Expressive writing may keep stress at bay
New York: Do you get worried, stressed and anxious when your boss entrusts a task to you? There is, however, a way to handle the task efficiently without placing yourself under undue stress.
Expressing your feelings on a sheet of paper can cool your brain and help you perform the stress-inducing task more efficiently, finds a study.
According to researchers, worrying takes up cognitive resources. Due to the worrying, you are constantly multi-tasking because you are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress your worries at the same time
“Our findings show that if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient,” said lead author Hans Schroder, doctoral student at Michigan State University (MSU).
Previous research has shown that expressive writing can help individuals process past traumas or stressful events.
“Expressive writing makes the mind work less hard on upcoming stressful tasks, which is what worriers often get ‘burned out’ over, their worried minds working harder and hotter,” added Jason Moser, Associate Professor at MSU.
“This technique takes the edge off their brains so they can perform the task with a ‘cooler head’,” Moser explained.
For the study, published in the journal Psychophysiology, college students identified as chronically anxious through a validated screening measure completed a computer-based “flanker task” that measured their response accuracy and reaction times.
Before the task, about half of the participants wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the upcoming task for eight minutes; the other half, in the control condition, wrote about what they did the day before.
While the two groups performed at about the same level for speed and accuracy, the expressive-writing group performed the flanker task more efficiently, meaning they used fewer brain resources.