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#1 ThoughtOnFire



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Posted 18 May 2015 - 11:59 AM


Use Stress to Your Advantage


To perform under pressure, research finds that welcoming anxiety is more helpful than calming down




May 15, 2015 10:38 a.m. ET


Imagine that you work for an organization with hundreds of employees and you’re about to give a presentation to the entire group. The CEO and all the board members are in the audience. You’ve been anxious about this talk all week, and now your heart is pounding. Your palms are sweating. Your mouth feels dry.


What is the best thing to do in this moment? Should you try to calm down or try to feel excited?


When Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks asked hundreds of people this question, the responses were nearly unanimous: 91% thought that the best advice was to try to calm down. But is it true?


Prof. Brooks designed an experiment to find out. For a research paper published last yearin the Journal of Experimental Psychology, she recruited 140 people to give a speech. She told part of the group to relax and to calm their nerves by saying to themselves, “I am calm.” The others were told to embrace their anxiety and to tell themselves, “I am excited.”

Members of both groups were still nervous before the speech, but the participants who had told themselves “I am excited” felt better able to handle the pressure and were more confident of their ability to give a good talk. Not only that, but observers who rated the talks found the excited speakers more persuasive, confident and competent than the participants who had tried to calm down. With this one change in mind-set, the speakers had transformed their anxiety into energy that helped them to perform under pressure.

The Harvard study is part of a growing body of research to find that the best way to handle stress is to embrace it rather than to minimize it. Whether it’s a student facing a final exam, an executive delivering a big presentation or an athlete preparing for a championship game, welcoming stress can boost confidence and improve performance. When you stop resisting it, stress can fuel you.


“We’re bombarded with information about how bad stress is,” says Jeremy Jamieson, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who specializes in stress. But the conventional view, he says, fails to appreciate the many ways in which physical and psychological tension can help us to perform better.

In research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2010, Prof. Jamieson tested his theory with college students who were preparing to take the Graduate Record Examination, which is used for admission to Ph.D. programs. He invited 60 students to take a practice GRE and collected saliva samples from them beforehand to get baseline measures of their levels of alpha-amylase, a hormonal indicator of stress. He told them that the goal of the study was to examine how the physiological stress response affects performance.


He then gave half the students a brief pep talk to help them rethink their pre-exam nervousness. “People think that feeling anxious while taking a standardized test will make them do poorly,” he told them. “However, recent research suggests that stress doesn’t hurt performance on these tests and can even help performance. People who feel anxious during a test might actually do better…. If you find yourself feeling anxious, simply remind yourself that your stress could be helping you do well.”

It worked: Students who received the mind-set intervention scored higher on the practice exam than those in the control group. Nor could the difference in GRE scores be attributed to differences in ability: Students had been randomly assigned to the two groups and didn’t differ, on average, in their SAT scores or college GPAs.

Prof. Jamieson wondered about another possible explanation: Perhaps his pep talk had simply calmed the students down instead of helping them to use their stress. To test this proposition, he took a second saliva sample from students after the exam. The group that had received the mind-set message showed higher, not lower, levels of salivary alpha-amylase—in other words, they were more stressed after the exam, not less.


Interestingly, he also found that stress by itself, as measured by the saliva sample, was not the key to better performance. For students who had received the pep talk, a stronger physical stress response was associated with higher scores. In contrast, there was no relationship between stress hormones and performance in the control group. The stress response by itself had not helped or hurt their test-taking in any predictable way.


What makes such mind-set interventions so promising, says Prof. Jamieson, is that when they work, they do not just have an immediate, onetime effect—they stick. He delivered his pep talk days before the actual exam, but the students had somehow internalized its message.

Prof. Jamieson didn’t track the students after their GRE exams, but other research hints at the broader impact of self-consciously embracing anxiety. In research published last year in the journal Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 100 students at the University of Lisbon kept daily diaries during an exam period. They reported how much anxiety they felt and how they interpreted their anxiety.


Students who viewed their anxiety as helpful, not harmful, reported less emotional exhaustion. They also did better on their exams and earned higher grades at the end of the term. Critically, the effects of mind-set were strongest when anxiety levels were high. A positive mind-set protected the most anxious students from emotional exhaustion and helped them to succeed in their goals.


