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Examining Positive Distraction as a Coping Strategy for Chronic Stress

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Positive distraction involves distracting oneself from a stressor by thinking about or engaging in activities that induce positive emotion. It blends elements of disengagement coping (historically maladaptive) with elements of positive emotional coping (historically adaptive) and has been relatively understudied in the context of chronic stressors. This dissertation represents one of the first attempts to characterize the ecological implications and underlying mechanisms of positive distraction use. In one set of studies, I examined the real-world implications of using positive distraction across four samples, comparing it to both avoidance and neutral distraction and investigating some potential mediators of its efficacy. This first chapter demonstrated that both positive and neutral distraction are adaptive strategies for coping with chronic stress, while avoidance is maladaptive. However, positive distraction was still more predictive than neutral distraction of increased life satisfaction and decreased depression levels. In a second set of studies simulating chronic stress, I experimentally compared positive and neutral distraction as emotion regulation strategies for repeated laboratory stressors. I found that positive, but not neutral, distraction both replenishes energy levels lost during an initial stressor and buffers from the negative emotional and fatiguing consequences of a second stressor. Collectively, these studies provide a better understanding of how positive distraction is distinct from other more commonly studied coping strategies and suggest that it has an important role in helping people cope with chronic stress in daily life. Ultimately, I posit that it can and should be employed strategically to prevent burnout and mental health decline as chronic stress levels continue to rise in the modern world.
chronic stress
positive emotions
Shing, Elaine Zhi (author)
Waugh, Christian E (committee chair)
Weiner, Jeffrey L (committee member)
Blumenthal, Terry D (committee member)
Danhauer, Suzanne C (committee member)
McLean, Thomas W (committee member)
2016-08-25T08:35:26Z (accessioned)
2016-08-25T08:35:26Z (available)
2016 (issued)
Neuroscience (discipline)
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/62650 (uri)
en (iso)
Wake Forest University
Examining Positive Distraction as a Coping Strategy for Chronic Stress

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