How Nature Heals The Brain Of Stress (M)

Major depression, mood disorders and anxiety are 56 percent more common in the city.

Major depression, mood disorders and anxiety are 56 percent more common in the city.

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The Best Type Of Jobs For Good Mental Health

How jobs can be adjusted to improve people’s mental and physical health.

How jobs can be adjusted to improve people’s mental and physical health.

Jobs that give employees control over their work are better for mental and physical health, research reveals.

When employees are given control over their work, even in the face of high demands, their health is improved.

Typical ways of giving employees control are to let them set their own schedules and allow them to decide how the work gets done.

However, jobs that put huge demands on employees without giving them control are damaging to mental health.

The study shows the importance of control at work for both mental and physical health.

Dr Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, the study’s first author, said:

“When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death.”

The study included 3,148 people in Wisconsin who were tracked over 20 years.

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé explained the study’s aim:

“We examined how job control—or the amount of autonomy employees have at work—and cognitive ability—or people’s ability to learn and solve problems—influence how work stressors such as time pressure or workload affect mental and physical health and, ultimately, death.

We found that work stressors are more likely to cause depression and death as a result of jobs in which workers have little control or for people with lower cognitive ability.”

Being given control at work, though, improved physical and mental health.

Smarter people were also able to adapt to more stressful jobs without letting it affect them.

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé said:

“We believe that this is because job control and cognitive ability act as resources that help people cope with work stressors.

Job control allows people to set their own schedules and prioritize work in a way that helps them achieve their work goals, while people that are smarter are better able to adapt to the demands of a stressful job and figure out ways to deal with stress.”

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé has this advice for managers:

“Managers should provide employees working in demanding jobs more control, and in jobs where it is unfeasible to do so, a commensurate reduction in demands.

For example, allowing employees to set their own goals or decide how to do their work, or reducing employees’ work hours, could improve health.

Organizations should select people high on cognitive ability for demanding jobs.

By doing this, they will benefit from the increased job performance associated with more intelligent employees, while having a healthier workforce.

COVID-19 might be causing more mental health issues, so it’s particularly important that work not exacerbate those problems.

This includes managing and perhaps reducing employee demands, being aware of employees’ cognitive capability to handle demands and providing employees with autonomy are even more important than before the pandemic began.”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Gonzalez-Mulé et al., 2020).

3 Mental Ways To Boost Your Immune System

The psychological factors that reduce the chance of infection.

The psychological factors that reduce the chance of infection.

Lack of sleep, loneliness and stress are the main psychological factors that make people more vulnerable to infection, research finds.

However, loneliness can be combated by speaking to others using apps like FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Google Duo.

Stress can be reduced with simple psychological exercises and sleep can be improved by following sleep hygiene guidelines.

Dr Christopher Fagundes, an expert on how mental health affects the immune system, said:

“We’ve found that stress, loneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed.

Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to over-respond.

Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”

1. Loneliness

Studies have repeatedly shown that loneliness tends to make people more susceptible to infection.

People who spend less time around others are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus, research finds.

Staying connected with others and experiencing positive emotions, though, can boost the immune system.

Dr Fagundes recommends video calls:

“There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.

There’s something about chatting with people and having them visually ‘with’ you that seems to be more of a buffer against loneliness.”

2. Sleep

Sleep deprivation makes people more likely to get sick, said Dr Fagundes:

“The overwhelming consensus in the field is that people who do not consistently get a good night’s sleep—7-9 hours for adults, with variation on what is optimal—makes a person more likely to get sick.”

One of the best methods for improving sleep is called stimulus control therapy.

Here are the six steps to falling asleep fast.

In general, though, having a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine and prioritising sleep, all help people sleep better, scientists have found.

3. Stress

Stress is the third factor that can affect the performance of the immune system, said Dr Fagundes:

“It’s important also to note that when we talk about stress, we mean chronic stress taking place over several weeks, not a single stressful incident or a few days of stress.

An isolated stressful incident does not seem to make a person more susceptible to a cold or the flu.”

Daily routines are a wonderful defence against stress, said Dr Fagundes:

“This will regulate your sleep and allow you to focus on immediate goals and plans.

In turn, you will overthink things less and feel more accomplished.”

People who are particularly susceptible to worry may like to try this exercise, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often worry and overthink things because their brain is telling them there is something to solve.

However, it can be counterproductive after a while.

A good technique is to set aside 15 minutes a day where you allow yourself to worry, preferably with a pen and paper.

