Tag Archives: Stress management

Evidence-Based Stress Management – Social Support – Part 3 of 5

George Vaillant

George Vaillant

Personal relationships and social support have been shown to buffer the negative effects of stress inside and outside the workplace, according to George Vaillant, then of Harvard, with colleagues SE MeyerKenneth Mukamal, and Stephen Soldz.

Kenneth Mukamal

Kenneth Mukamal

They evaluated data from a 50-year prospective multivariate study of 223 men and found that engaging with others during a stressful event improves mood, but withdrawing from others increases anxiety, depression, and stress.
In this sample, friends seemed more important than closeness to spouse and to children for sustained physical health.

Lawrence Fisher

Lawrence Fisher

Social  relationships that buffer stress and anxiety include family closeness and connectedness, problem-focused family coping skills, clear family organization, explicit decision making, and direct communication  according to University of California, San Francisco’s Lawrence Fisher and Karen Weihs of University of Arizona.

Stephen Soldz

Stephen Soldz

In contrast, lack of social connections can increase both stress and susceptibility to disease agents due to alterations in the neuroendocrine system, according to Vaillant and team.

Karen Weihs

Karen Weihs

Undermining relationship characteristics include hostility, criticism, and blame within the family; family perfectionism and rigidity; and psychopathology, according to Fisher and Weihs.

Stress-reducing social support can come from animal companions, according to SUNY Buffalo’s Karen AllenBarbara Shykoff, and Joseph Izzo, who demonstrated that “nonevaluative social support” from animal companions reduces blood pressure in response to mental stress.

Joseph Izzo

Joseph Izzo

Forty-eight hypertensive volunteers were assigned to random comparison groups:  One group had animal companions in addition to an anti-hypertensive medication (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor or ACE inhibitor) and the other group received medication only.

Before participants received medication, volunteerss in both groups had similar physical responses to stress, measured by blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity.

Allen, Shykoff, and Izzo monitored these physical indicators after experimental mental stressors (serial subtraction and speech), compared with baseline measures.
They found that although medication alone lowers resting blood pressure, social support from animal companions was associated with lower blood pressure in response to mental stress.

Mark Ellenbogen

Mark Ellenbogen

Like some other stress management recommendations, this research-based finding requires willingness, and commitment to engage with others when it may seem easier and more appealing to be alone.

Oxytocin may promote seeking social support when experiencing stress and the impulse to withdraw from others, shown in research by Concordia University’s Mark Ellenbogen and Christopher Cardoso.

Christopher Cardoso

Christopher Cardoso

They demonstrated that oxytocin can increase a person’s trust in others following social rejection.
Volunteers received oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo, then experienced experimentally-induced social rejection when confederates challenged, interrupted, and ignored the participants.

Volunteers who inhaled oxytocin before the experimental social rejection and who reported greater distress on mood and personality questionnaires also said they generally invest greater trust in other people.
In contrast, oxytocin had no effect on trust among volunteers who were not bothered by the evoked social rejection.

These findings suggest that oxytocin may help individuals experiencing stress access the benefits of social support and may become an additional stress management option.

-*How can workplaces enable social support for employees experiencing stress?

RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Vitamins, Probiotics – Part 1 of 5

The majority of U.S. adults experience significant anxiety and stress each day, often compounded by the use of multiple electronic devices, cognitive overload, and “social comparison” when participating in social media.

Amy Arnsten

Amy Arnsten

General stress and anxiety can negatively affect work performance because it can undermine prefrontal cognitive abilities and eventually lead to architectural changes in prefrontal dendrites, according to Yale’s Amy Arnsten.

John Medina of Seattle University concurred, noting that prefrontal cortex structural damage occurs when catecholamines and glucocorticoids are released during stress experiences.

John Medina

John Medina

He amplified Arnsten’s findings by linking these substances to declines in processing language and math, working memory, and attention regulation as well as to increased fear conditioning and memory for negative emotional states.

Stress management recommendations abound, and this series of five blog posts reviews research evidence supporting suggestions that usually require commitment and willpower, such as eliminating multi-tasking and reducing internet usage.

Michael Roizen

Michael Roizen

If reducing media usage is an unappealing prospect, heavy users can cite  Michael Roizen‘s findings at Cleveland Clinic, that the internet can be a vehicle for stress management.
He reported that internet-based stress management programs are effective.

Two familiar nutritional suggestions have been reconfirmed in recent research:  Include vitamins as well as probiotics (beneficial bacteria) found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, soft cheese, miso, sourdough bread, sour pickles or supplements.

Bonnie Kaplan

Bonnie Kaplan

University of Calgary’s Bonnie Kaplan validated claims that vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance mental energy, manage stress, enhance mood and reduce fatigue for those prone to anxiety and depression as well as for healthy adults.

Kaplan found that among 97 adults with diagnosed mood disorders, higher vitamin and mineral intake over three days were significantly correlated with enhanced mood, better mental functioning and reduced stress.

