|What Is Separation Anxiety?
||Some kids beyond their toddler years have a terrible time separating from parents. They may refuse to sleep alone, go on play dates, or attend school. Any attempts at separation may trigger intense fear and tantrums. This situation can be a nightmare for parents. The good news is with early identification and professional guidance treatment is usually very successful.
|Can drinking alcohol harm the child before the mother knows she is pregnant?
||Alcohol drunk by a mouse in early pregnancy changes the way genes function in the brains of the offspring. The early exposure was also later apparent in the brain structure of the adult offspring. The timing of the exposure corresponds to the human gestational weeks 3-6 in terms of fetal development.
|The Key Mindset that Can Never Lose
||Life is full of ups and downs and often times because our brains our wired to pay attention to the negative more, the losses are magnified, rehashed and fertile ground … ...
|Join The Psychiatric Medication Debate
||Do psychiatric medications do more harm than good or is the answer more complex than a simple yes or no?...
|How to Transform Stress into Courage and Connection
||In the late 1990s, two psychology researchers at UCLA were talking about how the female scientists in their lab responded differently to stress than the men did. The men would disappear into their offices; the women would bring cookies to lab meetings and bond over coffee. Forget fight-or-flight, they joked. The women were tending and befriending.
The joke stuck in the mind of one of the women, postdoctoral researcher Laura Cousino Klein. Psychology research has suggested that stress leads to aggression, but that wasn’t her experience. And it didn’t fit with what she observed in other women either. They were more likely to want to talk with someone about their stress, spend time with their loved ones, or channel their stress into caring for others. She wondered if it was possible that science had gotten stress wrong.
Klein decided to dig deeper into the science, and she made the surprising discovery that 90 percent of the published research on stress was conducted on males. This was true of animal studies as well as human studies. When Klein shared this observation with Shelley Taylor, the director of the lab she worked in, something clicked for her, too. Taylor challenged her lab to study the social side of stress, especially in women. Looking at both animal and human research, they found evidence that stress can increase caring, cooperation, and compassion.
While the tend-and-befriend theory began as an investigation into the female response to stress, it quickly expanded to include men—in part because male scientists said, “Hey, we tend and befriend, too!”
Taylor’s team, along with other research groups, began to demonstrate that stress doesn’t only motivate self-defense, as scientists had long believed. It can also unleash the instinct to protect your tribe. This instinct sometimes expresses itself differently in men than it does in women, but the two sexes share it. In times of stress, both men and women have been shown to become more trusting, generous, and willing to risk their own well-being to protect others.
Why would stress lead to caring?
From an evolutionary point of view, we have the tend-and-befriend response in our repertoire first and foremost to make sure we protect our offspring. Think of a mama grizzly protecting her cubs, or a father pulling his son from the wreckage of a burning car. The most important thing they need is the willingness to act even when their own lives are at risk.
To make sure we have the courage to protect our loved ones, the tend-and-befriend response must counter our basic survival instinct to avoid harm. We need fearlessness in those moments, along with confidence that our actions can make a difference. If we think there’s nothing we can do, we might give up. And if we are frozen in fear, our loved ones will perish.
At its core, the tend-and-befriend response is a biological state engineered to reduce fear and increase hope. The best way to understand how the tend-and-befriend response does this is to look at how it affects your brain:
The social caregiving system is regulated by oxytocin. When this system is activated, you feel more empathy, connection, and trust, as well as a stronger desire to bond or be close with others. This network also inhibits the fear centers of the brain, increasing your courage.
The reward system releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Activation of the reward system increases motivation while dampening fear. When your stress response includes a rush of dopamine, you feel optimistic about your ability to do something meaningful. Dopamine also primes the brain for physical action, making sure you don’t freeze under pressure.
The attunement system is driven by the neurotransmitter serotonin. When this system is activated, it enhances your perception, intuition, and self-control. This makes it easier to understand what is needed, and helps ensure that your actions have the biggest positive impact.
In other words, a tend-and-befriend response makes you social, brave, and smart. It provides both the courage and hope we need to propel us into action and the awareness to act skillfully.
Here’s where things get interesting. A tend-and-befriend response may have evolved to help us protect offspring, but when you are in that state, your bravery translates to any challenge you face. And—this is the most important part—anytime you choose to help others, you activate this state. Caring for others triggers the biology of courage and creates hope.
