Psychological methods of stress management: Increasing Hardiness

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Background Information

Kobasa’s belief that hardiness is an important element in stress management led her to propose ways in which it could be increased. As with stress inoculation training, the procedure has three aspect, the first two stages of which are quite similar to the first stage of stress inoculation training.


Clients are trained and encouraged to spot signs of stress, such as muscle tension, increases in heart rate and anxiety. This allows them to recognise stressful situations and therefore to identify sources of stress. 

Reliving Stressful Encounters-

Clients analyse recent stressful situations in terms of how they were actually resolved, ways in which they could have turned out better, and ways in which they could have turned out worse. This gives them insight into their current coping strategies and how they may be more effective than they imagine. 

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Background Information Extended

Self Improvement-

Central to hardiness is the belief that you can cope with life challenges. Often, however, we are faced with stressors that cannot be easily managed. It is important, then, to recognise and to take on challenges that we can cope with. In this way we can confirm that we still have control over some events in our lives. It is the sense of personal control and effectiveness that is fundamental to stress management. So an essential part of hardiness training is to begin with challenges the client can cope with before moving on to more complex problems. 

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Theoretical Issues-The concept of hardiness itself has been criticised. The relative importance of the three factors-control, commitment, challenge-is unclear, although there is evidence for the role of control and commitment in reducing responses to stressors. 

Generalisability- Kobasa's studies usually involve White, middle class businessmen, so the results cannot reliably be generalised to women or to different classes and cultures. 

Effectiveness and Practicality-There are few systematic studies of the effectiveness of hardiness training. As with the stress inaction training, it is lengthy and requires commitment and motivation, and would never be a rapid solution to stress-management problems. it also has the problem of addressing basic aspects of personality and learned habits of coping. These are notoriously difficult to modify. 

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