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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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Higher Levels of Stress May Reduce Fertility in Women, says Study

The researchers did not find an association between men's PSS score and the likelihood of conceiving

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Stress reduces fertility in women, but not in men: Study. Pixabay

Higher levels of stress can lower conception or fertility in women but it does not affect men, finds a study.

The researchers, from Boston University in the US, found that the association between higher levels of stress and lower levels of conception could be due to decreased intercourse frequency, increased partner stress discordance and higher levels of menstrual cycle irregularity.

“Although this study does not definitely prove that stress causes infertility, it does provide evidence supporting the integration of mental health care in preconception guidance and care,” said Amelia Wesselink, Research Assistant at the varsity.

For the new study, published in American Journal of Epidemiology, the team analysed 4,769 women and 1,272 men who did not have a history of infertility and had not been trying to conceive for more than six menstrual cycles.

The team measured perceived stress using the 10-item version of the stress scale (PSS) to assess how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overwhelming individuals find their life circumstances.

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Representational image. Pixabay

On average, baseline PSS scores were about 1 point higher among women than men and the average follow-up PSS scores among women remained fairly constant over the 12 months.

The findings revealed that women with PSS scores of at least 25 were 13 per cent less likely to conceive than women with PSS scores under 10.

This association was stronger among women who had been trying to conceive for no more than two menstrual cycles than among women who had been trying for three or more cycles before enrolling. The association was also stronger among women under 35 years.

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The researchers did not find an association between men’s PSS score and the likelihood of conceiving.

However, couples in the study were about 25 per cent less likely to conceive when the man’s PSS score was under 10 and the women’s was 20 or higher, said the researchers. (IANS)