A Study of the Relationship Between Cognitive Emotion Regulation, Optimism, and Perceived Stress Among Selected Teachers in Lutheran Schools

Jan 29th, 2013 | Category: Featured, Research in Education
By Sudi Kate Gliebe, Ph.D.

Abstract

The problem of this study was to determine the relationship between perceived stress and a specific set of predictor variables among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States. These variables were cognitive emotion regulation strategies (positive reappraisal and rumination) and optimism. The sample consisted of 582 early childhood teachers, 147 participated. They answered three surveys: the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) and the Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R). The hypotheses were tested and confirmed. A standard multiple regression revealed that all three independent variables (rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism) are statistically significant predictors of perceived stress for this population of Lutheran teachers. This study shows that as levels of positive reappraisal and optimism increase, perceived stress decreases. This means that reappraising stressful situations in a positive light and having an optimistic outlook on life ameliorates stress. This study also shows that as rumination increases, perceived stress increases as well. This means that dwelling on the negative aspects of stressful situations exacerbates the experience of stress.

Keywords: early childhood teacher, stress, cognitive emotion regulation, positive reappraisal, rumination, optimism

Teaching is widely recognized as a stressful occupation (Johnson et al. 2005; Chaplain 2008; McCarthy et al. 2010). Approximately one-third of all teachers consider their occupation very stressful (Jepson and Forrest 2006). Twenty-five to fifty percent of beginning teachers leave the teaching profession during their first years (Rieg, Paquette and Chen 2007). The prevalence of stress among teachers threatens their well-being, resulting in physical, emotional and mental exhaustion (Jepson and Forrest 2006). In spite of the fact that high levels of stress among teachers yield poor performance, absenteeism and low levels of job satisfaction, teachers receive little training on emotions and coping mechanisms (Klassen, Usher and Bong 2010).

For this reason, emotion regulation strategies and optimism are highly relevant to teacher stress. Considered a crucial contributor to mental health, emotion regulation is the ability to monitor, evaluate, modify and influence the experience and expression of emotion (McRae et al 2009). More specifically, cognitive emotion regulation is the mental way of managing distressing emotions (Garnefski and Kraaij 2009). Optimism refers to hopeful expectations or general expectations that are positive (Scheier and Carver 1993). According to Scheier and Carver (1992) optimists and pessimists differ considerably on how they approach and cope with adversity. Along with a plethora of benefits that optimism has to offer, researchers believe that optimism is a protective balm against stress (Makikangas and Kinnunen 2003; Solberg Nes and Segerstrom 2006; Grote et al. 2007; Armata and Baldwin 2008).

This study focused on the relationship between stress, cognitive emotion regulation and optimism. Despite the increasing awareness of high levels of stress among teachers and the importance of emotion regulation and optimism to alleviate it, no research study had been done on early childhood teachers.

Stress

Teacher stress has been defined as the experience of negative emotions resulting from a teacher’s work (Kyriacou 2001). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) define psychological stress as “a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being” (p 19). Lazarus argues that defining stress objectively by depending only on environmental conditions is not suitable. “The person-environment relationship that brings stress about is a subjective imbalance between demands that are made on people and their resources to manage these demands” (Lazarus and Lazarus 1994, p 221). Thus, Lazarus emphasizes the need to study stress in terms of the relationship between the environment and the way individuals appraise it.

Stress and Emotions

Relevant to this study is Lazarus’ description of yet another interesting relationship. He declares that for years stress had been studied without any consideration to emotion. He considers this separation an absurdity given that stress “calls forth distressing emotions” like anger, envy, jealousy, anxiety, guilt and shame (Lazarus 1999 p 35). Additionally, research highlights “the practical importance of the emotions in our psychological and physical well-being and in social functioning” (Lazarus 1999 p 35). A growing body of research now focuses on stress and its relationship to emotional health (Naring, Briet and Brouwers 2006; Bracket et al. 2010).

Teaching and Emotions

“Teaching is an emotional endeavor” (Sutton, Mudrey-Camino and Knight 2009). However, teachers receive little training about emotions and on how to cope with them. Their textbooks largely focus on learning, problem solving, assessment and motivation, yet ignore the emotional dimensions of teaching (Sutton 2005). Not only that, but there is hardly any recent research done on the emotional aspects of teaching (Sutton and Wheatley 2003). The literature shows that love, care, affection, joy, satisfaction and pleasure are positive emotions most teachers experience; it also shows however that frustration, anger, anxiety and guilt are commonly experienced by teachers as well (Hatch 1993; Hargreaves 1998; Winograd 2003).

