Does drinking reduce my stress?

There’s a little beverage I’d like to tell you about. It’s kind of magical.

You may be able to drink just a little of it and feel closer to your friends, start paying attention to the moment, feel your mood lift, maybe even put your worries in context so you become more carefree.

On the other hand, this spooky libation might actually increase stress in your life… so you might drink more of it in an effort to calm down. And that’s OK… except that it may become a vicious circle and you’ll have to drink more and more of it to reap its stress-reducing effects, until eventually it ruins your body, your mind and your whole life.

The rumor: Alcohol eases stress

Sure, alcohol has a downside, but if there’s one thing to say for drinking, it’s that it’s not stressful. It’s fun, and really — who hasn’t knocked back a few in an effort to blow off some steam? So: Does drinking (not necessarily a lot, but some) really reduce stress levels like it seems to, or what?

The verdict: Yes, alcohol can relieve stress when consumed in limited amounts, for certain people in specific situations. In virtually all other cases, it makes stress worse.

Full story of drinking away stress at CNN Health

Mindfulness Training Can Help Reduce Teacher Stress and Burnout

Teachers who practice “mindfulness” are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center.

The results of the study, led by Assistant Scientist Lisa Flook, were recently published in the journal Mind, Brain and Education.

Mindfulness, a notion that stems from centuries-old meditative traditions and is now taught in a secular way, is a technique to heighten attention, empathy and other pro-social emotions through an awareness of thoughts, external stimuli, or bodily sensations such as breath.

While teachers play a critical role in nurturing children’s well-being, progress in addressing teacher stress has been elusive. Stress and burnout among teachers is a major concern for school districts nationwide, affecting the quality of education and incurring increased costs in recruiting and sustaining teachers.

For the study, a group of 18 teachers was recruited to take part in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, a well-established and well-studied method of mindfulness training. The project team adapted the MBSR training to fit the particular needs and time demands of elementary school teachers. It was among the first efforts to train teachers, in addition to students, in mindfulness techniques and to examine the effects of this training in the classroom.

Full story of reducing stress for teachers at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Stress Early in Life Leads to Adulthood Anxiety and Preference for ‘Comfort Foods’

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that exposure to stress in the first few days of life increases stress responses, anxiety and the consumption of palatable “comfort” foods in adulthood.

“Comfort foods” have been defined as the foods eaten in response to emotional stress, and are suggested to contribute to the obesity epidemic. Hormonal responses to chronic stress in adulthood seem to play a role in the increased preference for this type of food, especially in women.

In this study, we aimed at verifying if an exposure to stress very early during development could also lead to increased consumption of comfort food in adult life, and if increased anxiety and stress responses were persistently affected by early adversity. Litters of rats were subjected to a protocol of reduced nesting material (Early-Life Stress) or standard care (Controls), in the first days of life. In adulthood, behavioral anxiety and stress reaction were measured. Preference for comfort food was measured over four days in a computerized system, in which the mean intake over approximately every second is calculated by a peripheral computer (BioDaq, Research Diets).

Full story of stress, anxiety, and comfort foods at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Exercise Reorganizes the Brain to Be More Resilient to Stress

Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a research team based at Princeton University.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety.

These findings potentially resolve a discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain — namely that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less. The Princeton-led researchers, however, found that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing.

The impact of physical activity on the ventral hippocampus specifically has not been deeply explored, said senior author Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology. By doing so, members of Gould’s laboratory pinpointed brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation that may help scientists better understand and treat human anxiety disorders, she said.

Full story of exercising and stress at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Children Who Avoid Scary Situations Likelier to Have Anxiety

Children who avoid situations they find scary are likely to have anxiety a Mayo Clinic study of more than 800 children ages 7 to 18 found. The study published this month in Behavior Therapy presents a new method of measuring avoidance behavior in young children.

The researchers developed two eight-question surveys: the Children’s Avoidance Measure Parent Report and the Children’s Avoidance Measure Self Report. The questionnaires ask details about children’s avoidance tendencies, for instance, in addressing parents, “When your child is scared or worried about something, does he or she ask to do it later?” It also asks children to describe their passive avoidance habits. For example: “When I feel scared or worried about something, I try not to go near it.”

One of the most surprising findings was that measuring avoidance could also predict children’s development of anxiety. Children who participated in the study showed stable anxiety scores after a year had passed, but those who described avoidance behaviors at the onset tended to be more anxious a year later.

Full story of children and anxiety at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education