2Module 39: Coping with Stress and Promoting Health
3Coping with StressProblem-focused coping means reducing the stressors, such as by working out a conflict, or tackling a difficult project.Emotion-focused coping means reducing the emotional impact of stress by getting support, comfort, and perspective from others.Risk: ignoring the problem.We might focus on this style of coping when we perceive the stressor as something we cannot change.Risk: magnifying emotional distress, especially if trying to change something that’s difficult to change (e.g. another person’s traits).We tend to use problem-focused strategies when we feel a sense of control over a situation and think we can change the circumstances, or at least change ourselves to deal with the circumstances more capably. We turn to emotion-focused coping when we cannot—or believe we cannot—change a situation.
4Research has supported the notion that: A. younger people are happier than older people.B. highly educated people are happier than poorly educated people.C. physically attractive people are happier than physically unattractive people.D. people who have meaningful religious faith are happier than those who do not.Answer: D MODULE 39 Promoting Health
5Stress factor: Perceived Level of Control Experiment: the left and middle rats below received shocks. The rat on the left was able to turn off the shocks for both rats. Which rat had the worst stress and health problems?Only the middle, subordinate rat had increased ulcers.It is not the level of shock, but the level of control over the shock, which created stress.Elderly nursing home residents who have little perceived control over their activities tend to decline faster and die sooner than do those given more control (Rodin, 1986). The more control workers have, the longer they live (Bosma et al., 1997, 1998)Affluence correlates with control and in one study of 843 grave markers in an old graveyard in Glasgow, Scotland, those with the costliest, highest pillars (indicating the most affluence) tended to have lived the longest.Animal studies show—and human studies confirm—that losing control provokes an outpouring of stress hormones.
6Promoting Health: Social Support Having close relationships is associated with improved health, immune functioning, and longevity.Social support, including from pets, provides a calming effect that reduces blood pressure and stress hormones.Confiding in others helps manage painful feelings.Laughter helps too.Optimists also respond to stress with smaller increases in blood pressure, and they recover more quickly from heart bypass surgery.A now-famous study followed up on 180 Catholic nuns who had written brief autobiographies at about 22 years of age and had thereafter lived similar lifestyles. Those who had expressed happiness, love, and other positive feelings in their autobiographies lived an average 7 years longer than their more dour counterparts (Danner et al., 2001). By age 80, some 54 percent of those expressing few positive emotions had died, as had only 24 percent of the most positive spirited.“Well, I think you’re wonderful.”
7Promoting Health: Social Support BYU analysis of 148 studies with 300,000 people, those with ample social connections had survival rates about 50 percent greater than those with meager connections.The impact of meager connections appeared roughly equal to the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being alcohol-dependent, and double the effect of not exercising or being obesePeople in low-conflict marriages live longer, healthier lives than the unmarriedWhile awaiting the occasional shocks, women holding their husband’s hand showed less activity in threat-responsive areas. This soothing benefit was greatest for those reporting the highest-quality marriagesAfter stressful events, Medicare patients who have a dog or other companionable pet are less likely to visit their doctor (Siegel, 1990).One seven-decades-long study found that at age 50, healthy aging is better predicted by a good marriage than by a low cholesterol level (Vaillant, 2002).Must consider correlations: Is it because middle-aged and older adults who live alone are more likely to smoke, be obese, and have high cholesterol—and therefore to have a doubled risk of heart attacks (Nielsen et al, 2006)?
8Aerobic Exercise and Health Aerobic exercise triggers certain genes to produce proteins which guard against more than 20 chronic diseases and conditions.Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline and dementia, and early death.Aerobic exercise refers to sustained activity that raises heart rate and oxygen consumption.Ultimate (Frisbee): you must run often to “get open” for a pass, then run more to cover the other team and block their passes.If you are not familiar with the sport of “Ultimate,” here’s a two-sentence summary. You and up to six teammates make passes (with a disc, usually not a “Frisbee” brand) to each other down a field to score by catching the disc in an end zone. Any incomplete pass is a turnover and the defense instantly picks up the disc and becomes the offense, making passes to move the disc toward the other end zone.Another comment to make about aerobic exercise in Ultimate: you can’t run with the disc, so catching the disc and looking for a teammate to throw to gives you a running break of about two to ten seconds (the time limit for making the next pass).
