Which of Three Stress Management Programs Worked Best for Undergrads?

Researchers from the University of Buenos Aires examined responses to three different kinds of stress management programs for undergraduate students. Fifty-two students were randomly assigned to one of three stress management programs.

The first included deep breathing, the relaxation response, meditation, and guided imagery techniques (RRGI). The second program offered training in cognitive behavioral techniques (CB). The third program offered a combination of both RRGI and CB (RRGICB).

Measures of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, neuroticism, respiration rate, and salivary cortisol levels were taken, before and after the program. Differences were assessed using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.

Students in the guided imagery/relaxation group (RRGI) showed significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .011), anger (p < .012), neuroticism (p < .01), respiratory rate (p < .002), hopelessness (p < .01), and salivary cortisol (p < .002) after the treatment.

Undergrads in the Cognitive Behavioral Group also showed significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .018), anger (p < .037), and neuroticism (p < .03) after the treatment, but less so and on fewer variables.

And finally, those in the combined group (RRGICB) did best of all, demonstrating significantly lower levels of anxiety (p < .001), anger (p < .001), neuroticism (p < .008), hopelessness (p < .01), respiratory rate (p < .001), and salivary cortisol (p < .002) after the program.

Subjects in the control group showed only one change, and an unfortunate one at that: a significant increase in cortisol levels (p < .004).

The team concluded that the combination of guided imagery, deep breathing, relaxation response, and meditation techniques, along with CBT, seems to be very effective at helping college students deal with stress.

Iglesias SL Azzara S, Argibay JC, Arnaiz ML, de Valle Carpineta M, Granchetti H, Lagomarsino E. Psychological and physiological response of students to different types of stress management programs. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2012 Jul-Aug;26 (6):pp149-58. [email protected]

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