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In Pressions — January 7th 2021

Fostering personal resilience is a vital goal of much occupational health psychology.

A recent study by Falon and colleagues in press at the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology approached this issue from the lens of self-reflection training.

The self-reflection model they rely on poses that resilience can be strengthened through a mixture of practices that promote the self-awareness, self-evalution, and self-development of one’s values, goals, coping strategies in the face of adversity.

A potential hurdle to this model the authors anticipate is the self-absorption paradox (Trapnell & Campbell, 1999), whereby dwelling on one’s self can improve the accuracy of self-knowledge while coming at a cost of psychological well-being — a phenomenon often exhibited by individuals who experience depression.

However, the authors emphasized that the self-reflection model involves constructing solutions, being curious, creating time-boundaries, and having a desire to learn from experience, as opposed to brooding on the stressors one experiences.

In their clustered-randomized controlled trial, the authors compared two groups as they went through stressful military training: an experimental self-reflection resilience training group and a control training group.

The self-reflection resilience training group engaged in weekly guided self-reflection journaling for 15 minutes each for 5 weeks, while the control group completed a communication skills seminar for 15 minutes each for 5 weeks.

Results indicated a clearer picture for depression and stress than anxiety: depression and stress were stable among the experiemental group in the short- and long-term (immediately following training and 3 months after training), whereas they increased across both for the control group; anxiety increased for the experiemental group in the short-term and increased for the control group in the long-term.

Importantly, the authors were able to show that self-reflection was indirectly related to less depression, anxiety, and stress in the long-term by decreasing the tendency to ruminate.

A key “in pression” from this study appears to be how individuals reflect on the stressors they experience and the approaches they take in dealing with or overcoming this adversity. This adds more evidence to the idea that it is important to frame adversity as an opportunity for growth and engaging in self-reflective journaling can be a useful way of doing this.

In Pression posts: brief summaries from one or multiple articles “In Press” at leading journals.

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