Whether you are overwhelmed by your own stress or the suffering of others, the way to find hope is to connect, not to escape. The benefits of taking a tend-and-befriend approach go beyond helping your loved ones, although this, of course, is an important function. In any situation where you feel powerless, doing something to support others can help you sustain your motivation and optimism.
The tend-and-befriend theory doesn’t say that stress always leads to caring—stress can indeed make us angry and defensive. The theory simply says that stress can, and often does, make people more caring. And when we care for others, it changes our biochemistry, activating systems of the brain that produce feelings of hope and courage.
I wrote my book The Upside of Stress with that purpose in mind: to help you discover your own strength and compassion. Seeing the upside of stress is not about deciding whether stress is either all good or all bad. It’s about how choosing to see the good in stress, and in yourself, can help you meet the challenges in your life. Tending and befriend is one of the best ways to do this, and to transform your own stress into a catalyst for courage and connection.
|Memory and the hippocampus: New work challenges old beliefs
||The size of the hippocampus, an important structure in the brain's memory circuit, is typically measured as one method to determine the integrity of the memory circuit. However, the shape of this structure is often neglected. New research challenges the long-held belief that a larger hippocampus is directly linked to improved memory function.
|Three Things that Help Children Succeed
||A child today spends more than six hours a day in front of an electronic screen — an average of nearly 45 hours a week. To put this in perspective, your child may be spending more time in front of screens than they would at … ...
|What Psychological Problems Do You Need To Be An Action Hero?
||You’re a cop on the edge, an ex-marine with nothing left to lose, or just an everyday guy who’s too old for this shit. Whatever you are, the one thing you’re not is psychologically healthy. In fact, in order to be an action hero, you basically need to be maladjusted in these very specific ways. Let’s talk about that....
|Nine New Dementia Studies You Should Know
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|Does “Close” Count in Sports?
||“Close only counts in horseshoes and grenade throwing,” the saying goes. I heard this saying early and often in my life, generally after trying to seek consolation in barely losing … ...
|Confessions of a Depressed Mental Health Advocate
||I’m a mental health advocate who also lives with mental illness. I experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder just like anyone else would. Bipolar and anxiety disorders cause me to … ...
|Stop the Cycle of Abuse: Countering the Narcissistic Rant...
||The cycle of abuse by a narcissist is frustrating. It begins with an upsetting event. The narcissist, feeling threatened, then reacts abusively. Tired of the assault, the abused defensively fights … ...
|Drug perks up old muscles and aging brains
||We age, in part, because the adult stem cells in our tissues are surrounded by chemicals that prevent them from replacing damaged cells. One of these chemicals is TGF-beta1, known to depress stem cell activity. A new study shows that a drug that blocks TGF-beta1, which is now being tested for its anticancer properties, makes brain and muscle tissue more youthful. This is a step toward a drug cocktail that could rejuvenate aging tissue.
|Brains of smokers who quit successfully might be wired for success
||Smokers who are able to quit might actually be hard-wired for success. The study showed greater connectivity among certain brain regions in people who successfully quit smoking compared to those who tried and failed.
|Spring Forward or Fall Back?
||The biggest unsolved problem of neuroscience can't be solved by neuroscience alone. Neuroscience needs embodied cognitive science. The brain doesn't generate the mind; it facilitates it.
|Men: Wearing red can make you appear angry, dominant
||Men who wear red clothes send out a signal that they are angry and aggressive, in much the same way as if their face had reddened, new research suggests. This study is believed to be the first into the effects of color on social perceptions of dominance and aggression in neutral settings.
|Research finds differences in the brains and behavior of girls and boys with autism
||Differences in the underlying biology of children's brains and behavior has been identified through a study on a large cohort of preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. The findings may help explain how the condition affects a little-studied and poorly understood population of children: girls.
|New insights into the male bias of autism
||Male toddlers with autism have significant structural differences in their brains compared to females with the condition, according to research. The new work is looking at the links between sex/gender and autism, which reveal additional insights into the role of prenatal sex hormones and the 'female protective effect'.
|Can Bipolar Disorder Worsen Procrastination?
||Procrastination is universal. There’s no doubt about it. We all have things that we avoid because we think they are too difficult or are just not interesting. It can be … ...
|Try This to Decelerate Fights with Your Partner
||When we get upset, a disagreement or conflict with our partner can escalate into a fight. This is when we say things we’ll regret. This is when we slam doors, yell and blame each other. We get defensive and feel disconnected. We start thinking our … ...