May Health Notes: Researchers Examine Psychological Stress and Coping Strategies

May 12, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas — May is Mental Health Awareness Month—and spring semester final exams. Universities of Texas at Austin researchers are available to discuss issues ranging from psychological stress to prevention and coping methods.

Prevention for Stress-Related Illnesses

Charles Holahan
Professor, Department of Psychology
512-471-3320
holahan@psy.utexas.edu

Holahan's research focuses on stress resistance, which examines factors that differentiate individuals who remain healthy from those who suffer from stress-induced emotional or physical illnesses. His research interests include health psychology, stress and coping, psychological stress and coping with cardiovascular illness.

External Surroundings Shape Social Behavior

Yvon Delville
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
512-232-5731
Delville@psy.utexas.edu

Delville studies how environmental changes influence personality traits and alter social behavior. He examines social stress and how it affects aggressive behavior during puberty.

Pressure and Learning Performance

Arthur Markman
Professor, Department of Psychology
512-471-6175
markman@mail.utexas.edu

Todd Maddox
Professor, Department of Psychology
512-475-8494
Maddox@mail.utexas.edu

The U.S. National Institute of Health has awarded a five-year, $1.3 million grant to Markman and Maddox for their research on learning strategies. Using brain imaging, they examine situational factors that might explain why some people sail through life, while others choke under pressure. The researchers aim to identify the circumstances that cause some people to falter under stress, while others thrive.

Anxiety Research Studies

Michael Telch
Professor, Department of Psychology
512-471-3393
telch@austin.utexas.edu

Telch explores the nature and treatment of anxiety-related disorders. He has expertise and experience in behavior therapy and cognitive therapy. Telch founded the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders (LSAD), which is considered one of the premier anxiety research laboratories in the country. Numerous studies have been completed at LSAD, including panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety.

Competition, Hormones and Stress

Robert Josephs
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
512-471-9788
josephs@mail.psy.utexas.edu

Josephs studies the correlation between stress and our social environments and personalities. He specifically examines how dominance, social class and culture affect hormonal and cardiovascular response to stress.

Stress in Relationships

Tim Loving
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Ecology
512-471-0973
tjloving@mail.utexas.edu

Loving researches the relationship support process. He investigates individuals' conversations about their romantic relationships with members of their social network. He assesses how this alleviates or exacerbates how people respond to stress in situations such as the separation from a partner.

Communication and Time Management

Dawn Ballard
Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies
512-471-1946
diballard@mail.utexas.edu

Ballard studies how communication shapes the way people work and manage their time. In addition to her research on time management behaviors, she examines non-standard work practices such as telecommunications, virtual teams, temps and part-time employment. She is examining multi-tasking and the patterns of interaction that shape time-restricted activities.

Jamie Pennebaker
Chair, Department of Psychology
512-232-2781
pennebaker@mail.utexas.edu

Pennebaker explores the links among traumatic experiences, expressive writing, language, and physical and mental health. He has found physical health can improve through simple writing and/or talking exercises. Pennebaker is the author of "Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions" and "Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval."

Coping with Stress and Anxiety

Christopher McCarthy
Professor and Counseling Psychology Program Director, Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education
512-471-0368
chris.mccarthy@mail.utexas.edu

Stress, coping and prevention are McCarthy's primary research topics. By examining the connection between cognition and emotion, he is able to determine what triggers stress-related emotions. His research program investigates the stress and coping processes of younger individuals and diverse populations.

Mary Steinhardt
Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education
512-232-3535
msteinhardt@mail.utexas.edu

Steinhardt is a kinesiologist and health educator who researches the development and implementation of programs that improve individual and organizational resilience. She has worked with Dell, Motorola, 3M, Applied Materials and Home Depot to teach their staffs resilient responses to stress and has conducted studies of stress alleviation in pre-service teachers, military wives, college students and African Americans who have diabetes.

For more information, contact: Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404.