Does Optimism = Less Stress?

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As students, most of us face certain potential stressors. From academic stressors like finals and important presentations, to more social ones such as going to parties where you don't know many people or moving into a new residence. Dealing with so many stressful situations, it can be easy to fall into pessimistic thought processes and think "I just can't handle this" or "I'll never succeed."

But if you think you'll be able to get that A in biochemistry, and be able to manage all of your work, you're less likely to experience a stress reaction. If you have that "I can do it" attitude, you'll more likely do problem-focused coping where you face your problems and work to solve them head-on.

I found this idea fascinating - so if I believe I can cope and succeed, it's more likely I will cope with my stress by tackling problems? To me, this seemed like not only a recipe for success but a remedy for stressful reactions. Do you think it is?
Also, if one can be too pessimistic about their ability to cope and succeed, is it possible to be too optimistic about it as well?

A blog post I really liked: "Deindividuated Hipsters? How Ironically Ironic" by E. Carriere.
Check it out!


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I'm so glad you blogged about this! I am a biochemistry major myself and taking 18 credits this semester. I was just reflecting the other day and realizing that although I have one of the toughest credit loads I've ever had, I'm doing well. Learning to cope with stress is wonderful and I feel as though my positive outlook on a day-to-day basis very much benefits my success and stress management when I get into those weeks when I feel like I'll never get out alive. I agree! I think stress can be very well managed with a positive outlook. However, there are times when I think, " oh, I don't necessarily need to study for that" and that's when I get into trouble because I was a little too optimistic about how well I knew the material. I learned from those times and are taking those experineces into my tool box to be used for future instances. Thanks so much for blogging about this at such an applicable time! Happy finals :)

Thanks for the plug!

Yes, I do think one can be too optimistic. I see both pessimism and optimism as tipping preferences in outlook on uncertainty, realistic—or skeptical—being in the neutral middle. If that's the case, then either pessimism or optimism can be carried to extremes in what would be either an excess or a defect.

Perhaps someone who is too optimistic would be prone to more risk-taking behavior; without adequate apprehension of negative consequences, where would our inhibitions be?

It's interesting how extreme attitudes—ones we previously thought were polar opposites—tend to meet each other and overlap at some point, suggesting elements of many attitudes exist along some sort of continuum instead of a dichotomy. For instance, an overly optimistic person may take too many risks because he believes all will turn out fine, while an overly pessimistic person may take too many risks because he has fallen into a fatalistic attitude: "What's the use of trying to act prudently? It's all out of my hands anyway."

I tend towards pessimism, myself. This blog was a good reminder to balance my perspective again; and it is much needed considering the studying we students have to attend to at this point in the year!

I do think it is a possible recipe for success. However, something really troubled me while reading this. Sure, I could say that I am going to do really well on all my finals and believe that I will do well. But what happens when I do worse than I expected to do? Then the chances of me using that method of optimism will probably not be applied again. Which is really frustrating and accurate in my case. It seems to me that no matter how much I prepare or study (especially for this class!), my best is never "good enough". So I've basically given up on an optimistic outlook due to the repetition of my lack of success. And again, this could be why I continually do bad because I'm not being proactive and increasing the likelihood that I will do better next time. Well, I think I just answered my own question! Funny how that happens sometimes when you just keep rambling on. Good post. It was very engaging and I was able to turn around and answer my own question with the knowledge I gained from reading this!

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm taking a biochemistry course for the first time and it's very challenging. Props to you for tackling it! It's made me realize that it is all a balancing act between being overly optimistic or pessimistic when it comes to how you see work. Stay optimistic! (but not too much). Happy finals. :)

No problem!
I do think it's all about balance between the two extremes of optimism and pessimism in order to lead a healthy life. While I don't think it's possible to strike that balance perfectly, it's worth a shot! I'm glad the post reminded you of that. Happy finals!!

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This page contains a single entry by L. Pipkin published on December 4, 2011 11:30 PM.

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