robust
resource to cultivate to help buffer stress
It is a beneficial quality for dealing with the stress associated with both physical and mental health issues; eg
– it may reduce the negative coping associated with PTSD
It is linked to positive responses to aging and adaptive coping to age related events
It is associated with a greater use of positive cognitive restructuring and less use of avoidance and escape
Self compassion may translate into better self regulation of health behaviours

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Defined as having an orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in life, gratitude is a
dispositional characteristic that is related to a variety of well being indicators
It is associated with a range of positive coping styles – seeking support, coping etc.
oThese coping styles explain the lower stress levels associated with gratitude
Gratitude may enhance coping, reduce stress and improve health through its associations with sleep quality
oGrateful people slept longer and reported better sleep quality in a study
Psychological Control
Feelings that one can exert control over stressful events have long been known to help people cope
Psychological control – the belief that one can determine one’s own behaviour, influence ones environment
and bring about desired outcomes
Perceived control is related to self efficacy, which is a more narrow perception that one has the ability to
enact the necessary actions to obtain a specific outcome in a specific situation
Control is important for most going through stressful events or who live with the ongoing stress from chronic
health issues
Sense of control important for vulnerable populations like medical patients, children, elderly and those at risk
for health problems – because they already have problems exercising control, anything that enhances
perceptions of control may benefit them
So powerful are the effects that they have been used in interventions to promote good health habits and to
help people cope successfully with stressful events, such as surgery and medical procedures
Additional Coping Resources
High self esteem may moderate the stress illness relationship; not surprising that interventions designed to
enhance a sense of self may improve responses to stressful events
Conscientiousness also moderates the stress illness relationship; may be that conscientious people are more
successful in avoiding situations that could harm them
Coping resources are important because they enable people to manage the demands of jobs, neighbourhood
stress, financial strain and other daily stresses
While some illness-prone personalities, others have health-prone personalities characterized by a sense of
control, self compassion, optimism, gratitude and resilience
Coping Style
Represents a more specific individual difference in how people respond to stress; coping style – a general
propensity to deal with stressful events in a particular way
Coping styles are thought to be like personality traits in that they characterize an individual’s way of
behaving in a general fashion, but they are more specific than personality styles because they are thought to
come into play primarily when events become stressful
Approach versus Avoidance
Some cope with an event by using an avoidant (minimizing) coping style, whereas others use an approach
(confrontative, vigilant) coping style by gathering info or taking direct action
oNeither is necessarily more effective in managing stress; each seems to have pros and con
Approach related coping is most successful if one can focus on the info present in the situation rather than on
one’s emotions and if there are actions that can be taken to reduce the stressor
People who cope with threatening events through approach related methods may engage in the cognitive and
emotional efforts needed to deal with long term threats
The in short term they may pay a price in anxiety and physiological reactivity
The avoider or minimizer may cope well with a trip to the dentist but cope poorly with ongoing job stress; the
vigilant coper may fret the visit to the dentist but make efforts to reduce job stress
Whether avoidant or confrontative strategies are successful also depends on how LT the stressor is
People who cope with stress by minimizing or avoiding threatening events seem to cope effectively with ST
threats; if the threat is repeated, avoidance may not be successful
oThose who use avoidance may not make enough cognitive and emotional efforts to anticipate and
manage LT problems
Studies can now comfirm that approach coping is associated with beneficial outcomes in general, including
less psychological distress and lower stress related physiological responses
Contrastly, avoidance coping is associated with adverse psychological and health related outcomes
Problem-Focused versus Emotion-Focused Coping
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