Sara-Jayne Long

Sara-Jayne Long

David Benton

David Benton

Similarly, Sara-Jayne Long and David Benton of University of Swansea showed that people who took a multivitamin pill for a month experienced a 68 percent reduction in anxiety and perceived stress, but not depression, fatigue or confusion, in their meta-analytic review.
Supplements containing high doses of B vitamins may be more effective in improving mood states.

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch of UCLA and 10 collaborators demonstrated the cognitive benefits of eating foods containing probiotics.
Tillisch and team reported that women who regularly consumed probiotics in yogurt showed altered brain function in managing stress and anxiety both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

Participants were women between ages 18 and 55, divided into three groups who consumed different dietary products:

  • Yogurt containing a mix of several probiotics twice a day for four weeks
  • Dairy product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • No fermented milk product

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans before and after the four-week study and found that women who consumed the probiotic yogurt were better able to modulate experimentally-induced anxiety and stress.

Participants showed decreased activity in the insula when they viewed a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces and matched them to other faces showing the same emotions.
In addition, volunteers had somatosensory cortex activity during the emotional reactivity task, demonstrating better stress coping.

During the resting brain scan, participants in each group showed differing activity patterns in the brainstem’s periaqueductal grey area and the prefrontal cortex, confirming the impact of dietary change on signals to and from the intestine to the brain.

Probiotics were associated with enhanced stress management, with the benefits popularized by journalist Michael Pollan.

For those unenthusiastic about foods containing probiotics, supplements may complement vitamins in a stress-containment program.

-*How effective have you found probiotics, vitamins, and reduced internet usage to manage stress?
-*What approaches do you use to initiate and sustain habit change for stress management?

RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

    Follow-share-like www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+:
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

Compassion Training Surpasses Empathy Training to Reduce Stress

Susanne Leiberg

Susanne Leiberg

Compassion training has positive effects on mood and health, and University of Zurich’s Susanne Leiberg, Olga Klimecki, Tania Singer demonstrated that it can actually change the brain’s functioning, and related emotions and behaviors.

Olga Klimecki

Olga Klimecki

Klimecki, Leiberg, Singer, now at Max Planck Institute collaborated with Claus Lamm of University of Vienna to examine the impact of compassion training on brain activity in response to observing another person’s distress.

Tania Singer

Tania Singer

A frequent experience in daily life, most people experience distress, or empathy, when observing another’s distress, due to activation of the brain’s “mirror” neurons.

Claus Lamm

Claus Lamm

In contrast, compassion is concern with others’ suffering coupled with the desire to alleviate the other person’s pain, and can exist without actually experiencing the other persons’ distress through empathy.

The researchers evaluated whether personal distress be transformed into compassion, a useful coping strategy for those in health care professions, and in caretaking roles.
They developed the Socio-affective Video Task to measure neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others.

Most volunteers experienced initial empathic negative feelings and activations in the brain’s pain empathy areas, the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex, when they observed the distress of others.
However, the volunteers who completed compassion training experienced less negative emotion, and more positive feelings when witnessing others in distress, related to increased activity in brain areas associated with positive emotion and affiliation:  the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area.

In contrast, control group volunteers who received memory training did not have more positive emotions, and participants in empathy training actually experienced more negative feelings.

The studies suggest that compassion training can be an effective coping strategy when observing or supporting others in distress, and the mental discipline of compassion training can increase positive emotion more effectively than memory training or empathy training.

Besides changing the brain and related feelings, compassion training triggered more “prosocial” behavior, including helping and cooperating.

This researcher team developed the Zurich Prosocial Game (ZPG) to validly assess helping behaviors in light of reciprocity, helping cost, and distress cues influences.
Volunteers who had received short-term compassion training increased their helping behaviors in the game, but this was not true for volunteers who received short-term memory training.

Charles Raison

Charles Raison

Emory University’s Charles Raison advocated compassion training as a better day to deal with “enemies,” whether globally or interpersonally.
He collaborated with Emory colleagues including Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, who developed Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) and Sheetal Reddy of Atlanta’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to evaluate the impact of compassion training with youth in foster care.

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi

Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi

The team considered whether these participants, who had suffered maltreatment, experienced improved psychosocial functioning after twice-weekly Cognitive-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) for six weeks compared with young people assigned to the “wait-list-no treatment” group.

Researchers found no difference in measured functioning, but young people who practiced compassion more frequently reported greater hopefulness and ability to deal with life stressors, and decreased generalized anxiety.

These findings suggest that compassion training can improve stress management, mood, and cooperation.

-*How have you seen compassion training affect feelings and behaviors?

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Natural Environments Enhance “Vitality” and Reduce Stress

Vigor, enthusiasm, positive emotions, and calm energy are characteristics of “vitality,” and have been associated with improved health outcomes and stress management.

