Reframing

Work with your students to see the positives of academic challenges to help them learn to better embrace learning and manage stress.

Reframing means to change the way something is expressed or viewed. It involves purposefully changing our point of view (and our mindset).

Reframing can be helpful in changing student views of academic challenges from being negative to positive. This can help them self-regulate, manage stressful situations, and embrace learning.

Many people don't know that stress responses can be measured. In a Stanford university study (Crum et al., 2017) they used saliva samples to detect hormones (e.g. cortisol) and found that by embracing stress and viewing stress as being enhancing rather than weakening or debilitating your body is better positioned to grow and thrive in response to stressful situations. If you have a negative stress mindset your body may not grow and benefit as much from the stressful experiences, and in life we are constantly facing stressful experiences.

So shifting our mindset can help us take advantage of these experiences. This doesn't mean that we should go out looking for more stress in our lives, nor does it mean that we should avoid unnecessary stress. What it does mean is that, when we are facing stressful situations, especially stressful academic situations, we should find ways to embrace them.

Reframing allows us to change our stress mindset and shift from the avoid stress mindset, to the embrace stress mindset. Reframing (also called cognitive reappraisal) is a method of managing stress that works by helping us modify our beliefs about stress. These modifications can occur even through short interventions. For example, one research study showed that watching three 3-minute video clips about the enhancing nature of stress over the course of 1-week improves employees work performance, psychological symptoms, and general health, compared to those who watched videos about the debilitating effects of stress or did not watch any videos (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013).

In your classes you can, for example, try to reflect on both the enhancing and debilitating stress mindset throughout the school year and its implications for academic achievement and well-being. You can try to reframe stress as the body’s way of gathering energy needed to meet the demands of the situation. For example, when students are facing presentations or tests, you can help them interpret the sensations they often associate with anxiousness as excitement. Rather than feeling anxious about failure, help students feel excited about showing what they can do. This approach can be reinforced with minimal strategies, such as saying simple messages (e.g., telling students to “try to get excited”) or encouraging positive self-talk (e.g., instructing students to say “I am excited” to themselves) when nervous.

References

Crum, A. J., Akinola, M., Martin, A., & Fath, S. (2017). The role of stress mindset in shaping cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to challenging and threatening stress. Anxiety, stress, & coping, 30(4), 379-395.

Crum, A. J., Salovey, P., & Achor, S. (2013). Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response. Journal of personality and social psychology, 104(4), 716.

Hughes, J. S., Gourley, M. K., Madson, L., & Blanc, K. L. (2011). Stress and coping activity: Reframing negative thoughts. Teaching of Psychology, 38(1), 36-39.

Liu, J. J. W., Reed, M., & Vickers, K. (2019). Reframing the individual stress response: Balancing our knowledge of stress to improve responsivity to stressors. Stress and Health, 35(5), 607-616.

The Science of Stress & Self-Regulation. Open online course (unit 5): https://tidex.upf.edu/courses/course-v1:Spotlighters+SP1+2021_1/about/

Explore and reuse the case study
Explore all reframing cases