Posts Tagged Stress Response

A Simple Strategy to Let Go of Painful Thoughts and Feelings


English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one wants to experience pain.  Whether it’s physical, emotional or mental, once we’ve encountered pain, it’s natural to want it to end.

But, if you pay attention, you will likely find that there are certain emotionally or mentally painful circumstances that you get caught in.  Maybe it’s the angry thoughts about someone who has hurt you or pessimistic thinking about troubles you have faced.

Each of us has a tendency to get caught in certain types of thinking that prolongs painful emotions.  Instead of enjoying a relaxing evening, we might find ourselves ruminating on something hurtful someone said or rather than solving a difficult problem and moving on, you may find you are again and again drawn to thoughts about how unfair your circumstances are.

Sometimes it seems as if the mind just wants to hold on to these painful thoughts and circumstances.  Even as we try to get rid of unpleasant thoughts, we may find ourselves rethinking and reliving painful situations.

Try this:

  • Take a situation that you often find yourself either avoiding and pushing away or painful stuck in.  It may be a situation in which you are ruminating and worried or one that you are fearful of and want to avoid dealing with.
  • When you encounter that situation or thoughts and feelings about that situation, don’t attempt to engage in thinking about it and, at the same time, don’t try to push your thoughts and feelings away.
  • Focus instead on noticing your experience.  You might say to yourself “I’m thinking angry thoughts about that” or “It’s painful to remember my mistake.”  Allow yourself to observe, without judging the situation, your thoughts about the situation or your feelings.

Over time, as you observe your own internal response to this situation, you will find that you no longer need to ruminate about it or push it away.  You will be able to recognize your self-judgments and criticisms of others and let them be.  The pain and the need to attach to it or push it away will pass and you will be able to let it go.

Still having trouble letting go?  In his book, Full Catastrophe LivingJon Kabat-Zinn suggests that when something has a strong hold on your mind, try to direct your attention to what “holding on” feels like.  Become an expert in understanding your own attachment to this worry or problem.  Even when you are struggling to let go, you can become skilled at understanding yourself and the consequences of both holding on and letting go.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and here for podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

 

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Early male friendship as a precursor to substance abuse in girls


Two girls

Two girls (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The findings show that girls tend to initiate the transition to a mixed-gender friendship network earlier than boys, and continue this transition at a faster pace during adolescence. As a result girls who experienced this transition early and fast were more likely to develop substance abuse problems during late adolescence.

Researchers followed a sample of almost 400 adolescents (58% girls), aged twelve to eighteen, from a large French-speaking school district in Canada. They were interviewed annually over a seven-year period about their friendship network and their use of alcohol and drugs.

Lead author Dr. François Poulin, “Peer relationships are considered to be one of the main risk factors for substance use. However, for boys, the formation of other-sex friendships is not associated with later substance use problems. Boys reported receiving higher levels of emotional support from their other-sex friends, whereas girls receive more support from their same-sex friends. It is possible that having other-sex friends is protective for boys because they gain emotional support and are therefore less likely to engage in problem behavior.”

The study finds that among girls, antisocial behavior and early pubertal maturation accelerated the increase in the proportion of other-sex friends. Compared to their same-sex friends, girls tended to form friendships with older males in out-of-school contexts. Since the legal drinking age is 18 in Canada, it may simply be more difficult for younger girls to purchase their own alcohol, thus older boys become one point of access for this substance. The study findings imply that parents may wish to take a more active role in monitoring their daughters’ friendships, especially with older boys.

The authors maintain that by middle adolescence, once this transition has been completed, the impact of other-sex friendships on girls’ maladjustment fades away. Mixed-gender networks then become more normative and girls are more likely to form romantic relationships with their male peers. The influence of boys on girls’ substance-using behavior might then operate in the context of these romantic relationships.

The authors suggest that future studies should also examine the longitudinal associations between other-sex friends and other outcomes such as educational achievement and antisocial behavior. Finally, aspects of these other-sex friendships in early adolescence should be more carefully investigated, including the setting in which they take place, their linkages with the rest of the youth’s friendship network, and parental supervision of these new emerging relationships

via Early male friendship as a precursor to substance abuse in girls.

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Women happier in relationships when men feel their pain


Love Hurts (Incubus song)

Love Hurts (Incubus song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study involved a diverse sample of couples and found that men’s and women’s perceptions of their significant other’s empathy, and their abilities to tell when the other is happy or upset, are linked to relationship satisfaction in distinctive ways, according to the article published online in the Journal of Family Psychology.

