July 2011



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Archive for July 15th, 2011

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor


Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.


1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.


Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodge ball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.


Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?


By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.


2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.


While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.


The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.


Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.


Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.


3. Do what you love.


It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.


4. Manage your time well.


One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. Their to-do list expands, while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.


We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.


Here are Vanderkam’s seven steps to help you check off your to-do list and find time for the things you truly enjoy.


5. Create a toolbox of techniques.


One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.


Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.


Here’s a list of additional techniques to help you build your toolbox.


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Featured Article
Academic Journal


Article Date: 11 Jul 2011 – 2:00 PDT


New genetic mutations that are not inherited from one’s parents appear to happen more frequently in people with schizophrenia than might normally be expected in healthy individuals said a team of scientists led by Dr Guy A Rouleau from the University of Montreal in Canada. The team hopes their discovery, which includes genes not linked to schizophrenia before, will provide a list of genes for researching how the disease develops, and also lead to new treatments.


Rouleau and colleagues found the new or de novo mutations, that is genetic errors present in a person that are not present in their biological parents, when they examined about 20,000 genes in the “exomes” of 14 patients with schizophrenia and their unaffected parents. They write about their discovery in this week’s issue of Nature Genetics.


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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 13th 2011


I have written a few articles about the benefits of psychiatric service dogs for those who suffered from PTSD, especially as a result of combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.


However, most of the information gathered about the benefits of these dogs was criticized for being informal and, therefore, unsubstantiated by scientifically controlled studies.


Another criticism has been that, many of the articles describing the benefits of pet ownership, concentrated on people who were either socially isolated, depressed, and severely anxious.


That has changed as a result of three studies recently reported in the highly respected Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 6. 10.1037/a0024506.


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Janet Singer Updated: Jul 13th 2011


During OCD Awareness Week this past October, I sat in front of my computer, mesmerized, as I watched a live internet broadcast of first-person OCD stories. At the same time these stories were being broadcast, there were chat rooms open where people could connect and talk about anything related to OCD. I joined right in, letting everyone know that while I was not an OCD sufferer myself, my twenty-year-old son had recently recovered from severe OCD. I wanted to share our story as well as learn all I could about the disorder.


At one point during the chat, I connected with a distraught young woman who had been seeing a therapist for quite some time, but her OCD was getting worse, not better. “Is the ERP Therapy too difficult for you to do?” I asked her. “ERP Therapy?” she responded. “What’s that?”


I was stunned, though in retrospect I’m not sure why. Our family had floundered and then fought our way through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, desperately trying to find the best help possible for Dan. But I had thought Dan was the only one who had been steered in the wrong direction, sent to the wrong therapists, and put on the wrong medications. It was then and there that I became an advocate for OCD awareness.


Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP Therapy) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and, in my son’s case, a very effective treatment for OCD. In a nutshell, this therapy involves the person with OCD facing his or her fears and then refraining from ritualizing. This can be extremely anxiety provoking initially, but eventually the anxiety starts to wane, and can sometimes even disappear. A concrete example of ERP Therapy in action would involve someone with OCD who has issues with germs. They might be asked to touch a toilet seat and then refrain from washing their hands. Treating OCD with ERP therapy has even been the topic of some reality shows over the past few years. So why do so many therapists remain in the dark?


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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 13, 2011


For people at risk of panic, performance of regular, high-level exercise may be the tonic that can help to reduce anxiety.


In a new study, scientists found that people with “high anxiety sensitivity” — an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomach aches and shortness of breath that accompany panic — reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity.


“Anxiety sensitivity is an established risk factor for the development of panic and related disorders,” said psychologist Dr. Jasper Smits of Southern Methodist University, lead author on the research.


“This study suggests that this risk factor may be less influential among persons who routinely engage in high levels of physical activity.”


Prior findings have documented the benefits of exercise among people who suffer from depression and anxiety.


“We’re not suggesting, ‘Exercise instead of pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy,’” Smits said. “Exercise is a useful alternative, particularly for those without access to traditional treatments. Primary care physicians already prescribe exercise for general health, so exercise may have the advantage of helping reach more people in need of treatment for depression and anxiety.”


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Article Date: 15 Jul 2011 – 0:00 PDT


Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. announces the launch of Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications (G4H), a new, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the development, use, and applications of game technology for improving physical and mental health and well-being. The Journal breaks new ground as the first to address this emerging, widely-recognized, and increasingly adopted area of healthcare. Published bi-monthly, Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications will be released in fall 2011.
Games are rapidly becoming an important tool for improving health behaviors ranging from healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification to self-management of illnesses and chronic conditions to motivating and supporting physical activity. Commonly used applications include mobile phone-delivered games that track daily exercise and “exergames” that require physical exertion in order to play (e.g., on platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation Move, and Xbox Kinect). Games are also increasingly used to train healthcare professionals in methods for diagnosis, medical procedures, patient monitoring, as well as for responding to epidemics and natural disasters.