The researchers went a step further to see whether they could change students’ experience of exhaustion after a stressful exam. They told some who were about to take a hard test, “If you experience stress or anxiety, try to channel or use the energy those feelings may arouse in order to do your best.” Another group of students was advised, “If you experience stress or anxiety, try to focus on the task to do your best.” A final group was told simply, “Please try to do your best.”

After the test, students completed a measure of how depleted they felt from the experience. The least exhausted were those who had been encouraged to view their stress and anxiety as energy they could use.


A positive view of anxiety also can make you less likely to burn out in a demanding job. Ina study published in 2014 in Cognition and Emotion, researchers at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, followed midcareer teachers and physicians for a year to see if their views on this issue influenced their well-being at work. At the beginning of the year, the teachers and doctors were asked if they saw anxiety as a helpful feeling, providing energy and motivation, or as harmful. At the end of the year, those who saw their anxiety as helpful were less likely to be burned out, frustrated or drained by their work.


The upshot? When you are anxious before having to perform at a big event—whether it’s a meeting, a speech, a competition or an exam—remember that there is a fine line between tension and excitement. Embrace your nerves.


—Dr. McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. This essay is adapted from her latest book, “The Upside of Stress,” recently published by Avery.

#2 sunjet


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Posted 18 May 2015 - 05:34 PM

And here we go, someone else confirm that it's not anxiety/depression/dpdr that affects us, it's our REACTION to it. 

#3 *Dreamer*


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Posted 20 May 2015 - 02:58 PM

And here we go, someone else confirm that it's not anxiety/depression/dpdr that affects us, it's our REACTION to it. 

Stress can indeed be positive to a degree.  There would be no anxiety instinct in animals (and I see us as complex animals) if it didn't serve some purpose.  It protects us in dangerous situations ... a survival mechanism ... fight/flight.  And it is normal for a healthy person to feel anxious and vigilant when going down a dark alley at night.  Being focused, hyperaware, etc. That is live-saving.

But when anxiety is pathological -- and it is the most common mental health disorder -- it can be paralyzing.

There are ways to alleviate the suffering of chronic anxiety ... and of course it occurs on a spectrum.  But it is too simple to say an attitude alone is going to make a difference.

I have mentally healthy friends who have extremely high stress jobs -- entertainment industry, finance (handling million dollar accounts), doctors under constant pressure.  Most have no idea what I'm talking about when I talk about the level of daily anxiety I have, not to mention serious anxiety.  I will ask over and over -- "What makes you anxious?"  It takes them a long time to find any example.  Generally for many it is "first time on a job" or a "job evaluation" or maybe "giving a presentation." And many people with severe anxiety force themselves and are able to "push through" serious anxiety ... but they are subject to burnout.

Also, anxiety comes with most mental illness.

I see MD resident psychiatrists who rotate out every year -- they are in charge of my meds.  I have an ACSW thearpist who is a permanent member of the staff.  I have yet to find a psychitrist who had experienced the level of anxiety I have ...

One wonderful guy said he had experienced DP/DR.  He had been up for 48+ hours in the ER.  He felt he didn't know what he was doing when a serious trauma came in.  As he was trying to figure out what to do, he felt severe DP/DR.  He had to work through it, but could barely function and a nurse coached him.  When he took a break and went to sleep for a few hours he was OK.  Never came back.  He said to me "OMG how can you live with this chronically?"  That happened to him once or twice.  He knew the ER was not the place for him.  No shame in that.

I believe you are a medical resident Sunjet?  I wrote a response to you in one place where I am really surprised by your lack of empathy for psychiatric patients.  And it is a fact that doctors frequently look down on individuals with mental illness even when they come in with serious medical conditions.
I have been insulted, "babied" and worse by many doctors.  One PATTED ME ON THE HEAD.

I will give the link to my response in another place.  You may have not read it.  It really troubles me if you plan to be a doctor of any kind and have such little compassion.  I work with mentally ill individuals daily and they all have the same story.  And some residents are honest with me and note that mentally ill patients are discussed and joiked about.  My mother was a psychiatrist -- she did the same thing -- made fun of her patients in front of me, even when I was a young girl.