“It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times. This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict,” said the study’s lead author, Shiri Cohen, PhD, of Harvard Medical School.

Researchers recruited 156 heterosexual couples for the experiment. Of those, 102 came from the Boston area and were younger, urban, ethnically and economically diverse and in a committed but not necessarily married relationship. In an effort to find couples who varied in the ways they resolved conflicts and controlled their emotions, they also looked for couples with a history of domestic violence and/or childhood sexual abuse. The remaining participants, from Bryn Mawr, Pa., were older, suburban and middle-class married couples with strong ties to the community. In all, 71 percent of couples were white, 56 percent were married and their average length of relationship was three-and-a-half years.

Each participant was asked to describe an incident with his or her partner over the past couple of months that was particularly frustrating, disappointing or upsetting. The researchers’ audio recorded the participant making a one- to two-sentence statement summarizing the incident and reaction and then brought the couples together and played each participant’s statements. The couples were told to try to come to a better understanding together of what had happened and were given approximately 10 minutes to discuss it while the researchers videotaped them. Following the discussions, the participants viewed the videotape and simultaneously rated their negative and positive emotions throughout, using an electronic rating device. The device had a knob that moved across an 11-point scale that ranged from “very negative” to “neutral” to “very positive.”

Using these ratings, the researchers selected six 30-second clips from the videotape that had the highest rated negative or positive emotions by each partner. The researchers showed the clips to the participants and had them complete questionnaires about their feelings during each segment as well as their perceptions of their partner’s feelings and effort to understand them during the discussion. They also measured the participants’ overall satisfaction with their relationships and whether each partner considered his or her partner’s efforts to be empathetic.

Relationship satisfaction was directly related to men’s ability to read their female partner’s positive emotions correctly. However, contrary to the researchers’ expectations, women who correctly understood that their partners were upset during the videotaped incident were much more likely to be satisfied with their relationship than if they correctly understood that their partner was happy. Also, when men understood that their female partner was angry or upset, the women reported being happier, though the men were not. The authors suggest that being empathetic to a partner’s negative emotions may feel threatening to the relationship for men but not for women.

The findings also show that the more men and women try to be empathetic to their partner’s feelings, the happier they are. The authors suggest that this research should encourage couples to better appreciate and communicate one another’s efforts to be empathetic.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

via Women happier in relationships when men feel their pain.

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New Discoveries About the Anger


English: Emotions associated with anger

English: Emotions associated with anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Discoveries About the Experience of Anger

Younger people, those with children and less-educated individuals are more likely to experience anger, according to new UofT research that examines one of the most common negative emotions in society.

Drawing upon national survey data of more than 1,000 Americans aged 18 and older, Professor Scott Schieman from the Sociology Department at the University of Toronto has published new findings about the experience of anger. In a chapter in the forthcoming International Handbook of Anger, to be released in January 2010, Schieman documents the basic social patterns and contexts of anger. His main findings include:

Younger people experience more frequent anger than older adults. This is mainly due to the fact that younger people are more likely to feel time pressures, economic hardship, and interpersonal conflict in the workplace (three core stressors that elevate anger levels);

Feeling rushed for time is the strongest predictor of anger, especially the “low-grade” forms like feeling annoyed;

Having children in the household is associated with angry feelings and behaviour (i.e., yelling) and these patterns are stronger among women compared to men;

Compared to people with fewer years of education, the well-educated are less likely to experience anger, and when they do, they are more likely to act proactively (e.g., trying to change the situation or talking it over);

Individuals who experience more financial strain tend to report higher levels of anger. This relationship is much stronger among women and younger adults.

“The sociological analysis of anger can shed light on the ways that the conditions of society influence emotional inequality,” says Schieman. “Why do some people seem to experience more anger than others? And what does this say about social inequality and its impact in our everyday lives?”

The International Handbook of Anger is edited by Michael Potegal, Gerhard Stemmler and Charles Spielberger.

via New discoveries about the experience of anger.

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Minor Stressful Events Can Cause Major Emotional Reactions


Minor Stressful Events Can Cause Major Emotional Reactions | Psych Central News

Minor Stressful Events Can Cause Major Emotional Reactions
By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 13, 2012
New research suggests that our response to stress may at times be overexaggerated because of the evolutionary development of the brain linking emotional responses to perceptions of stress.

As a result, mildly stressful situations can affect our perceptions in the same way as life-threatening ones.

