Instructor helps students use stress to their advantage

Jennifer Wegmann's research focuses on "stress mindset" in the college population. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Jennifer Wegmann's research focuses on
Jennifer Wegmann's research focuses on "stress mindset" in the college population. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

It’s no secret that stress can impact you negatively, but what if you could use stress to your advantage?

Jennifer Wegmann ’94, MA ’01, PhD ’18, lecturer in the Health and Wellness Studies Department of Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing, takes a new approach to successful stress management for her students by changing the way they view stress in their lives. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of stress, Wegmann examines the role it plays and how it can enhance the mindset and improve well-being.

Her audio series, Resilience: The New Science of Mastering Stress and Living Well, teaches students how to cope with stressors and avoid creating unwanted stress. The series includes 12 lectures, from learning what stress is to how your personality affects how you experience stress.

“We teach our classes with a stress-is-enhancing mindset,” Wegmann said. “We’re taking a different approach to stress because we all know the horrible things that stress can do to us; though, research also shows that stress can be positive and there are benefits to it.”

Her teachings differ from other stress-management audio series since she doesn’t focus on stopping stress, but teaches students to use stress to their advantage and manage stress in a way that makes them more productive. This creates what she calls resilience.

“It’s not a traditional stress-management course in that we’re not focusing on eliminating stress or reducing stress through techniques like yoga,” she said “But, we cultivate resilience through thinking about the ways we cope and how we can change our mindset.”

Wegmann’s research focuses on stress mindset in the college population. “I’m really interested in knowing how personality interacts with ‘stress mindset’ and how that influences student well-being,” she said.

Wegmann incorporates everything she learns in her health and wellness classes so can see the benefits of stress-enhancing mindset in real time.

Through student cooperation, Wegmann showed that students could inspire change over the course of a semester, and then had the empirical evidence to back the hypothesis up. “We’re helping students improve their well-being, that’s what we do every day. That’s our mission,” she said.

Wegmann has studied topics such as body image and eating disorders, though her primary focus is successful stress management.

“I’m really digging my research on stress because I see the changes happening in people when we shift their mindset, and I see the benefits of it,” Wegmann said. “I know how powerful the mind is, so I know that what we believe becomes our reality.”

Wegmann’s passion for helping her students landed her a spot on the Princeton Review’s Best 300 College Professors list in 2012, which sparked the beginning of the audio series.

“The audio series is designed to challenge people to think about their behaviors, thoughts and attitudes and how they can shift those to illuminate unnecessary stress in their lives, and utilize stress to be healthy,” Wegmann said.

Similar to her on-campus lectures, she provides listeners with tools to identify their stress mindset and help them create resilience. In addition to the courses and the audio series, Wegmann frequently speaks on Binghamton local radio station WNBF for a segment called Wellness Mondays.

“When you change your attitude about stress, you have the opportunity to change the outcomes of the stress in your life,” she said. “You can be happier, healthier and more productive; not in spite of your stress but through your stress. You can be the captain of your own ship.”

Posted in: Health, Decker