The relationship between teachers’ negative affect and stress is bi-directional; intense negative emotions produce emotional exhaustion, stress and burnout, while it is also true that stress exacerbates negative affect such as anger and frustration (Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli 2006). Teachers’ affective responses influence their teaching and their students’ learning process (Sutton and Wheatley 2003). Children who are highly attuned to their teachers’ emotional expressions learn through their teachers’ emotional responses (Bronson 2000). The role of modeling is paramount to the development of emotional health in children as corroborated by the literature (Kremenitzer 2005; Kremenitzer and Miller 2008).

Cognitive Emotion Regulation

According to Larsen and Prizmic (2004) emotion regulation influences how emotions are expressed, as well as their intensity and duration. Considered a crucial contributor to mental health, emotion regulation is the ability to monitor, evaluate, modify and influence the experience and expression of emotion (McRae et al. 2009). In terms of processing negative affect, emotion regulation is considered a helpful endeavor (Kross, Ayduk and Mischel 2005). More specifically, cognitive emotion regulation (CER) has been defined by Garnefski and Kraaij (2007) as the “conscious, cognitive way of handling the intake of emotionally arousing information” (p 141). CER is “the mental way of managing distressing problems and emotions” (Garnefski and Kraaij 2009 p 168). Rumination (negative coping strategy) and Positive Reappraisal (positive coping strategy) are the two most prominent cognitive coping strategies found in the literature.

Rumination

Rumination consists of “repetitive thinking about one’s feelings and thoughts, including dwelling on the negative aspects” (Schroevers, Kraaij and Garnefski  2008 p 553). These repetitive thoughts revolve around a common theme where immediate environmental demands are absent (Ray, Wilhelm and Gross 2008). Research shows that Rumination increases negative affect in general and anxiety, depression, anger, stress and cortisol (stress hormone) levels specifically (Denson et al. 2009; Rimes and Watkins 2005; Kross, Ayduk and Mischel 2005).

Positive reappraisal

Positive reappraisal is the gold standard of cognitive emotion regulation. It consists of “construing a potentially emotional situation in a way that enhances positive or diminishes negative affect” (Lowenstein 2007). It is the cognitive effort to discover the “silver lining to the calamity” by attributing to it a new meaning (Lowenstein 2007). Garnefski and Kraaij (2007) define it as thoughts that give a positive meaning to an event “in terms of personal growth” (p 142). Ochsner and Gross (2005) argue that since Reappraisal takes place earlier in the emotion-eliciting situation and since it does not require constant self-regulation, it is the least costly strategy in terms of cognitive, physiological and social long-term ramifications. When facing an emotional experience, Reappraisal decreases amygdala activation by re-thinking, reframing, reinterpreting and/or cognitively transforming one’s appraisal of meaning (Ochsner and Gross, 2008;  Thiruchselvan et al., 2001; McRae et al., 2009; Ray, Wilhelm and Gross 2008).  Reappraisal has been found to alleviate the negative effects of grief, burnout, anxiety, stress, depression, trauma and anger (Eftekhari, Zoeller and Vigil 2009; Ray, Wilhelm and Gross 2008). Lastly, once the work of reappraising is done, it yields abiding benefits, particularly when it comes to dealing with personal situations that recur (McRae et al., 2009).

Optimism

Carver and Scheier (2002) define optimists as people who expect good things to happen to them. Dispositional optimism refers to hopeful expectations or general expectations that are positive (Scheier and Carver 1993). According to Carver and Scheier (2002) optimists are confident and persistent in the face of challenges, while pessimists tend to be doubtful and hesitant. Optimists and pessimists differ considerably on how they approach and cope with adversity (Scheier and Carver 1992). Seligman emphasizes the attributions that people make about the adversity in their lives (Seligman 1984). Because optimism rests on how people routinely explain setbacks and tragedies, Seligman believes that optimism can be learned (Seligman, 2006). He explains that “learned optimism works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of ‘non-negative’ thinking” (Seligman, 2006 p 221).