#4 *Dreamer*


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Posted 20 May 2015 - 03:06 PM

sunjet, on 14 May 2015 - 03:52 AM, said:snapback.png -- this was in response to a questoin about IV resperidone.

I made a rotation through psychward for 1-2 weeks and all patients who had Risperidone where just some veggies that don't care about anything. It's just numbs you totally and you are like a walking zombie.


My thought that this med is good for those with intrusive hallucinations, strong psychotic outbreak and who are really going mad.


I wouldn't recommend taking it for DPDR no matter how severe is. Better find a good anxiolytic or/and antidepressant.

First, to answer the OP's question, I also would be hesitant to go with IV vs. attempting to take this orally.  It could very well help, but my experience with old antipsychotics has been a horrible increase in my DP/DR.

And to Sunjet, your description as a medical student on rotation through a psych ward is unbelievably cruel, especially for someone who has some form of brain disorder.  I know (my parents were physicians, and I've heard this from medical residents) that doctors in all specialties, on the whole, look down with disdain on psychiatric patients, without compassion, and don't seem to understand that such individuals can be terribly sick and yet go into remission and be highly funcioning members of society.

I know indiviuals who have been hospitalized for psychosis (schizophrenia, schizoaffective, etc.) and have been given all manner of such medications.  Yes, they may feel doped up and LOOK doped up.  That doesn't mean they aren't sad, terrified, anxious, lonely, and deserve respect.

It is painful to hear that you have no empathy with your OWN experience.

Yes, this medication could really dope you out, but you aren't a vegetable, not knowing what's going on. You are a human being who has been given a drug to help you (all that is available now) that also makes you feel terrible.  That's true of chemotherapy.  Would you have no sympathy for someone undergoing therapy who is so zonked out they can't see straight?

There is a human being inside every person with mental illness.

One friend of mine, who works full time, and better than I do, took 12 years to fight a psychotic break.  In the hospital, drugged to the hilt, she was still aware of what was going on.  She wanted to die as she was so frightened, so frightend the medication wouldn't work.  She was even discharged one time when her ability to hold her bag of belongings in her arms and take a cab home was virtually impossible.  She couldn't tell the taxi driver where she lived even though she knew she had forgotten, and it was due to her being loaded up with meds and discharged because the doctors needed to empty the ward for another patient -- before she was ready to leave.


Oh, forgot to mention, when said friend was "let go" in a few days she attempted suicide.  She would have been dead had someone not looked for her 24 hours later.  She doesn't know how she survived. When she went BACK into the hospital one doctor told her, "What a foolish thing to do."  She shouldn't be alive, and she is thank God.  She is an inspiration to so many.

Don't judge someone without walking in his/her shoes.

To add to this.  A rotation of 1-2 weeks through psychiatry is NOTHING.  I have found brilliant young residents in psychiatry, and some true idiots that everyone was happy to see leave and move on.  My current psychiatrist knows about DP/DR.  She is 28 or so.  She is working her clinical residency and has worked with inpatients as well.  She would NEVER talk the way you do. Her specialty is psychiatry and she wishes to go on into geriatrci psychiatry.

Fellowship and further study.

I have found the therapists  from MSW to ACSW who hang around a long time, and the nurses have tremendous compassion. They spend TIME with patients ... a lot of time.  And you base this on a "1-2 week rotation?"

I doubt you plan to go into psychiatry.  But I hope whatever specialty you choose you don't treat individuals with mental illness like crap.
End of lecture.  I have seen and heard to much about this.

Edited by *Dreamer*, 20 May 2015 - 03:10 PM.

#5 *Dreamer*


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Posted 20 May 2015 - 03:13 PM

NB: this is at the University of Michigan. Since 2004 I have been through about 11 M.D. psychiatric residents, and I ask them the same questions. Some are happy to learn from me.  Others become defensive and then abusive -- and I ask for another -- some are fired thank God.  Amazing the differece in the attitude of the excellent doctors.

#6 sunjet


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Posted 21 May 2015 - 06:20 AM

Actually, the problem is in our country (one of the poorest country in Europe, Moldova) . Our psychiatrists are very bad doctors. They fill the patients with drugs (insane doses of diazepam, risperidone and other antipsychotic drugs) without trying to solve the underlying cause. 