Billions of dollars and immeasurable hours of research and development are being invested in developing and employing sophisticated software and technologies that deliver tailored, personalized game-based healthcare interventions. Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications will provide a print and online forum for peer-reviewed research articles, new system and game reviews, field news and reports, convention and event announcements, book reviews, and point-counterpoint discussions to support professionals in the field.


“This research journal will be an authoritative and influential resource for decision makers who purchase, use, prescribe, recommend, design, publish, fund, or invest in digital games for health, and it will serve our research field and its related academic disciplines in many valuable ways,” according to Debra Lieberman, PhD, Director of the Health Games Research national program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The Journal will be a starting point for anyone interested in the research and design of health games that integrate well-tested, evidence-based behavioral health strategies to help improve health behaviors and to support the delivery of care.”


Forthcoming articles for early issues of Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications include research on the effectiveness and design strategies of:


  • *Games intended to develop the social skills of people with conditions such as autism
  • *Exergames aimed at motivating more activity in physical education classes
  • *An alternate realty game designed to increase physical activity
  • *Exergames for young adults and families
  • *Games to help treat eating disorders and habits such as smoking
  • *Games to improve cognitive function in older adults
  • *The use of simulations to help develop the interpersonal skills of family members of veterans suffering from PTSD


“The benefits of games for health – from autism to Alzheimer’s to heart disease and other illnesses and conditions – are demonstrating significant promise for improving the way people manage their health and for the delivery of care both in and out of the hospital setting,” said Mary Ann Liebert, president and CEO of Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. “Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications is a critical and much-needed forum for this evolving area of healthcare.”


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David Seidler, stutterer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of The King's Speech.

David Seidler, stutterer and Oscar-winning screenwriter of The King’s Speech, salutes the bravery of stutterers. (David Alpuche)

The compassionate determination and quiet resolve of a thousand stutterers

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 14, 2011


In a new study, Ohio State researchers discovered consumption of fish oil reduced inflammation and anxiety among a group of healthy young people.


Researchers believe the findings suggest the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases may benefit from similar dietary supplements.


The research is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity and is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immune response.


The benefits from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been debated for the last 30 years.


Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.


According to researchers, psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production. Thus, researchers initiated the study to discover if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.


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Robin Williams

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 15, 2011


A new study finds that positive reframing — looking at a thing in a different light — and perhaps laughing about life’s daily small setbacks is an effective way to feel satisfied at the end of the day.


Researchers used a diary study to review the strategies people use to deal with the small setbacks and failures that we all experience on a daily basis.


In the study, 149 students completed daily diary reports for 3 to 14 days, reporting the most bothersome failure they experienced during the day, what strategies they used to cope with the failure, and how satisfied they felt at the end of the day.


Students used a variety of coping strategies including emotional or instrumental support; self-distraction; denial; religion; venting; substance use; self-blame; and behavioral disengagement.


Of these, using social support (both emotional and instrumental), denial, venting, behavioral disengagement, and self-blame coping had negative effects on satisfaction at the end of the day.


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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 15, 2011


The benefit of taking an approach that views a glass as being half full is now supported by neuroimaging of the brain.


Many experts have linked aging successfully to the “positivity effect” – a biased tendency towards and preference for positive, emotionally gratifying experiences.


A new study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, explains how and when this effect works in the brain.


German neuroscientists used neuroimaging to evaluate brain activity in young and old adults when they performed a specialized cognitive task that included supposedly irrelevant pictures of either neutral, happy, sad or fearful faces.


During parts of the task when they didn’t have to pay as much attention, the elderly subjects were significantly more distracted by the happy faces.


When this occurred, they had increased engagement in the part of the brain that helps control emotions and this stronger signal in the brain was correlated with those who showed the greatest emotional stability.


“Integrating our findings with the assumptions of life span theories we suggest that motivational goal-shifting in healthy aging leads to a self-regulated engagement in positive emotions even when this is not required by the setting,” explained author Dr. Stefanie Brassen.


In other words, looking for silver linings can strengthen positive feelings, enhance emotional well-being and increase emotional control in aging.


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Related Article

LATimes “Positive Thinking Makes For Happy Old People”