Optimism and Stress

Optimism is a protective balm against stress (Grote et al., 2007; Armata and Baldwin, 2008; Makikangas and Kinnunen 2003). More specifically, the effects of stress in teachers can be attenuated by optimism (Otero Lopez et al. 2010; Moreno Jiménez et al. 2005). Optimistic teachers show higher levels of teaching effectiveness by taking more risks, having a positive attitude toward students (even problematic students) and seeing obstacles as challenges that can be conquered (Duckworth, Quinn and Seligman 2009). It is important to note that the importance of promoting optimism in teachers goes beyond its protective features against stress. Since children can learn optimism or pessimism from an early age, their role models (parents and teachers) play a crucial role in the development of optimism in young children (Seligman 1995). Cheerful and encouraging words spoken by teachers to children produce a “cascade of endorphins” and positive learning (Honig 2010 p 92-93).

Learning Optimism

Seligman believes that learning optimism is possible by changing individuals’ explanatory style. According to Weiner’s attribution theory, human behavior is controlled by the explanations people make for why things happen (Seligman 2006). When attributions (explanations) about situations are stable (“It’s going to last forever”), global (“It’s going to undermine everything”) and personal (“It’s all my fault”), they lead to pessimism (Peterson and Steen 2002).

The solution, Seligman proposes, is to learn to dispute pessimistic thoughts. Once people learn to identify the event that causes distress (adversity), their explanations about that event (beliefs) and the results of those explanations (consequences), they can proceed to dispute distorted beliefs with explanations that are temporary, specific and external, as opposed to stable, global and personal (Seligman 2006). Seligman and others have discovered that it is indeed possible to replace negative attributions, learn optimism and reap all its benefits (Barber et al., 2005; Fresco et al. 2009; Boyer 2006; Schulman 1995).

The Present Study

Purpose of the Study

The problem of the study was to determine the relationship between perceived stress, as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and a specific set of predictor variables among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States. These variables are cognitive emotion regulation strategies (positive reappraisal and rumination) and optimism. The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) to measure perceived stress, cognitive emotion regulation strategies (positive reappraisal and rumination) and optimism among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States and 2) to determine the relationship between perceived stress, cognitive emotion regulation strategies (positive reappraisal and rumination) and optimism among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States.

Hypotheses

It was the first hypothesis of this study that positive reappraisal as measured by the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) and optimism as measured by the Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R) would be negative predictors of perceived stress among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States.

It was the second hypothesis of this study that rumination as measured by the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) would be a positive predictor of perceived stress among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States.

Method

Methodology

The method of research in this study was correlational. A multiple regression analysis was used to determine the relationship between perceived stress and the following predictor variables: cognitive emotion regulation strategies (positive reappraisal and rumination) and optimism.

Sample

The population of this study consisted of 582 early childhood teachers in Lutheran schools, who are members of the Lutheran Education Association (LEA). Since the entire population was surveyed, no specific sampling procedure was necessary.

Procedure

582 early childhood teachers were invited to participate, 147 responded. They answered three surveys: the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ) and the Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R). Data was collected between May 14 and June 10, 2012 via online using Survey Monkey Software.

Measures

Perceived Stress Scale

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a psychological instrument that measures “the degree to which situations in one’s life are appraised as stressful” (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein 1983 p 385).  Although Cohen recognizes that objective measures of stress provide useful data, he contends that objective measures imply that events, in and of themselves, produce stress. This ignores the fact that “persons actively interact with their environments, appraising potentially threatening or challenging events in the light of available coping resources” (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein 1983 p 386).

The items of the PSS were designed to assess “how unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloaded respondents find their lives” (Cohen 2012). These three components are the central features of stress (Cohen 2012). The PSS consists of ten items that are answered on a 5-point Likert scale from 0 (never) to 4 (very often). The total score of the PSS can range from 0 to 40.

Reliability of the PSS was determined in three separate tests using three samples. Two samples were college students (N= 322 and N=114), and one was a heterogeneous group in a smoking cessation class (N= 64). The Cronbach’s alpha coefficient scores for each test respectively were 0.84, 0.85 and 0.86 (Cohen, Kamarck and Mermelstein 1983). These results affirm the reliability of the instrument. Validity of the PSS was also confirmed. Harris and Associates conducted a study with 2,387 respondents. Researchers found that “PSS scores were moderately related to responses on other measures of stress,” such as stress measures, self-reported health, health behaviors, life satisfaction and help-seeking behavior (Cohen and Williamson 1988).

Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire

Cognitive emotion regulation refers to “the conscious, cognitive way of handling the intake of emotionally arousing information” (Garnefksi and Kraaij 2007). The nine strategies included in the CERQ are: self-blame, other blame, rumination, catastrophizing, putting into perspective, positive refocusing, positive reappraisal, acceptance and refocus on planning. The CERQ is a self-report questionnaire that can be administered to participants twelve years of age and older. The instrument consists of thirty-six items that are answered on a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always). The total score of the CERQ can range from 36 to 180.

The CERQ was originally tested with an adolescent (general population) sample comprised of 547, 12-16 year old secondary school students. On the first measurement, the total scale yielded a Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0.92. On the second measurement, Cronbach alpha coefficient scores ranged from 0.68 to 0.83, with most of the scores exceeding 0.80. “For the total positive, negative and cognitive scales, alpha reliabilities of 0.91, 0.87 and 0.93 were found”(Garnefksi, Kraaij Spinhoven 2001 p 1321). Years later, a sample comprised of 611 adults (general population) between 18 and 65 years of age was tested. The first measurement yielded Cronbach alpha coefficients ranging from 0.75 to 0.86, and the second measurement yielded Cronbach alpha coefficients ranging from 0.75 to 0.87.

Validity was also tested, and the results showed that the CERQ has good factorial validity.  Cognitive emotion regulation strategies accounted for considerable amounts of variance in emotional problems (Garnefski and Kraaij 2007). Strong relationships were found between “the cognitive strategies self-blame, rumination, catastrophizing and positive reappraisal (inversely) and symptoms of depression and anxiety, both at first measurement and at follow-up” (Garnefski and Kraaij 2007).

Life Orientation Test Revised

The LOT-R was developed to assess individual differences in generalized optimism versus pessimism (Carver 2007). Carver has found that “the dimension of optimism versus pessimism” has implications for “the manner in which people cope with stressful experiences and the success with which they cope” (Carver 2007[OJZ3] )[PP4] . The LOT-R consists of 10 items that are answered on a 5-point Likert scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The total score of the LOT-R can range from 0 to 40.

The LOT-R was tested on a sample of 2,055 undergraduates from Carnegie Mellon University. Reliability testing yielded a Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0.78, suggesting that the LOT-R exhibits an acceptable level of internal consistency. Test-retest reliability correlations were 0.68, 0.60, 0.56 and 0.79 (Scheier, Carver and Bridge 1994). Taken together, these findings suggest that the LOT-R is fairly stable across time.

Procedure for Analysis

Data was imported from Survey Monkey to Excel, and then to SPSS Version 19. Total scores for stress (PSST), rumination (RUMT), positive reappraisal (PRAT) and optimism (OPTT) were computed. Following the instructions for scoring perceived stress (PSS) and optimism (LOT-R), certain items in each questionnaire were given reversed scores before they were added. All the recoding and computing needed to prepare the data for analysis was done by using the Transform function on SPSS.

Once the data was ready for analysis, a standard multiple regression procedure was conducted. The results revealed that one of the instruments (LOT-R) had been coded backwards (low numbers were given to high scores and high numbers to low scores). Using the Transform function, ten revised optimism items were created (OPTR1- OPTR10). The scores for the ten revised items were reversed, so that low numbers matched low scores and high numbers matched high scores. Finally, the scores were added together to produce a correct measure of optimism (optimism revised total – OPTRT).

The population of this study consisted of 582 early childhood teachers in Lutheran schools, with 147 choosing to participate. A standard multiple regression procedure was conducted. The regression model consisted of the criterion (predicted) variable, perceived stress and the predictor variables, rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism. Sample size, normality, linearity, multicollinearity (the inter-correlation of predictor variables) and outlier assumptions were examined (Pallant 2007). Since no violations were found, the model was evaluated.

The Adjusted R Square value obtained was used to determine how much of the variance in perceived stress was explained by the model. All three predictors were found to be statistically significant. Stress is predicted by rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism. The ANOVA procedure determined whether the regression model reached statistical significance (α = 0.05).

