Coping as a mediator of the relationship between stress mindset and psychological stress response: a pilot study

Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2018 Mar 1:11:47-54. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S150400. eCollection 2018.


Background: Coping, the cognitive and behavioral effort required to manage the effects of stressors, is important in determining psychological stress responses (ie, the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive responses to stressors). Coping was classified into categories of emotional expression (eg, negative feelings and thoughts), emotional support seeking (eg, approaching loved ones to request encouragement), cognitive reinterpretation (eg, reframing a problem positively), and problem solving (eg, working to solve the problem). Stress mindset refers to the belief that stress has enhancing (stress-is-enhancing mindset) or debilitating consequences (stress-is-debilitating mindset). This study examined whether coping mediated the relationship between stress mindset and psychological stress responses. Psychological stress responses were conceptualized as depression-anxiety, irritability-anger, and helplessness. The following two hypotheses were tested: 1) a stronger stress-is-enhancing mindset is associated with less frequent use of emotional expression, emotional support seeking, and problem solving, which in turn is associated with lower levels of depression-anxiety, irritability-anger, and helplessness; 2) a stronger stress-is-debilitating mindset is associated with more frequent use of these coping strategies, which in turn is associated with higher levels of these psychological stress responses.

Materials and methods: The participants were 30 male and 94 female undergraduate and graduate students (mean age =20.4 years). Stress mindset, coping, and psychological stress responses were measured using self-report questionnaires. Six mediation analyses were performed with stress-is-enhancing mindset or stress-is-debilitating mindset as the independent variable, one of the psychological stress responses as the dependent variable, and the four coping strategies as mediators.

Results: Emotional expression partially mediated the relationship between a strong stress-is-debilitating mindset and higher irritability-anger levels. The other three coping strategies did not exhibit mediating effects. None of the coping strategies mediated the relationship between a stress-is-enhancing mindset and psychological stress responses.

Conclusion: These results provide initial evidence that stress mindset is associated with psychological stress responses, through coping strategies.

Keywords: coping; emotional expression; psychological stress responses; stress-is-debilitating mindset; stress-is-enhancing mindset.