Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stress Susceptibility in Adolescence
Stressful events often become more disruptive for people while they are adolescents. In fact, people tend to feel worse and to be more depressed during adolescence than they do at younger or older ages. Although it may seem like these differences are in some way due to puberty, current research findings suggest otherwise. A researcher at the Department of Psychology and Center for Developmental Psychobiology at Binghamton University recently described the relevance of changes that occur in the brain during adolescence.
What was the research about?
A number of changes go on in the brain during adolescence. Regarding stress susceptibility, the most relevant changes occur in the prefrontal cortex and the limbic brain regions. In these two areas, the increases and decreases in brain activity caused by certain types of chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, may be at least partially responsible for the higher rate of sensation seeking, risk taking, and drug use among adolescents.
Why should it matter to me?
People in their adolescence should be aware of their vulnerability to stress and that they may feel drawn toward sensation seeking, risk taking, and drug use. In this way, they can try to avoid some of the negative consequences that sometimes accompany such activities.
Source: Spear, L. P. (2000). Neurobehavioral changes in adolescence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 111-114.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Positive Emotions During Stress
Although people generally do not feel good when they are stressed, some positive emotions can and do occur during stressful periods in people’s lives. Researchers at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco recently published a review of research that shed some light on what people can do to experience positive emotions during stress.
What was the research about?
Specifically, they demonstrated that positive emotions can occur during stress and discussed three types of coping that are associated with positive emotions during stress.
The first type of coping they covered was positive reappraisal, which involves focusing on the positive rather than the negative aspects of events. Positive reappraisal can be accomplished by finding opportunities for personal growth, noticing actual personal growth, and realizing how one’s own actions can benefit other people. Through positive appraisal, people can change the meaning of situations in a way that allows them to experience positive emotions. 
The second type of coping they covered was problem-focused coping, which involves thinking and behaving in ways that allow people to attack the underlying cause of their stress. This form of coping is effective when people can establish some amount of control over stressful situations.
The third type of coping they covered was the creation of positive events, which involves taking a mental “time-out” by thinking positively about ordinary events. Examples include savoring a compliment one received in passing and taking a moment to admire a beautiful sunset. Such time-outs give people a short break from ongoing stress.
Why should it matter to me?
If people want to take advantage of the positive emotions that are possible when they are stressed, they may want to consider using positive reappraisal, problem-focused coping, and the creation of positive events.
Source: Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Stress, positive emotions, and coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 115-118.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Autogenic Training
Through autogenic training, people can learn how to enter a state of passive relaxation that allows them to gain control over bodily processes involved in stressful experiences that are normally not under conscious control. People can learn how to regulate blood circulation, for example. When people are trying to deal with stress, they often feel anxious, depressed, or both. Researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy recently reported the results from a study investigating the usefulness of autogenic training in alleviating such negative feelings.
What was the research about?
One hundred and thirty-four people who were already seeking treatment for minor psychological problems, such as those related to anxiety and depression, participated in the study. Over a three-month period, some participated in an autogenic training program and some were put on a waiting list (and began the program afterward). All participants responded to questionnaires about their mood before, during, and after the three-month period.
The results of the study showed that participants who participated in the autogenic training program tended to have improved moods over the course of the study but that participants on the waiting list did not. Thus, autogenic training can help people deal with feelings of anxiety and depression associated with stress.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are feeling anxious or depressed from stressful events in their lives can use autogenic training to learn how to alleviate these feelings.
Source: Farnè, M. A., & Gnugnoli, D. (2000). Effects of autogenic training on emotional distress. Stress Medicine, 16, 259-261.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Exercise Intensity
How hard should people exercise?
Most people are aware that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. Experts have recommended that people exercise at certain intensity levels to receive the most benefit from doing it. What if people are allowed to choose the intensity level of their exercise by themselves? Researchers at the University of Wales recently reported the results from a study aimed at finding an answer to this question.
What was the research about?
Twenty-six physically fit undergraduate students participated in the study. Some were told to exercise at a specified intensity level that was believed to be highly effective. The rest were told to exercise only as hard as they wanted to. All the participants exercised for a period of 20 minutes, indicated their levels of well-being, distress, interest, fatigue, and intensity every 5 minutes.
Although participants who chose their own intensity level and those who did not tended to report the same levels of well-being, distress, and fatigue, participants who chose their own intensity level actually exercised harder and were more interested in doing it. Thus, people seem to benefit the most mentally and physically when they exercise at their preferred level of intensity, at least among those who are physically fit.
Why should it matter to me?
People who have trouble motivating themselves to exercise may become more interested in doing it and actually exercise harder if they let themselves exercise only as hard as they want to instead of worrying about trying to exercise at some specified level of intensity.
Source: Parfitt, G., Rose, E. A., Markland, D. (2000). The Effect of prescribed and preferred intensity exercise on psychological affect and the influence of baseline measures of affect. Journal of Health Psychology, 5, 231-240.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Stress and Heart Problems
Certain types of stress responses in men may be linked to heart problems
Responding to stressful situations with anger, hostility, and aggression can have adverse health consequences. This form of responding, referred to as the AHA! syndrome, seems to be related to coronary heart disease. People who respond in this way are more likely to have elevated total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins, two risk factors for the development of coronary heart disease. Researchers at the University of Ballarat and Curtin University of Technology in Australia recently published the results from a study aimed at identifying the specific parts of the AHA! syndrome that are related to total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins.
What was the research about?
Ninety-eight healthy, 22- to 57-year-old, male employees of a large oil and gas company based in Australia participated in the study. The participants responded to questionnaires measuring a variety of personal characteristics related to the AHA! syndrome and general health. Total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins levels were also recorded.
The results showed that the tendency to feel angry and act in an angry way in response to being frustrated, criticized, or treated unfairly was associated with having elevated levels of total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins. Moreover, although age and saturated-fat intake were also related to these risk factors, the association with the anger response was actually stronger. Thus, men who typically feel angry and act in an angry way in response to being frustrated, criticized, or treated unfairly may have greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Why should it matter to me?
Men who respond to stressful situations in this way may have a greater chance of developing coronary heart disease, and consequently, may want to try responding to stressful situations with less anger, hostility, and aggression.
Source: Richards, J. C., Hof, A., Alvarenga, M. (2000). Serum lipids and their relationships with hostility and angry affect and behaviors in men. Health Psychology, 19, 393-398.