Each predictor variable (rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism) was evaluated. Beta coefficients showed which predictor variable made the strongest contribution to perceived stress, and whether the relationship was positive or negative.  Significance values determined if each predictor variable made a statistically significant contribution to the criterion variable (α = 0.05). Part correlation coefficients were squared to determine the percentage of variance each predictor variable made to perceived stress.

Results of Analysis

Out of the 582 early childhood teachers in the sample, 147 took the questionnaires. Yount (2012) suggests thirty subjects per variable (criterion and predictors). The sample size required for this study was met (N = 120). The Normal P–P Plot revealed a straight diagonal line from bottom left to top right, confirming there was no deviation from normality or linearity. Coefficients table revealed that Tolerance values were higher than .10, and VIF (Variance Inflation Factor) values were less than 10. These values confirmed that the multicollinearity assumption was not violated. There was no inter-correlation of predictor variables.

The Model Summary (table 1) revealed an Adjusted R Square value of .37. This showed that the model explained 37 per cent of the variance in perceived stress. The ANOVA table (table 2) revealed that the model reached statistical significance (Sig. 0.000).

Gliebe Tables_1

Gliebe Tables_1

Gliebe Tables_2

Gliebe Tables_2

Beta values (table 3) revealed that optimism made the strongest contribution to explain the dependent variable. The Beta Standardized value for optimism was -0.425. These Beta values also show that the direction of each correlation was as expected. Positive reappraisal and optimism proved to be negative predictors of stress, while rumination was a positive predictor of stress. The t-tests for each predictor determined whether the predictors are statistically significant. Significance values revealed that all three predictors are statistically significant (Sig. < .05). Lastly, by squaring the Part correlations, each predictor variable’s unique contribution to the total R Square was computed. Rumination contributed 6%, positive reappraisal 2% and optimism 14%. These values do not add up to the Adjusted R Square value of 37%, because shared variance across the three predictors is removed in the Part correlations calculations.

Gliebe Tables

Gliebe Tables_3

Testing the Hypothesis

It was the research hypothesis of this study that positive reappraisal and rumination, as measured by the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ), and optimism as measured by the Life Orientation Test Revised (LOT-R), are significant predictors of perceived stress among selected teachers in Lutheran schools in the United States. The null hypothesis of no relationship was tested using a standard multiple regression. The criterion variable was perceived stress, and the three predictor variables were rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism. The multiple regression revealed that all three independent variables were statistically significant predictors of perceived stress. Therefore, the null hypothesis was rejected.

This study shows that as positive reappraisal and optimism increase, perceived stress decreases. This means that reappraising stressful situations in a positive light and having an optimistic outlook on life, ameliorates stress. This study also shows that as rumination increases, so does stress. This means that dwelling on the negative aspects of stressful situations exacerbates the experience of stress.

Findings

The first and second hypotheses of this study were confirmed. In the observed sample of 147 early childhood teachers in Lutheran schools, positive reappraisal and optimism were shown to be negative predictors of perceived stress, and rumination was a positive predictor of perceived stress. The regression model comprised of rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism was statistically significant (F= 30.009 p < .001). This confirms that the amount of variance of perceived stress explained by the predictor variables was more than could be expected by chance. The Adjusted R Square value of .37 means that the proportion of variance in perceived stress accounted for by the three predictor variables (rumination, positive reappraisal and optimism) was 37%.

The amount of common variance explained by the predictors is substantial, especially when considering that factors that cause stress are endless and vary considerably from person to person. (Seaward 2011). Lazarus (1984) believes that the accumulation of daily life hassles causes stress. Hassles are defined as “daily interactions with the environment that are essentially negative” (Seaward 2011 p 14). This translates into a vast number of stressors.

Lazarus believes that “cognition is both a necessary and sufficient condition of emotion” (Lazarus 1991). Appraisals are “the heart of the emotion process” (Lazarus and Lazarus 1994). This underscores the relationship between the environment and the way individuals appraise it during stress. Since the three predictor variables are cognitive, the 37% of explained variance found in this study confirms that cognitive factors play an important role in both the alleviation (positive reappraisal and optimism) and the exacerbation (rumination) of perceived stress. In the experience of stress, cognitive appraisals are determinative.

