Dynamic Stress Management: Self-Help through Holistic System Design

Dynamic Stress Management: Self-Help through Holistic System Design

Åsa Smedberg (Stockholm University, Sweden) and Hélène Sandmark (Mälardalen University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-866-8.ch009
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Abstract

Different kinds of applications for self-help are available on the Internet today. Some aim to intervene with users’ life patterns such as negative stress exposure. It is not always an easy task to manage stressful life situations and to develop and maintain healthy living. It involves learning how to balance perceived demands from working and personal life, and to question underlying thoughts and beliefs. E-health communities can assist in this process through continuous interactions between community members. However, previous studies have shown that combining knowledge of health experts and the experiences of peers can create a good synergy. The question is how these findings can be applied to the area of stress management. In this chapter, the authors present a web-based self-help system for stress management based on a holistic view of actors and their different types of support. The system offers the user information in the form of research and real life stories, practical exercises (both text- and video-based), and the opportunity to interact with health experts and peers, all in an integrated way.
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Background

It is becoming increasingly common for people to connect to and communicate with others through the many open communities on the Internet. Especially in the health field, the online communities as well as the visitors of these have rapidly increased in number during the latest years. Whatever health goals people have, they can find like-minded people to collaborate with. Through the online communities people can give and receive support, ask questions, vent problems, share experiences and exchange information and advice.

The use of the Internet has shown to enhance patients' and citizens' knowledge and also their confidence in relation to health care (Fox, Ward & O'Rourke 2005; Mehra, Merkel & Bishop, 2004). It is now easier to find information and advice from several sources (Preece, 2000; Ellis & Bruckman, 2001; Maloney-Krichmar & Preece, 2005). The public's use of various medical sources on the Internet has made people find alternative medical advice or information on issues that their doctors cannot handle so well (Kling, 2000). While surgeons can be very good at operating, it is not certain that they are equally good at explaining how the aftercare and rehabilitation work. Such a gap can be filled by skilled and experienced people who share information and experiences on the Internet, for example in online health communities. A general characteristic of online communities is that they allow groups and individuals with common interests to meet virtually to collaborate, share resources and support each other (Preece, 2000). The online communication can help people widen their social circles (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991). Patients included in the self-help groups on the Internet have also expressed that they feel in touch with other patients as an important aid to cope with their diseases (Josefsson, 2007; Walther, Pingree, Hawkins & Buller, 2005).

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