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A Problem Shared Is A Problem Solved Essay Contest

A problem shared, really IS a problem halved: Discussing problems with people in similar situations reduces stress levels

  • Researchers asked participants to make a speech while being filmed
  • Participants were put into pairs to discuss how they felt about the task
  • Their stress levels were taken before, during and after the speech
  • Those who discussed their fears had lower levels of stress overall

By Victoria Woollaston

Published: 18:46 GMT, 30 January 2014 | Updated: 18:47 GMT, 30 January 2014

The old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved' may have been based on scientific fact, according to a new study.

Researchers from California have proved that the best way to beat stress is to share your feelings - and sharing with someone in the same situation yields the best results.

This is because sharing a threatening situation with a person in a similar emotional state 'buffers individuals from experiencing the heightened levels of stress that typically accompany threat', claimed the study.

Feeling stressed? Researchers from California have proved that the best way to beat it is to share your feelings with someone in the same situation. This is because sharing a threatening situation with a person in a similar emotional state 'buffers' individuals from the feeling of fear brought on by the perceived threat

IS STRESS CONTAGIOUS?

A study from the University of Hawaii claimed stress can be as contagious as the common cold and you can actually ‘catch’ other people’s anxieties.

It found that if you are sitting next to a moaning colleague who goes into meltdown about the slightest thing, or spends the day whining, it could give you ‘second-hand stress’.

Psychologist Professor Elaine Hatfield said ‘passive’ or second-hand stress can quickly spread around the workplace.

A total of 52 female undergraduates were paired up and asked to make a speech while being taped by researchers from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

Prior to each speech, participants were encouraged to discuss how they felt about public speaking with the researchers, and their fellow participants. Other participants were told not to discuss their feelings.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured before, during and after each participants speech.

The researchers found that stress levels were significantly reduced when the participants were able to vocalise how they felt about the speeches.

This was most noticeable when the discussion was had with a fellow participant, in which they shared a common fear.

Lead researcher Professor Sarah Townsend believes sharing experiences could help people deal with stress in the workplace. She claims that talking with a colleague who shares the same emotional state will lighten the load, decrease stress and help improve productivity

Lead researcher Professor Sarah Townsend, believes sharing experiences could help people deal with stress in the workplace.

'For instance, when you’re putting together an important presentation or working on a high-stakes project, these are situations that can be threatening and you may experience heightened stress.

'But talking with a colleague who shares your emotional state can help decrease this stress.'

'Imagine you are one of two people working on an important project: if you have a lot riding on this project, it is a potentially stressful situation,' added Professor Townsend.

'But having a coworker with a similar emotional profile can help reduce your experience of stress.'

It is hoped the research may help people from different cultural backgrounds communicate better in the workplace.

The findings were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.


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