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Female volunteers needed for stress study

Researchers at the University of Exeter are looking for volunteers to help them explore whether assigning a more positive meaning to a stressful event can reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing.  

This emotion regulation strategy is known as ‘cognitive reappraisal’ and has been found particularly useful for adult females with relatively high levels of life stress – a type of stress associated with life events or experiences that produce severe strain, such as job loss or marital separation.

“Humans differ in their resilience and ability to cope with stress,” said doctorate trainee clinical psychologist Tomas Jelinek, who is leading the study.

“For some, distressing life experiences result in suffering and poor health; others manage to use them to their advantage and become stronger and more resilient individuals.

“This study aims to teach and help practice 'cognitive reappraisal' through which individuals may change the way they think about stressful experiences and feel more positive emotions as a result. We are also interested to see whether using this skill to help others, as opposed to just oneself, has additional benefits.”

Participation involves completing brief online questionnaires and/or short exercises from home at flexible times using a desktop, laptop or tablet every day for 21 consecutive days.

Volunteers will also be asked to attend four appointments at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus which will last up to 90 minutes.

The exercises will involve volunteers being asked to think of an every-day (minor) stressful event that happened to them in the past 48 hours, describe it in writing and practice changing the meaning they make of it.

Researchers leading the study will teach participants how to do this before the study begins.

When the project ends, participants will be sent a summary of the study findings. Participants will also be reimbursed £40 for their time and travel. 

While taking part in this study could have some positive effects on participants’ emotional wellbeing and levels of stress, this cannot be guaranteed.

Please note, volunteers must meet the following criteria to be considered for this study: 

1. Female aged 18 or over 
2. You have experienced stressful life events in the past 18 months 
3. You can access the internet from home via desktop computer, laptop or tablet 
4. You are able to complete questionnaires and/or short computer-based exercises lasting 10 to 30 minutes each day for the duration of 21 days (flexible, from home) 
5. You are willing to attend four appointments at Exeter University lasting up to 90 minutes 
6. You must not have changed medication for a mental health issue in the past six weeks 
7. You must not have received cognitive behavioural therapy in the past six months 

To take part or for more information, email  

The research, Using Cognitive Reappraisal and Helping Behaviour to Improve Well-being: Single-Case Design Study, is being funded by the Department of Psychology and has been approved by the University Psychology Ethics Committee (eCLESPsy000606).

Date: 6 November 2018

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