After that, you aren’t allowed to think about the issue for the rest of the day.”

A further step is to address cognitive distortions, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often convince themselves that a situation is much worse than it is by telling themselves things that are not true.

We call these cognitive distortions.

For example, it is common to catastrophize a situation by convincing themselves that the worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario.

When people learn to identify and then refute these thoughts, they often feel much better.”

→ Here are 10 more ways to deal with stress and anxiety.

The studies were published in various journals (Cohen et al., 2011; Cohen et al., 2018; Prather et al., 2016).

You Can Reduce COVID Risk By Avoiding This Emotion (M)

Coping activities that increase the sense of control, coherence and connectedness are key to dealing with COVID stress.

Coping activities that increase the sense of control, coherence and connectedness are key to dealing with COVID stress.

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Avoid These Emotions For A Stronger Immune System

It is the reaction to stress that is important, rather than the stress itself.

It is the reaction to stress that is important, rather than the stress itself.

Negative emotions like sadness and anger are linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body, which can compromise the immune system.

Higher inflammation is part of the body’s response to things like infections and wounds.

Chronic inflammation can lead to health problems like cancer, heart disease and obesity.

However, a previous study shows that people who remain calm or cheerful in the face of irritations have a lower risk of inflammation.

In other words, it is the reaction to stress that is important, rather than the stress itself.

Typical everyday stressors include things like arguments with family, friends or co-workers, ongoing worries about money and childcare concerns.

Being able to remain positive in the face of these types of stressors is vital.

Women are particularly vulnerable to increased inflammation if they do not deal with the build-up of stress, the same previous study found.

Long-term stress has also been found to damage the brain’s short-term memory system.

Again, it is inflammation that causes short-term memory problems.

Once the inflammatory immune response to stress resolves, the problems disappear.

Emotions can be changed

The latest study included 220 people whose feelings were tracked over a two-week period.

The results showed that the more their negative moods accumulated, the higher their levels of inflammation.

Positive mood was linked to lower levels of inflammation — but only in men.

Emotions can be changed, Dr Jennifer Graham-Engeland, the study’s first author, underlined:

“Because affect is modifiable, we are excited about these findings and hope that they will spur additional research to understand the connection between affect and inflammation, which in turn may promote novel psychosocial interventions that promote health broadly and help break a cycle that can lead to chronic inflammation, disability, and disease.”

The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Graham-Engeland et al., 2018).

How To Deal With COVID-19 Stress

The ability to adapt to the new circumstances is the key.

The ability to adapt to the new circumstances is the key.

Staying in touch with your emotions is a good way to deal with COVID-19 stress, research reveals.

It is natural to experience emotions like sadness, fear, loneliness and anxiety during the pandemic.

However, people who are psychologically flexible tend to do better.

Flexibility means acknowledging emotions, accepting them and taking whatever action is possible.

Continuing to do whatever is important to you — even if it is in modified form — is key to reducing stress.

For example, people in the study who called a family member or friend to talk it through experienced less stress than those who bottled it up and said nothing.

Dr Emily Kroska, the study’s first author, said:

“The goal is to try and help people become more resilient by remaining in touch with their emotions and finding creative ways to maintain or build upon relationships with people or activities that are important to them.

People who do that will generally not be as distressed, or anxious, as those who don’t.”

The study included 485 people in the US who described the difficulties they had faced due to the pandemic.

Dr Kroska said:

“Basically, we wanted to learn about the full sort of adversities that people encountered due to COVID-19.

We found everyone encountered some degree of adversity, which is quite sad but expected.”

People reported physical sensations like sweating and fear as well as problems making the rent, getting their groceries and living apart from loved ones.

The study revealed that people experienced less stress if they displayed psychological flexibility.

This is the ability to be open and aware of one’s emotions and how they are affecting one’s actions.

Dr Kroska said:

“If you are creative with trying to talk with your family remotely instead of in person, but you’re resentful about it the whole time and think it sucks, that’s going to cause more distress.

But if you’re willing to say, ‘OK, this isn’t what we were exactly hoping for, but we’re going to make the best of it,’ that’s the values and the openness piece.

It’s the combination that’s required.”

Being able to adapt to the new circumstances is the key, said Dr Kroska:

“People don’t want to be distressed, but they’re going to be during this pandemic.

Being flexible and continuing to do what is important to you even during these difficult times is important and is associated with less distress.

I think people are desperate for anything that will help them feel less stressed out.”

The study was published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (Kroska et al., 2020).