I'm don't have problem with compassion, I hate the drugs throwing around like nothing and I believe that people can get over their mental illnesses without taking such drugs, especially for those people that can stay on a computer, create a topic on a forum and ask about some drugs and being aware of their mental status.


These drugs can only be reserved for extreme emergency, not "Let me try this, see what happens?"


I had extreme anxiety with panic attacks each minute. I was lying in bed thinking I will pass out and die. I thought I had some serious mentally disorder and I didn't told anyone, I was afraid and shamed and one day I told my parents and they tapped me on the shoulder and said "wtf, you are a pussy?" I started having suicidal thoughts but I was afraid of that too. It was a very tough period of my life. ON TOP OF THAT I was falsely involved in a political violation and went in various instances where I was trying to prove my innocence. I had having obsession that all are against me and that someone will make this again and will try even to get rid of me.  This is were I developed extreme DPDR, I though this is it, the end. Detached from the world, from my girlfriend, parents, all didn't gave a fuck about how I was feeling but  I'm lucky that my girlfriend (now wife) was always near my back and was supporting me. One day I even told her that I have anxiety and she said get over it...


All this started 10 years a go, and now i'm anxiety/dpdr free. How? The only pill that I took in my life is ibuprofen for my headache and some probiotics when I had a mild gastritis.


When I had panic attacks, I was non-functional and I always thought of calling the "911" but I was afraid "what will my friends/parents/gf think of me when they will found out that I just "freaked out" of nothing".


I just stayed strong, avoided all drugs and get over this shit, even if it was severe.


PS : I'm not talking about real mental illnesses like schizo, bipolar, manias and others real serious mental disorders, i'm talking about idiophatic/psychogenic anxiety/DPDR any degree.

#7 *Dreamer*


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Posted 22 May 2015 - 10:11 AM

Sunjet, I appreciate the struggles you've been through, and it's terrifying to say that the Mental Health Care system in the US is very bad and we have similar problems.  Mainly the problem is, "mental illness isn't real" ... something you say below. 


I just stayed strong, avoided all drugs and get over this shit, even if it was severe.


PS : I'm not talking about real mental illnesses like schizo, bipolar, manias and others real serious mental disorders, i'm talking about idiophatic/psychogenic anxiety/DPDR any degree.


More and more research worldwide has proven that extreme anxiety is a medical condition.  It is disabling.  It can be treated many ways - and obviously the first choice would to be to go without medications and try all sorts of alternatives.
If these things fail, it is up to the individual to decide if they wish to take meds or not.

So we can't agree that SEVERE anxiety and DP/DR are medical conditions.  In your case with a panic disorder ... I believe that is a medical condition and DP/DR is  KNOWN listed secondary syndrome.  I have friends who know DP/DR as they have had panic attacks.

Some friends were given short courses of meds, then tapered off and have never had an episode again.  One friend with OCD as well as panic attacks has been on an SSRI for years now.  The panic attacks stopped as did the DP/DR episodes, but her OCD is controlled -- very well.   When she was pregnant she went off the SSRI.  During both of her pregnancies all of her symptoms came back in full force.  During her last pregnancy it was suggested even by her OB/GYN that she stay on an SSRI (the child is fine) as she was in such agony with all of her psychiatric symptoms.

Again I don't see you showing compassion.  I fear you would say to a patient with an anxiety disorder as "weak."  You would apply only YOUR experience, "Well I got over it.  Snap out of it!  You are weak."

It's interesting that this is indeed what many doctors believe.

Also, I despise the word "schizo" and your description of the inpatients you saw as "veggies" ... that shows a lack of compassion and empathy.

I really hope you are planning to become a surgeon and not work in any field of internal medicine.

I'm glad you are better, but please don't judge others here or any other people in your life.  You said, no one believed you. So you would repeat this with a friend or patient in the future?

Unfortuante, but that is the nature of our world.  So many do not believe even in schizohrenia.  Or they are afraid to talk about it.  You are adding to the probelm and not the solution and you plan to be a doctor.  That really terrifies me.

But I'm glad you are doing so much better.


Edited by *Dreamer*, 22 May 2015 - 10:19 AM.

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