Research has demonstrated that excessive stress reactivity responses are associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and psychopathology. Thus, it is important to identify potential protective factors, such as trait mindfulness or trait self-compassion, that may buffer against excessive stress reactivity.
Undergraduate college students (n = 137) completed online self-report measures related to trait mindfulness and trait self-compassion, overall stress reactivity, and several subtypes of stress reactivity (i.e., prolonged reactivity, reactivity to work overload, reactivity to social evaluation, reactivity to social conflict, and reactivity to failure). Multiple regressions were employed with overall stress reactivity and subtypes of stress reactivity as the outcome variables.
After controlling for gender and state stress, self-compassion was significantly negatively associated with perceived stress reactivity (ΔR2 = .12), as was mindfulness (ΔR2 = .04). Post hoc analyses also demonstrated that self-compassion accounted for significant variance across all but one type of stress reactivity, and it accounted for more variance than mindfulness for most stress reactivity types. Gender emerged as a significant moderator of the association between self-compassion and reactivity to social evaluation, such that the negative association between self-compassion and reactivity to social evaluation was stronger for women than for men.
Results warrant future investigations into whether self-compassion interventions can reduce stress reactivity, particularly since existing research demonstrates that self-compassion can be cultivated and thus is modifiable.