Richard Ryan

Richard Ryan

The subjective experience of “vitality” can be increased being outside, particularly in a natural environment, according to  by University of Rochester’s Richard Ryan and Louis Mistretta , Netta Weinstein, now of University of Essex,  McGill’s Jessey Bernstein and  Kirk Warren Brown  of Virginia Commonwealth University with Concordia’s  Marylène Gagné.

Netta Weinstein

Netta Weinstein

The team asked volunteers to complete surveys and diaries, in addition to participating in experiments comparing reactions to being outdoors vs indoors during physical activity and viewing nature scenes vs buildings on volunteers’ subjective “vitality.”

Jessey Bernstein

Jessey Bernstein

These five studies suggest the positive impact of being outdoors and around natural elements on subjective vitality, even when the effects of physical activities or social interactions are controlled.

Kirk Warren Brown

Kirk Warren Brown

Most office workers can attest to the team’s findings, that visiting nature has restorative, energizing effects, and enables a fresh perspective on challenges.
Nevertheless, most office workers have difficulty leaving work in leaving climate-controlled environments for much-needed breaks.

Marylene Gagne

Marylene Gagne

Weinstein and Ryan extended these findings with University of Essex’s Andrew Przybylski, and found that besides providing “vitality”, energy, and stress management, volunteers who were “immersed in natural settings” reported more caring, generous attitudes toward others.
They valued their aspirations to help and connect with others and make generous decisions more than self-interested aspirations for financial success and admiration.

Andrew Przybylski

Andrew Przybylski

Weinstein and team suggested that viewing and experiencing nature and natural settings increases individuals’ sense of personal autonomy to pursue interests while reducing pressures, fears, and social expectations.

These studies suggest the importance of scheduled outdoor breaks from work activities, and thoughtful urban planning that incorporates green spaces and natural environments:  “…full contact with nature can have humanizing effects….to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.”

-*How do you integrate exposure to outdoor and natural setting with your work day?

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Cognitive Value of Handwriting in the Digital Era

-*Is handwriting passé in the Digital Era?
-*Has keyboarding eclipsed pen and paper?

Virginia Berninger

Virginia Berninger

University of Washington’s Virginia Berninger with Robert Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia argue that handwriting provides valuable cognitive training, and advantages in expressive speed, fluency, and productivity.

Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott

Berninger’s team conducted brain scans and found that the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions are more activated when handwriting letters than when typing.

This change in brain activation occurs because handwriting letters generally requires more than one sequential stroke, rather than selecting a letter key during typing, according to Berninger.

Berninger’s studies demonstrated students in grades two, four and six wrote more words more quickly and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Karin James

Karin James

Karin Harman James’s research using an fMRI at Indiana University confirms the benefits of handwriting.

Isabel Gauthier

Isabel Gauthier

With Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University, she showed alphabet letters to children before and after they received letter-learning instruction.

Participants who practiced printing by hand showed more enhanced and “adult-like” the neural activity than those who had simply looked at letters.
James suggested that adults may show similar neural activity benefits when learning a new graphically-different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry.

Marieke Longcamp

Marieke Longcamp

Université de la Méditerranée’s Marieke Longcamp,  Céline Boucard, Jean-Claude Gilhodes and Jean-Luc Velay  with Jean-Luc Anton, Muriel Roth, and Bruno Nazarian of Hôpital de La Timone, Marseille, France demonstrated other neural benefits of handwriting: Movements memorized when learning how to handwrite enabled adults to more effectively recognize graphic shapes and letters.

Steve Graham

Steve Graham

Steve Graham, now of Arizona State University, with Michael Hebert, now of University of Nebraska, demonstrated that handwriting is still associated with improved classroom performance, even when most classrooms and students type on computers.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

Besides enhancing academic achievement, writing can be a coping tool, according to University of Chicago’s Sian Beilock.
She reported that bright students managed test anxiety by writing about their anxieties to “off-load” them.

Jill Mateo

Jill Mateo

Beilock collaborated with Andrew Mattarella-Micke, Jill Mateo, Neil Albert and Katherine Foster of University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University’s Marci DeCaro, Robin Thomas of Miami University, and Megan Kozak of Pace University to study students as they derived solutions to challenging math problems.

Robin Thomas

Robin Thomas

The team confirmed that those who performed well on the math problems said that they did not have math anxiety, whereas low performers said they were anxious about math performance.
A less expected finding was that both high performers and low performers had the stress hormone, cortisol, in their saliva.

Although both groups experienced measurable stress, the performance outcome was mediated by the calm or anxious “mindset,” suggesting that performance can be enhanced through managing anxiety and expectations.
Writing by hand helped participants boost performance by reducing anxiety and freeing  working memory to focus on the math problems.

P. Murali Doraiswamy

P. Murali Doraiswamy

Handwriting practice may be valuable for adults as well as children, according to P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, who suggested that handwriting practice may be a useful treatment to stabilize cognitive losses in aging.

 -*How often do you use handwriting and printing instead of typing on a keyboard?

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