Effectiveness of using a deep breathing technique to reduce the stress of International Baccalaureate 12th graders. Open Access

Delcroix, Martine (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/ng451j138?locale=en


Background: Teens identify school as a source of stress, but often are not aware of the impact of stress on their physical and mental health, and often do not know how to cope with stress. Exploring coping techniques in school may ensure lifelong healthy behaviors for students. Students enrolled in challenging curricula such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) report more stressors.

Methods: This longitudinal pilot study assesses the effectiveness of a short, inexpensive course to train teachers to implement stress management techniques with students. We compared over six weeks, two 12th grade classrooms of International Baccalaureate students. One class practiced mindful breathing (n=8) for 5 minutes, 3-4 times a week, and the other class served as a control (n=3). The effectiveness of the intervention was measured by comparing level of stress as measured by both salivary cortisol and self-perceived stress, before and after intervention, within and between students. Correlations were calculated between level of stress and math score.

Results: Self-perceived stress and cortisol were correlated before two different exams (r=.50, p=.12, r=.89, p=.0003). Despite the small sample size, results showed that students in the Intervention group reported lower self-perceived stress and had a four-fold lower level of cortisol after intervention, while the control group's cortisol and self-perceived stress did not change appreciably. The cortisol drop in the intervention group (paired t-test of log cortisol was significant (p=0.006)). Finally, a moderate negative correlation was observed between stress level and math performance, as measured by both perceived stress (r=-.51; p=0.11) and salivary cortisol (r=-.52; p=0.10).

Conclusion: The study is innovative in using two measures of stress (biologic and behavioral). Results suggest that a five-hour course to train teachers to implement short and simple coping techniques can substantially lower students' stress. In addition, this intervention may enhance the class environment by benefiting both students and teachers, who in turn may promote health within the school community. While we tested the intervention among relatively well-off students, findings are promising for schools with disadvantaged students and scarce resources, as it can support mental health of a large number of students for very little cost.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Literature Review.. 8

Theoretical models of Stress. 8

Coping with stress. 12

Stress in adolescence. 13

Stress and school 15

Stress management strategies in school 17

Research & MBIs in school 21

Measuring stress. 22

Building on these ideas. 23

Data Collection, Analysis, and Results. 25

Methodology. 25

Participants. 25

Study design. 26

Intervention. 28

Data collection. 29

Measures. 30

Measure of stress. 30

Measure of math performance. 32

Analysis. 32

Results. 34

Stress measures. 34

Correlation between both measures of stress. 35

Math performances. 35

Correlation between performance in math and level of stress (cortisol and PSS). 37

Post Hoc qualitative results. 37

Discussion. 39

Journal Article. 45

Annex. 63

References. 64

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