The impact of ‘easy’ stress management strategies: a mixed
Project Title:
                      method approach
                      Dr Carol McClenahan
                      Dr David Shaw
                      Dr Carol McClenahan:
                      Phone : 02870 324399
                      E.mail :
Contact Details:
                      Dr David Shaw:
                      Phone : 02870 323020
                      E.mail :
Level:                PhD
                      A mixed-method approach, using more than one class of
                      information (Kagan, 2009), is recommended as the best approach
                      to study the effects of stress on well-being (Semmer, Grebner &
                      Elferling, 2003).

                      Walking (e.g. Morris & Hardeman, 1997), listening to music
                      (e.g. Burns et al., 2002) and abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing
                      (e.g. Paul, Elam & Verhulst, 2008) are examples of behaviours
                      which can be very easily incorporated into our everyday lives to
                      help us manage / reduce everyday stress. However, with a few
                      exceptions (e.g. Fumoto et al., 2004; Pawlow & Jones, 2005),
Background to the     most studies looking at the effects of these behaviours on our
project:              psychological health and well-being (e.g. mood, anxiety, stress,
                      relaxation) have employed either self-report measures or specific
                      physiological indicators such as salivary cortisol / sIgA to
                      examine immuno-enhancement/ suppression or skin conductance
                      and/or heart rate and/or respiration rate to tap anxiety, or, the
                      effects of the behaviours on the EEG (e.g. alpha and theta bands)
                      and/or EMG (e.g frontalis muscle).

                      Few studies have included both self-report and physiological
                      measures to examine the impact of the above three behaviours on
                      psychological health and well-being. Therefore, this is an area of
                      research which warrants further study.
                      Experimental and quasi-experimental methodologies ,
                      incorporating between (control and intervention groups) and
                      within (pre and post-intervention) designs will be used to look at
                      the relaxation effects of a) music, b) abdominal breathing and c)
                      walking on various psychological and physiological outcomes
                      (see under ‘measures’ below).
Methods to be used:
                      Psychological, self report measures: mood will be measured
                      using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale - PANAS (Watson,
                      Clark & Tellegen, 1988); psychological well-being with the
                      General Health Questionnaire - GHQ-12 (Goldberg, 1992);
                      Perceived stress using the Perceived Stress Scale – PSS (Cohen,
                      Kamarck & Mermelstein, 1983) and anxiety with the State Trait
                    Anxiety Inventory – STAI (Spielberger et al. 1983).

                    Multiple channels of physiological data will be measured using
                    the NEXUS system to include: skin conductance and heart
                    rate/heart rate variability (Conrad et al. (2007) and EEG alpha
                    (Fumoto et al., 2004; Jacobs & Friedman, 2004) and theta bands
                    (Jacobs & Friedman, 2004). Salivary cortisol levels (Clow, 2004;
                    Saxbe, 2009; Pawlow & Jones, 2005) will be measured using kits
                    purchased from Salimetrics Inc.
                    1. To determine the efficacy of a) listening to music, b)
                    diaphragmatic breathing and c) walking in manageing/reducing
Objectives of the   stress.
                    2. To determine relations among the different sources of
                    evidence (self-report and physiological indicators)
                    Burns, J.L., Labbe, E., Arke, B., Capeless, M.S., Cooksey, B.,
                    Steadman, A. & Gonzales, C. (2002). The effects of different
                    types of music on perceived and physiological measures of
                    stress. Journal of Music Therapy, 2, 101-116.
                    Cohen, S., Kamarck, T. & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global
                    measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social
                    Behavior, 24, 385-396.
                    Conrad, A., Muller, A., Doberenz, S., Kim, S., Meuret, A.E.,
                    Wollburg, E. & Roth, W.T. (2007). Psychophysiological effects
                    of breathing instructions for stress management. Applied
                    Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 32, 89-98.
                    Clow, A. (2004). Cortisol as a biomarker of stress. Journal of
                    Holistic Healthcare, 1, 3, 10-14.
                    Fumoto, M., Sato-Suzuki, I., Seki, Y., Mohri, Y. & Arita, H.
                    (2004). Appearance of high frequency alpha band with
                    disappearance of low frequency alpha band in EEG is produced
                    during abdominal breathing in an eyes-closed condition.
                    Neuroscience Research, 50, 307-317.
References:         Goldberg, D. (1992). General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12).
                    Windsor: Nfer-Nelson.
                    Jacobs, G.D. & Friedman, R. (2004). EEG spectral analysis of
                    relaxation techniques. Applied Psychophysiology and
                    Biofeedback, 29, 4, 245-254.
                    Kagan, J. (2009). Two is better than one. Perspectives in
                    Psychological Science, 4, 1, 22-23.
                    Morris, J.N. & Hardeman, A.E. (1997). Walking to health.
                    Sports Medicine, 23, 5, 306-332.
                    Paul, G., Elam, B. & Verhulst, S.J. (2008). A longitudinal study
                    of students’ perceptions of using deep breathing meditation to
                    reduce testing stresses. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 19,
                    3, 287-292.
                    Pawlow, L.A. & Jones, G.E. (2005). The impact of abbreviated
                    progressive muscle relaxation on salivary cortisol and salivary
                    immunoglobin A (sIgA). Applied Psychophysiology and
                    Biofeedback, 30, 4, 375-387.
                    Saxbe, D.E. (2009). A field (researcher’s) guide to cortisol:
                    tracking HPA axis functioning in everyday life. Health
                       Psychology Review, 2, 2, 163-190.
                       Semmer, N.K., Grebner, S. & Elferling, A. (2003). Beyond self-
                       report: using observational, physiological and situation-based
                       measures in research in occupational stress. Research in
                       Occupational Research and Well-being, 3, 205-263.
                       Spielberger, C.D., Gorsuch, R.L., Lushene, R., Vagg, P.R. &
                       Jacobs, G.A. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety
                       Inventory: Form Y. Palo-Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists
                       Watson, D., Clark, L.A. & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development
                       and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect:
                       the PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social
                       Psychology, 54, 1063-1070
                       Competence in searching the research literature
                       Effective writing skills
                       Effective communication skills
Skills required of the
                       Can work independently and as part of a team
                       Experience of using SPSS
                       Experience of conducting a research project and writing research

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