How to boost problem-solving skills under stress

Stress not only generates health problems, it also impairs problem-solving skills and creativity. A recent study led by J. David Creswell from the Carnegie Mellon University has now brought evidence that self-affirmation ("the process of identifying and focusing on one's most important values") can improve problem-solving in stress situations. The researchers asked college students to rank-order a set of values such as business or family and friends based on their personal importance. The students also had to indicate their levels of chronic stress. They were then asked to write a short text justifying their number one ranked value. The participants who had been under high chronic stress for the past month then had to complete a difficult problem-solving task for which the researchers measured impaired problem-solving skills. A lesser impact was measured in participants who had completed the self-affirmation activity beforehand. As Creswell says, taking a moment to think about something that is important to you can help you improve your problem-solving skills in stress situations.


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