Stress Management Strategies For Students: The Immediate Effects Of Yoga, Humor, And Reading On Stress

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Denise Rizzolo
Genevieve Pinto Zipp
Doreen Stiskal
Susan Simpkins


stress, humor, yoga, reading


Background: Health science programs can be demanding and difficult for many students, leading to high levels of stress.  High levels of stress can have a negative effect on students and subsequently the practicing clinician.  Research suggests that yoga, humor, and reading are simple, effective methods to help reduce stress. To date no research compares the acute effects of yoga, humor, and reading in doctor of physical therapy and master’s of occupational therapy students.  Additionally, it is undetermined if one technique is more effective than the other in reducing stress.  Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the immediate effects of yoga, humor, and reading on acute stress in students enrolled in doctor of physical therapy and master’s of occupational therapy programs. It was hypothesized that following a 30-minute yoga, humor, and reading intervention session, students would demonstrate a reduction of stress on the Daily Stress Inventory (DSI) and a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate. Subjects: Twenty-two students from the School of Graduate Medical Education Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program (n=14) and Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy (OT) program (n=8) volunteered to participate in the study.  Methods: At baseline subjects completed a demographic survey.  All subjects participated in a yoga, humor, and reading intervention session, once a week on the same day and at the same time for a total of three weeks. Intervention sessions were randomized and counterbalanced across subjects. Before and after each intervention session, stress was measured using the Daily Stress Inventory, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DSP), and heart rate (HR).  Results: A repeated one-way ANOVA indicated that all three interventions significantly decreased  SBP, DBP, and HR and no one intervention was more effective than the other in reducing these dependent variables (p = . 058, p = .315  and p= .180 respectively).  There was no significant main effect or interaction of the yoga, humor, or reading intervention session on the DSI scores (p = .362). Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that one 30-minute session of yoga, humor, and reading had similar effects in decreasing acute stress in health science students. This finding is important since these interventions resulted in a significant reduction in stress in a relatively short amount of time, allowing educators to begin to consider different stress management strategies to offer to students.


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