Online Module on Managing Stress
This series of videos have been put together to help empower you to design your own customized stress management rituals through cultivating a better appreciation of the various facets of our natural stress response. After viewing these videos you will be able to,
- Understand the stress response system so that you can learn to work with the principles underlying the stress response rather than become an unsuspecting victim of its effects.
- Appreciate the physiological and psychological changes that stress induces so that you can create your own customized rituals and strategies to cope effectively with stress.
- Recognise the symptoms and effects of Attention Deficit Trait and learn strategies to prevent and cope with it.
We start this module by taking an evolutionary approach to stress. We try to understand the rationale behind the physiological and psychological changes that typically accompany the stress response. We look at possible benefits as well as risks that might be related to the changes that stress induces in our body. We explore both the short term and long term effects of these changes and reflect on possible consequences.
In the second part of this module we focus exclusively on a particular variant of stress that is reaching epidemic proportions in the corporate workplaces as well as educational institutions. This variant of stress, known as ‘Attention Deficit Trait, is a neurological phenomenon that is triggered when there are too many simultaneous demands on our time and attention as a result of which our brain loses its capacity to attend fully and thoroughly to anything. We explore the causes and triggers that lead to such a state by understanding the relationship between the primitive parts of the brain and the more evolved portions that we use for logical thinking and decision making. We look at ways by which we can leverage the workings of our brain so that we can try and prevent ADT and when it occurs we can recognize it and bounce back
from it elegantly.
This module has been divided into 11 sub-topics. Please watch the introductory video first and then the rest of the videos in sequence.
Overview of the Module
In this video, we explore what is meant by ‘stress’ and introduce participants to a perspective of viewing the stress response through an evolutionary perspective.
2 Effects of Stress on the Physical Body
In this video, we explore how stress impacts the physical body. We examine the role of the stress hormones and their effect on body functions such as immunity, growth, reproduction, and digestion.
3 Effects of Stress on Mental Functioning
In this video, we examine how stress impacts our mental functioning. We use an evolutionary perspective to trace the rationale behind the changes induced in our brains with respect to perception, sensemaking, and allocation of resources to various parts of the brain.
4 Possible Benefits of Stress
In this video, we examine how in some ways stress can actually benefit us. Participants are introduced to the beneficial effects of oxytocin (yet another hormone that is released during stress). We discuss the possibility of something being beneficial at small levels but harmful in larger doses.
5 Workplace Stress and ADT
In this video, we explore Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), which is a modern-day manifestation of stress that is triggered when one is trying to do many things simultaneously. We examine why the brain reacts stressfully when faced with multiple (and parallel) demands for attention, even when these might be positive or neutral demands.
6 Recovering from ADT
In this video, we explore ways of dealing with attention deficit trait once it has been identified. Through acknowledging the chemistry between different parts of the brain we explore a few simple but effective strategies that can be used effectively to bounce back from an attack of ADT.
7 Mirror Neurons
In this video, we learn about mirror neurons and discuss how the knowledge of mirror neurons can help us design ways of dealing with stress and ADT more effectively (especially in social and interpersonal contexts).
2.8. Prioritizing Post-ADT
This video explains how to prioritize tasks after an episode of ADT. This is because a person facing multiple tasks might feel refreshed while taking a break, but his or her primitive brain might return to its original panicked state when he or she returns to work.
9 Managing for ADT
In this video, techniques for managing ADT are explored. These techniques fall into two categories: (a) increasing the capacity of the brain and (b) modifying the environment.
10 Helping others manage ADT
In this video, we examine how we can use knowledge about ADT to help others (for example a manager might want to use it to help his subordinates perform at their cognitive best). We emphasize why it is important to explain the science behind ADT to others, rather than merely advocate solutions.
In this video, we review our key learnings from all the modules and explore how stress can both harm and help us. We close the discussion with an invitation to learn to appreciate nature’s design of the brain and to examine further our own beliefs and perceptions related to stress.
Further Resources to Continue Your Exploration of this Topic
(1) Stress Effects on the Body:
This article summarizes the effects of stress on the body’s vital systems-the musculoskeletal system, the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the gastro-intestinal system, the nervous system and the reproductive system. It also explains how stress can create serious health issues like Type 2 diabetes, ulcers, or worsen existing health issues.
(2) Researchers find out why some stress is good for you:
This article explains the science behind the benefits of (short-lived)stress. These benefits include: increased alertness, better adaptability, and better learning. It also illustrates how chronic stress can have the opposite effects. It also points to the importance of a person’s perception of the stress in determining whether he will benefit or be harmed by it.
(3) Multitasking Can Make You Lose … Um … Focus
This article, by the New York Times, explains how multi-tasking reduces our efficiency. For example, recent research demonstrates that people lost time when they have to switch between two tasks. This can be fatal in critical tasks, for example, driving. Multi-tasking also has other negative effects for example: increased stress, frustration and pressure. Finally, the article describes the importance of disciplining ourselves not to do more than one thing at a time to increase our productivity.
(4) Mirror Neurons
This article describes the discovery of mirror neurons and its implications. Researchers unexpectedly discovered mirror neurons while they were studying the motor responses of monkeys. It also explains how the discovery of mirror neurons changed the way scientists thought about people’s interactions(from a logic based process to a feeling based one). Finally, mirror neurons might also have implications for understanding empathy, brain disorders and learning new languages.
(5) The Science of Stress(Video)
This video explains how the two stress hormones(adrenaline and cortisol) work in physical and psychological stress. Adrenaline helps us to react quickly to a stressor, whereas cortisol creates the burst of energy required for that response. In a physical stressor (for example, running away from a tiger), the extra energy created is used up. However, psychological stress might create pent up energy which does not get used up. Constant psychological stress primes the body to release large amounts of cortisol, which can lead to health problems like diabetes and lower bone density. The video also explains the importance of exercise in managing psychological stress.
(6) How to make stress your friend:
In this video, Kelly McGonigal takes a different view about stress. While people tend to believe that stress is bad, McGonigal emphasizes that it is our attitude to stress which makes a difference. Citing research, she states that viewing stress as harmful might actually lead to negative health consequences. On the other hand, if we view stress more positively, it help mitigate some of the negative health consequences. In support of this, McGonigal also describes how stress releases oxytocin, which leads us to give and seek support from others. Such support can reduce the negative impact of stress.
(7) Attention Deficit Trait Develops in Frequent Cell Phone Users:
This video describes how technology overuse can lead to attention deficit disorders. This in turn impairs our ability to make good decisions. An excessive reliance on technology can also lead us to become impatient and impulsive. In fact, these traits appear to have become the norm currently.