Optimism made the most meaningful contribution to the model. This finding confirms the literature’s emphasis on the protective features of optimism against stress (Grote et al., 2007; Solberg Nes and Segerstrom 2006). If optimism were merely a personality trait, only those with an optimistic disposition could benefit from it. However, Seligman establishes that optimism can be learned by changing people’s explanatory style. The fact that optimism can be acquired through cognitive discipline makes the findings of this study heartening. The possibilities and benefits of optimism are available to all teachers. Human behavior is controlled by the explanations people make for why things happen (Seligman 2006). Therefore, showing teachers how to dispute pessimistic thoughts is worth considering, as it has great potential to alleviate stress.

Attribution theory asserts that the explanations people give to stress are far more powerful than the triggers themselves. Teachers must become adept at identifying the events that trigger stress, their own explanations about the trigger and the results of those explanations (Seligman 2006). The key to mitigate stressful experiences is to replace permanent, universal and external appraisals with temporary, specific and internal ones (Seligman 2006). This process replaces thoughts like I always end up yelling with I lost my temper today. Believing that “the causes of bad events are temporary” enhances optimism (Seligman 2006). Thoughts like Preschoolers are so selfish can be replaced by Johnny is struggling with disruptive behaviors. Appraising events as specific, prevents teachers from acting as though a particular struggle affects all aspects of teaching. Lastly, thoughts like I’m a horrible teacher must be substituted by I need more training in this area. Blaming circumstances rather than themselves, protects teachers from feeling worthless and talentless (Seligman 2006). Rumination consists of negative thoughts replayed in the mind even when immediate environmental demands are absent (Ray, Wilhelm and Gross 2008). By learning the skill and acquiring the discipline to refute distorted thoughts as previously illustrated, teachers will not only learn optimism, but will also diminish ruminating tendencies.

Recommendations

It is recommended that early childhood administrators increase their knowledge and practice of protective measures against stress. This includes being aware of the important role that appraisals (thoughts) play in stress. It could also involve learning the benefits of optimism and how to become more optimistic by refuting distorted thoughts. Once administrators appreciate these concepts and their application, they can facilitate this kind of learning in early childhood centers.

It is recommended that early childhood teachers engage in learning situations that teach them how to cope with stress effectively. This includes learning the important role of appraisals and the benefits of optimism. It is advised that teachers recognize the destructive outcomes precipitated by rumination, and learn to stop rumination by replacing negative dwelling with thoughts that look for the “silver lining” in stressful situations. Scheduling regular times for self-reflection can help teachers to understand themselves, their negative emotions and their coping mechanisms (Kaiser and Rasminsky 2012).  Journaling has been found to increase emotion regulation and positive reappraisal (Kremenitzer 2005; Kremenitzer and Miller 2008).

It is recommended that teacher educators increase awareness of the stressful and emotional nature of teaching. Research confirms that training early childhood educators makes a positive difference (Berk 1985; Arnett 1989). However, teachers receive little training about emotions and on how to cope with them. Brackett et al. (2010) assert that “training programs focusing on developing emotion regulation skills might result in a number of favorable outcomes for teachers” (p 415). Teacher educators can emphasize the important role that appraisals play in the experience of stress. Additionally, the benefits of optimism and how to become more optimistic by refuting distorted thoughts can be taught in the classroom. The benefits of developing a reflective practice can be affirmed by providing opportunities to discuss and journal about stress and coping strategies.

Conclusion

This study shows that as levels of positive reappraisal and optimism increase, perceived stress decreases. This means that reappraising stressful situations in a positive light and having an optimistic outlook on life ameliorates stress. This study also shows that as rumination increases, perceived stress increases as well. This means that dwelling on the negative aspects of stressful situations exacerbates the experience of stress.

Acknowledgments:

The author wishes to thank Dr. Ed Grube and the 147 early childhood teachers from the Lutheran Education Association who made this study possible.

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Author Information

Sudi Kate Gliebe, Ph.D. received her doctoral degree in Childhood Education and Foundations of Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX where she also completed the Masters in Christian Education. Research for this project is made possible through a partnership with the Lutheran Education Association. Consistent with the Great Commission, Christ-followers in science, education and other fields of study have the privilege of submitting their endeavors to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Dr. Gliebe may be contacted at sudste@hotmail.com.

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