Scientific American Mind September/October 2011
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How to fight a frazzled mind (p 30)
Stress management is both trainable and beneficial, writes Robert Epstein in this month's Scientific American Mind. Furthermore, preventive and proactive approaches seem to be the most effective when it comes to dealing with stress.
Previous research indicates that there are at least four broad, trainable competencies that can help people to manage stress effectively: source management (reducing or eliminating the sources of stress); practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga; thought management (correcting irrational thinking and reinterpreting events in a positive light); and prevention (planning and conducting your life to avoid sources of stress). Epstein assessed the relative importance of these by conducting an online test of 3,304 individuals. Participants were asked how stressed and how generally happy they were, and whether they had received formal stress-management training. They were then asked questions about different practices that fall under the four competencies.
Relaxation techniques and thought management are often thought to be the most effective ways to deal with stress, but Epstein's study found that prevention was the most helpful competency, followed by source management. The results also suggest that people who have received stress-management training cope better with stress than those who haven't.
The challenge now, writes Epstein, is "to teach techniques for managing stress to a public that knows little about them, and, especially, to educate our children before the big stressors hit."