Mindfulness is more than just a trendy, buzz word. It’s goal is to help us learn to stay in the present and reduce how often our mind wanders. It has been shown to improve individual mood and cognition, as well as increase a sense of empathy in relationships. This, in turn, leads to better relationships, both in the workplace (as discussed in a new comprehensive study done at Case Western Reserve University) and your social life. It can take as little as 5 minutes a day so it’s hard to find and excuse not to give it a try! There are several free apps to guide you through it if you’ve never tried it before. If you prefer individualized training to learn the practice of mindfulness, a few sessions with a psychologist or mindfulness practitioner would be a great resource. What a great way to start your week!
A new study from the University of Kent found that due to the increased activity on the right side of the brain of individuals with elevated levels of anxiety (due to an active need to constantly inhibit and regulate thoughts/behavior), their walking trajectory tends to align to the left side when they are instructed to walk with their eyes closed. This cannot be used to diagnose anxiety in and of itself, but it is a good way to support a diagnosis. It can also be a good option to incorporate mindfulness techniques into treatment to calm the right brain activity and reduce anxiety. I would be curious to see if the trajectory shifts before and after practicing mindfulness.
We’ve all heard the saying ” I perform better under stress”. Although this may be true for some of us, it is not the case for everyone. A recent study from the University of Chicago found that during times of stress (measured by elevated levels of cortisol), people who tend to perform better are the one’s who have a higher level of confidence to begin with. However, people who are anxious and unsure of themselves tend to perform poorly when faced with situations of increased stress. It appears that the cortisol associated with stress helps individuals who are confident but it hinders those who are anxious.
This study is very helpful for individuals living with anxiety as well as for the general public. It also brings home the importance of self-confidence and esteem in future success. It appears that stress is a benign entity, but rather, it’s your mind’s interpretation of that stress that causes one to succeed or to fail. Confident people seem to interpret the stress as a driving force. On the contrary, anxious people interpret this same stress in a negative manner, engage in a series of negative thoughts regarding themselves, end up failing or performing poorly, and as a result of the poor performance, they increase their negative thoughts and level of anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be addressed.
Psychological treatment can be very helpful for individual with anxiety. With the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, one can learn to identify the negative thoughts and work toward stopping and replacing them with positive ones. In addition, therapy can help one identify the source of their anxiety and work through those issues. In addition, this study brings up thoughts of the importance of positive parenting. More than ever, the research is showing us that the most important thing that we can give our children is a high level of self-confidence. It is more important for them to believe that they will be able to solve a problem as opposed to being the first to solve it. For example, it’s more crucial for the healthy development of a child for his/her parents to teach the child to believe that he/she is good at math as opposed to instilling in the child the need to get the answer correct every time. We can’t be next to our children at every moment to make sure that they do every problem correctly, but we can instill the self-confidence and positive thought patterns to help them get through those future stressful situations in a successful manner. It’s not the stress that causes us to fail; it’s how we interpret the stress that makes or breaks us…
It’s general knowledge that most people like to have the perception that they have choices. Nobody wants to be told that they have to do something. A new study recently published in the journal, Psychological Science, confirmed the general notion that either having power or being given choices (or both) helps us feel that we are in control. And who doesn’t want to feel like they are in control of their life, right? However, most people do not act upon this knowledge when it comes to their daily life. It’s likely that we would all have better relationships with one another if we gave each other more choices. This is true for the workplace, for our romantic relationships, and especially for parenting our children.
Let’s first use the workplace example. Would you rather have your boss tell you that you have to work 5, 8 hour days, or would you rather be given the option of working 5, 8 hour days or 4, 10 hour days? Research has shown that when people are given this option, their performance and productivity increases, regardless of the option they chose. They work better simply because they feel they were given a choice in regard to their working conditions. As a result, they tend to attain a greater level of respect toward superiors in the workplace for giving them a choice to begin with.
In terms of romantic or social relationships, the same phenomenon takes place. Would you rather have your partner or friend constantly delegating their wishes upon you, or would you prefer to be given options? It’s not about giving up what you want, but it’s about giving the other person options and making them feel like they are a part of the process. For example, if you want to have Italian food for dinner, you can give your spouse the choice between 2 Italian restaurants. That way, they feel that they participated in the decision and you were still able to eat Italian food.
This concept of giving people choices as a means of helping them gain a sense of control works the best when it comes to parenting children. Giving children choices is a great way of disciplining them, teaching them good behavior, and preventing negative behaviors. For example, a child is significantly more likely to refuse eating something that you tell them they have to eat. However, if you give them the choice between 2 healthy options and let them choose, they feel that they played a part in that decision and are more likely to eat the meal that they chose. In the end though, you had the ultimate control because you were the one who selected which meals would be options.
In conclusion, giving people choices gives them a sense of control, it makes them feel that you respect and value their opinion, and ultimately, it creates happier relationships between people.
Have you ever felt confident in your level of knowledge regarding a certain topic only to feel yourself getting anxious before the test and blanking out? If so, this is more common than you think. Test anxiety can be your worst enemy when you are in school. It can literally be the obstacle between you and the career that you are meant to pursue. The truth of the matter is that the majority of professional career paths require you to participate in a great deal of standardized testing as a means of achieving the end result… obtaining your license.
The good news is that test anxiety is not something you need to live with or accept. You do not need to give up on achieving the career you have always dreamed of due to fear of failure caused by anxiety. There are a variety of therapy techniques to treat test anxiety. As with most other forms of anxiety, the most common approach is cognitive behavioral. This orientation focuses on addressing the negative thoughts which give rise to the feelings of anxiety. It also looks at the repertoire of behaviors that are associated with the anxiety and focuses on changing those behaviors. The basic idea is that if you change your thoughts and behaviors, then your feelings and reactions will change also. Other routes of treatment may focus on how your previous life experiences have shaped your reactions to testing situations and have resulted in this pattern of feeling significantly anxious before a test. Whichever modality fits your needs best is a decision that you and your therapist will need to make together.
The take away message of this post is to make students aware of the fact that ignoring the issue of test anxiety will not make it go away… it needs to be addressed. There are many options available to treat this issue, but the first and most important step is to acknowledge it, ask for help, and talk about the problem with a therapist. Recent research from the University of Chicago has found that even the mere process of journaling feelings of anxiety for 10 minutes before a test has resulted in students improving their high-stakes test scores by nearly one grade point. That is a BIG DEAL! When you give yourself the opportunity to identify, acknowledge, and process the feelings that are holding you back from achieving your dreams, they lose the power that they have over you. All emotions feel significantly heavier when they reside inside of you and are not allowed to be expressed. Once people express these feelings, they will often feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders and they are then able to tackle the real issues behind it.