Some of us cope with chronic stress, and performing under pressure just makes it worse. A new study suggests that a brief self-affirmation exercise can eliminate the handicapping effects of chronic stress while we perform.
... new research from Carnegie Mellon University provides the first evidence that self-affirmation can protect against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance. ... self-affirmation -- the process of identifying and focusing on one's most important values -- boosts stressed individuals' problem-solving abilities ...
Creswell and his research team had college students rank-order a set of values (e.g., art, business, family and friends) in terms of their personal importance, and indicate their levels of chronic stress.
Participants randomly assigned to a self-affirmation condition were asked to write a couple of sentences about why their number one ranked value was important (a standard self-affirmation exercise). All participants then had to complete a challenging problem-solving task under time pressure, which required creativity in order to generate correct solutions.
The results showed that participants who were under high levels of chronic stress during the past month had impaired problem-solving performance. In fact, they solved about 50 percent fewer problems in the task. But notably, this effect was qualified by whether participants had an opportunity to first complete the self-affirmation activity. Specifically, a brief self-affirmation was effective in eliminating the deleterious effects of chronic stress on problem-solving performance, such that chronically stressed self-affirmed participants performed under pressure at the same level as participants with low chronic stress levels. [emphasis mine]
I like the article, it may be very useful in my work and studies, though I also like the related study where Self-Affirmation Enhances Performance, Makes Us Receptive to Our Mistakes.
I think I may make myself my own guinea pig in testing that hypothesis. LOL