In the study, researchers studied the effects of money loss — a stressful event for most everyone. Money loss, real or perceived, can cause significant outcomes as financial loss can lead to irrational behavior.

Researchers determined that the stress inflicted by a financial loss can alter our sense of reality, interfering with a true grasp of the situation.

The findings, found in the Journal of Neuroscience, may also have implications for our understanding of the neurological mechanisms underlying post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the study, researchers trained subjects using a classical conditioning method on situations involving money.

Subjects were asked to listen to a series of tones composed of three different notes. After hearing one note, they were told they had earned a certain sum; after a second note, they were informed that they had lost some of their money; and a third note was followed by the message that their bankroll would remain the same.

Researchers discovered subjects improved their ability to distinguish the musical notes when a note was tied to a gain, or at least to no loss. But when they heard the “lose money” note, they actually got worse at telling one note from the other.

As part of the study, researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to observe brain areas involved in the learning task. Investigators discovered the amygdala, an area of the brain known to be associated with emotions, was strongly involved during the learning process.

Researchers also noted activity in another area in the front of the brain, which functions to moderate or lessen the emotional response. Subjects who exhibited stronger activity in this area showed less of a drop in their abilities to distinguish between tones.

Neuroscientist and chief investigator Rony Paz, Ph.D., said the research demonstrates the evolutionary aspects of the brain in response to stress.

Our brain has been trained to blur certain inputs – if the best response to the growl of a lion is to run quickly, it would be counterproductive to distinguish between different pitches of growl. Any similar sound should make us flee without thinking, Paz said.

“Unfortunately, that same blurring mechanism can be activated today in stress-inducing situations that are not life-threatening – like losing money – and this can harm us.”

An overreaction to stress may be quite serious. For instance, it may be involved in post-traumatic stress disorder. If sufferers are unable to distinguish between a stimulus that should cause a panic response and similar, but non-threatening, stimuli, they may experience strong emotional reactions in inappropriate situations.

This perceptional blurring may even expand over time to encompass a larger range of stimuli detrimentally expanding the stress response.

According to Paz, future research in planned to investigate this possibility in future research.

Source: Weizmann Institute

Stressed out man photo by shutterstock.

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Video: About Psychodynamic Psychotherapy


Video: About Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
By JOHN M. GROHOL, PSYD
Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Joseph Burgo, one of our bloggers here at Psych Central, has recently inaugurated a new series of videos about psychodynamic psychotherapy, aimed at people who may be considering treatment and don’t know quite what to expect from this particular type of therapy.

His first video deals with the intake or initial consultation, focusing on the anxieties felt by both client and therapist as they embark upon a new relationship with a total stranger. His next video will focus on the types of issues that come up during the first few sessions; in future, he plans to cover other issues such as: the emergence of the transference, vacation breaks, the role of humor, therapist errors, etc.

These videos will appear on his YouTube channel and Dr. Burgo will announce each new one via his Therapy Case Notes blog. Even if you’re already familiar with psychodynamic psychotherapy, his thoughts about first sessions apply to all types of treatment and may be of interest:

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Learning Works Best When You Rest


Learning Works Best When You Rest | Psych Central News

Learning Works Best When You Rest
By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 25, 2012
A new study shows that sleeping soon after learning new material is best for recall.

Notre Dame psychologist Jessica Payne and colleagues studied 207 students who habitually slept for at least six hours each night. Participants were randomly assigned to study declarative, semantically related or unrelated word pairs at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., and returned for testing 30 minutes, 12 hours or 24 hours later.

Declarative memory refers to the ability to consciously remember facts and events. It can be broken down into memory for events — known as episodic memory — and semantic memory, which is memory for facts about the world.

People routinely use both types of memory every day, such as recalling where we parked or learning how a colleague prefers to be addressed, Payne said.

At the 12-hour retest, memory was superior following a night of sleep compared to a day of wakefulness, she said.

However, this performance difference was a result of a pronounced deterioration in memory for unrelated word pairs, she said, noting there was no difference for related word pairs. At the 24-hour retest, with all subjects having received both a full night of sleep and a full day of wakefulness, memories were superior when sleep occurred shortly after learning, rather than following a full day of wakefulness.

“Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory,” she said. “What’s novel about this study is that we tried to shine light on sleep’s influence on both types of declarative memory by studying semantically unrelated and related word pairs.”

“Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited both types of memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed,” she continued. “In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate.”

Titled “Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake,” the study was published March 22 in PLOS One.

Source: University of Notre Dame

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