Friday December 14, 2018

Stressing Over Work? A New Study Says Expressive Writing Can help Brain Relax and Perform Tasks Efficiently

Expressive writing can not only help individuals process past traumas or stressful event but also prepare for stressful tasks in the future

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Stressing over tasks is not going to help achieve targets. But turns out writing about it can. (Representational Image ), Pixabay
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New York, September 15, 2017 : If the anxiety of performing an upcoming task is giving you stress, simply writing about your feelings may help you perform the task more efficiently, suggests new research.

The research – published online in the journal Psychophysiology — provides the first neural evidence for the benefits of expressive writing, said lead author Hans Schroder, a doctoral student in psychology at Michigan State University (MSU) in the US.

“Worrying takes up cognitive resources; it’s kind of like people who struggle with worry are constantly multitasking — they are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress their worries at the same time,” Schroder said.

“Our findings show that if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient,” Schroder said.

For the study, college students identified as chronically anxious through a validated screening measure completed a computer-based “flanker task” that measured their response accuracy and reaction times.

Before the task, about half of the participants wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the upcoming task for eight minutes. The other half, in the control condition, wrote about what they did the day before.

While the two groups performed at about the same level for speed and accuracy, the expressive-writing group performed the flanker task more efficiently, meaning they used fewer brain resources, measured with electroencephalography, or EEG, in the process.

While much previous research has shown that expressive writing can help individuals process past traumas or stressful events, the current study suggests the same technique can help people — especially worriers — prepare for stressful tasks in the future.

“Expressive writing makes the mind work less hard on upcoming stressful tasks, which is what worriers often get ‘burned out’ over, their worried minds working harder and hotter,” Jason Moser, Associate Professor at MSU.

“This technique takes the edge off their brains so they can perform the task with a ‘cooler head,'” Moser added. (IANS)

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Human Body May Not Cope With Evening Stress, Study Reveals

The team first measured the diurnal rhythm of salivary cortisol levels from the volunteers and then exposed one group to stress test in the morning, and another to the evening

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Your body may not cope with evening stress: Study. Pixabay

Human bodies which experience stress in the evening release less cortisol — the primary stress hormone in humans — compared to stressful events in the morning, and thus may pose vulnerabilities, according to a new research.

The study, led by medical physiologist Yujiro Yamanaka at Japan’s Hokkaido University, the body’s central system reacts less strongly to acute psychological stress in the evening than it does in the morning, suggesting possible vulnerability to stressful events in the evening.

“Our study suggests a possible vulnerability to stress in the evening. However, it is important to take into account each individual’s unique biological clock and the time of day when assessing the response to stressors and preventing them,” Yamanaka commented.

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology Reports, explored a small group of young and healthy volunteers with normal work hours and sleep habits to find out if the “hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal” (HPA) axis responds differently to acute psychological stress according to the time of day.

The HPA axis connects the central nervous and endocrine systems of the body. Cortisol is released for several hours when the HPA axis is activated by a stressful event.

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Representational image. Pixabay

This helps provide the body with energy in the face of a perceived need for fight or flight. Cortisol levels are also regulated by a master circadian clock in the brain and are normally high in the morning and low in the evening.

The team first measured the diurnal rhythm of salivary cortisol levels from the volunteers and then exposed one group to stress test in the morning, and another to the evening.

Also Read- Millions Of Urban Children Worse Than Rural People: UNICEF

The researchers found that salivary cortisol levels increased significantly in the volunteers that took the stress test in the morning while no such response was observed in those that took the test in the evening.

“Our body can respond to the morning stress event by activating the HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system, but it needs to respond to evening stress event by activating the sympathetic nervous system only,” Yamanaka said. (IANS)