9Aerobic Exercise and Mental Health Aerobic exercise reduces depression and anxiety, and improves management of stress. How do we know?Aerobic exercise is correlated with high confidence, vitality, and energy, and good mood.Is there causation? Perhaps depression simply reduces exercise.One study establishing causation: mildly depressed young women randomly assigned to an exercise group showed reduced depression caused by exercise alone.Some studies indicate that not only is exercise as effective as drugs, it better prevents symptom recurrence.Exercise increases arousal, thus counteracting depression’s low arousal state. Yet few people (only 1 in 4 in the United States) take advantage of it (Mendes, 2010).
10Lifestyle Modification In one study, a control group was given diet, medication, and exercise advice.An experimental group practiced lifestyle modification, a plan to slow down the pace of one’s life, accept imperfection, and renew faith.The second group received similar advice, but they also were taught ways of modifying their lifestyles. They learned to slow down and relax by walking, talking, and eating more slowly. They learned to smile at others and laugh at themselves. They learned to admit their mistakes; to take time to enjoy life; and to renew their religious faith.Result: modifying lifestyle led to reduced heart attack rates.
11Relaxation and Meditation Use of relaxation techniques can reduce headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, and improve immune functioning.People who meditate can learn to create a relaxation response: relaxed muscles, lower blood pressure, and slowed heart rate and breathing.Meditation also increases brain activity associated with positive emotions.Steps to get the relaxation response: focus attention on breathing, a focus word, and relaxing muscles from toes upward.Researchers experimented, comparing “before” and “after” brain scans of volunteers who were not experienced meditators (Davidson et al, 2003). First, they took baseline scans of volunteers’ normal levels of brain activity. They then randomly assigned them either to a control group or to an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to lessen anxiety and depression (Hofmann et al., 2010). Compared with both the control group and their own baseline, the meditation participants showed noticeably more left-hemisphere activity after the training, and they also had improved immune functioning.“One component of healthy lifestyle modification is spending more time in relaxation.”
12Religious Involvement and Health While attendance at religious services may not directly save lives, it may make other healthy practices more likely.Religious attendance seems to have results, especially for men, comparable to the benefit of physically healthy lifestyle choices.A 28-year study that followed 5286 Californians found that, after controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, and education, frequent religious attenders were 36 percent less likely to have died in any year.
13Religious Involvement and Health: Intervening Factors The health impact of religious involvement may be indirect. Health may improve because of the lifestyle and emotional factors associated with religious involvement, and not [just] the faith.In American studies, too, about 75 percent of the longevity difference remained when researchers controlled for unhealthy behaviors, such as inactivity and smoking (Musick et al., 1999).But even after controlling for social support, gender, unhealthy behaviors, and preexisting health problems, the mortality studies still find that religiously engaged people tend to live longer (Chida et al., 2009).A third set of intervening variables help protect religiously active people from stress and enhance their well-being. Those benefits may flow from a stable, coherent worldview, a sense of hope for the long-term future, feelings of ultimate acceptance, and the relaxed meditation of prayer or Sabbath observance
14Behavioral Medicine Lesson As with other areas of psychology, a study of emotions, stress and health teaches us:the body constantly interacts with the mind.psychological phenomena have connections to physiological phenomena.More than 2000 years ago, in a Sanskrit text called the Santi Parva, it was written, “There are two kinds of diseases, physical and mental. Each springs from the other. None of them can be seen existing independently.”This quote is from the first complete English translation of the Mahabharata by Kisari Mohan Ganguli in the late 1800s; the wording is slightly different than in the text.Myers refers to the Santi Parva as a “sage” but it is actually a philosophical chapter in a larger text called the Mahabharata, composed between approximately the sixth and first centuries B.C.E. in present-day India and Pakistan. The Mahabharata is one of the longest poetic works in the world; it has about 100,000 verses and many long prose passages, about 1.8 million total words.