What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available.

Psychologists first described learned helplessness in 1967 after a series of experiments in animals, and they suggested that their findings could apply to humans.

Learned helplessness leads to increased feelings of stress and depression. For some people, it is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Full story at Medical News Today

Simple test can tell if you’re stressed out

Stress is often called “the silent killer” because of its stealthy and mysterious effects on everything from heart disease to mental health.

Now researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed a new test that can easily and simply measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine or saliva. Eventually, they hope to turn their ideas into a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their health.

The results were published this month in the journal American Chemical Society Sensors.

“I wanted something that’s simple and easy to interpret,” said Andrew Steckl, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Full story at Science Daily

Stress-related disorders linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease

Stress related disorders — conditions triggered by a significant life event or trauma — may be linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), finds a large Swedish study published in The BMJtoday.

The risk of severe and acute CVD events, such as cardiac arrest and heart attack, was particularly high in the first six months after diagnosis of a stress related disorder, and within the first year for other types of CVD.

Most people are, at some point during their life, exposed to psychological trauma or stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of a life threatening illness, natural disasters, or violence, write the authors.

Full story at Science Daily

Hate Those Stressful Office Parties? Just Fake It, Study Suggests

Though they often dread social events, many introverts find they’re not as bad as feared and some have learned to fake an outgoing personality to get through the experience.

In the business world, socializing is a key to success, said Erik Helzer, who led a team that examined the psychological implications for both introverts and extroverts. Helzer is an assistant professor of management and organization at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore.

“We’re told, ‘You ought to do this. It will help your career,'” he said in a university news release. “But that doesn’t mean we look forward to it. In fact, many people do not.”

For the study, Helzer and colleagues asked 146 university students to spend 30 minutes interacting with strangers in a cocktail party environment.

Full story at Health Day

Stress: A feeling of control may limit its negative effects

Researchers conducted a study on rats and revealed that the possibility of controlling the source of stress may be key to reducing its impact.

Everybody experiences stress at some point in their lives.

Sometimes, stress can be a positive force and lead to positive outcomes.

However, when it becomes chronic, it might produce a range health complaints.

These may include headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and mental health conditions.

Full story at Medical News Today

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune cells respond to bacterial invaders, according to Penn State researchers.

The researchers explored whether the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic family stress affected various metabolic and immune processes in the body. Strategies could include cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way — and suppression, or inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor.

The team found that when faced with greater chronic family stress, teens who used cognitive reappraisal had better metabolic measures, like blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio. Teens who were more likely to use suppression tended to have more inflammation when their immune cells were exposed to a bacterial stimulus in the lab, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory signals.

Full story at Science Daily

Letter from the Editor: Love your mind

Fairy lights are gracing the shop windows and Michael Bublé is dominating the airwaves with his rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” The holiday season is well and truly in full swing.

“Are you all set for the holidays?”

I’ve been asked this question three times this week — a classic example of festive chitchat in the United Kingdom. The short answer? No.

With fewer than 4 weeks to go, I’ve purchased a total of three gifts, including one box of candy that will undoubtedly be opened prior to its intended date of consumption and will need to be replaced.

Full story at Medical News Today

Why your neighbor’s holiday decorations bring out the Grinch in you

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Colorful lights line rooftops and windows. Bristly wreaths hang on front doors, and you may spot a glow up Santa and his fleet of perfectly arched reindeer on your neighbors’ lawn.

You might be thinking, “Now? Already? It’s not even December!”

There’s ample debate about how soon is too soon to put up this seasonal décor. A poll by Home Depot found that the best date to begin sprucing your home with the holiday spirit is November 24. One study suggests that people who deck the halls earlier are doing a type of community service by communicating “friendliness and cohesiveness with neighbors.”

Regardless of timing though, holiday decorations don’t always have such a happy-making effect on us. As so many cynical memes (like this one) reflect, these neighborly gestures displaying festivity and joy can trigger judgmental reactions from those of us in a more bah-humbug frame of mind.

Full story at NBC News

Boosting emotional intelligence in physicians can protect against burnout

A Loyola Medicine study demonstrates that an educational curriculum for physicians in training improves their emotional intelligence, which may help protect against burnout.

Before and after completing this educational intervention, doctors took a test measuring their emotional intelligence. There were significant increases in their scores for overall emotional intelligence, stress management and overall wellness.

The study by Ramzan Shahid, MD, Jerold Stirling, MD, and William Adams, PhD, is published in the journal Advances in Medical Education and Practice.

Teaching emotional intelligence skills “may improve stress management skills, promote wellness and prevent burnout in resident physicians,” the researchers wrote.

Full story at Science Daily

Teens hope their videos will prompt dialogue about mental health

Woodside High School senior Valentina Lovazzano joined the student advisory board at Menlo Park’s youth mental health advocacy organization SafeSpace midway through her junior year, after she finally found help for debilitating anxiety problems that had at times made it hard for her to leave the house.

Once Lovazzano got the help she needed, “the first thing I wanted to do was reach out to other people,” she says. “I wanted everyone to feel it’s a normal thing, you’re not alone. We’re all teenagers, we’re going to go through stuff. It’s going to be OK,” she says.

Now Lovazzano and a group of other students who serve on SafeSpace’s student advisory board are sharing those messages in five short videos SafeSpace is releasing this week to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.

Full story at Palo Alto Online