Friday Roundup – The Science of Stress, An Exercise in Mindfulness, Sugary Energy, and More!


Attention lovely readers! We at Healthshire will be providing you with a weekly Friday roundup of the latest in mental health news. Let us do all the work and be your one-stop-shop for all things current!

Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

The Science of Stress

We all know stress is bad for us. That knowledge, however, only adds to our overwhelming heap of anxiety, worry, and stress we encounter on a daily basis. The Huffington Post reports on  an article in Popular Science magazine that takes an in-depth look at the science underlying stress.

Stress Goes Beyond the Surface

Stress and worry go deeper than surface level in how they affect our well-being. Stress has an impact on us biologically, even at the cellular level. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, negatively impacts our cells, nervous system, digestive system, metabolic system, and our cardiovascular system. Excessive stress increases our likelihood of cardiac arrest, the development of irritable bowel syndrome, and can influence changes in the brain.

Stress Impacts Our Well-Being

According to Popular Science magazine, 30% of American adults report stress directly affects their physical health and 33% report a negative influence on their mental health.

Stress Affects Our Sleep

The natural rhythm of cortisol follows a spike in the morning and then again overnight. For people with stress-related mental health issues, this becomes increasingly problematic. Individuals with depression and anxiety have unusually high levels of cortisol. which negatively affects the body’s cycles, particularly sleep.

Stress Affects Many

Research shows that stress has increased steadily over recent years. Studies show that financial concerns are the most significant cause of stress and that women tend to be more stressed than men.

You Can Cope With Stress

We can’t always control those people and things that add to our stress, but we can manage how we react to them. Changing your body language (expansive positions compared to tight, restricted poses), socializing, exercising, and meditation are just a few ways to let go of those stressful situations.

Sugary Drinks and ADHD-Like Symptoms

Energy drinks, sports drinks, sodas, and other sugary drinks tend to be the go-to for children and adolescents when feeling thirsty. The Washington Post reports on a study focusing on if these types of drinks affect behavior. Almost 1700 middle school-aged students were involved in the study. Participants were asked about their daily consumption of drinks including sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners.

The majority of students drank at least two types of sugary drinks daily, with soda being the beverage most often consumed, followed by fruit drinks, sweetened coffee, flavored milk, and sports drinks. 15 percent reported drinking energy drinks every day.

Researchers also administered scales to the students rating levels of hyperactivity and inattention. 85% of students scored in the normal range.

The study found that as daily drinking of sugary drinks increased, so did the levels of inattention and hyperactivity. For each additional drink had during the day, the risk for inattentive and hyperactive behavior increased by 14 percent. Adolescents drinking energy drinks daily were at a 66% increased risk for developing inattentive and hyperactive behaviors.

The Washington Post also mentions a government survey which found that almost 65% of high school students consume sweetened drinks daily, with over 30% consuming more than two beverages a day. Most of these drinks typically contain caffeine. The combination of sugar and caffeine have stimulating effects, with too much contributing to the development of behavioral issues.

The authors of the study note that adolescents with inattention and hyperactivity “may be drawn to consuming energy drinks for psychological or physiological reasons.”

Subtlety of Depression

Almost 15 million Americans struggle with depression every year. Many of us are familiar with the more common signs of depression: persistent sadness or feeling “down,” hopelessness, and a lack of pleasure or interest in activities previously enjoyed are among the top symptoms. Forbes, however, reports on the more subtle symptoms of depression, those that can be more difficult to identify. Being able to recognize more subtle signs of depression is critical in the self-awareness needed to decide to get help.

Externalized Symptoms

According to Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD., author of When Depression Hurts Your Relationship, some people have a higher likelihood of externalizing their depression. “Depression symptoms come out through excessively drinking alcohol, seeking out an affair outside of the relationship, becoming aggressive, or withdrawing from those you love. Similarly, physical symptoms like backaches or low sexual desire are less recognized as depression because they’re externalized.”

Acting Out

While lashing out can be including in externalized symptoms, it necessitates an emphasis as anger and irritability can often lead to lashing out at others when feeling particularly helpless or hopeless. Kolakowski says, “Experiencing irritability, hostility, anger, and being sensitive to rejection are all common symptoms when depressed. Less well known is the fact that not only is irritability a sign of depression, but that it often signals a more severe level of depression. Hostility and irritability are also linked to a higher likelihood of having other mental illness, like anxiety. Other emotions such as sadness, shame, or helplessness often underlie the irritability, but irritability is what shows up on the surface.”

Other less well-known symptoms of depression include:


Lack of Concentration

Excessive Guilt

Negative Bias



Mindfulness in Exercise

Finding the time to work out is an exercise itself. Cold weather and a lack of motivation can be significant hurdles to overcome when deciding whether or not to go to the gym after work. The New York Times reports on a study that might offer some new hope into your exercise routine.

Research shows that people who remain consistent with their workout routines find satisfaction in exercise. Being active brings them a feeling of fulfillment. The study, recently published in The Journal of Health Psychology, and conducted from scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in conjunction with other institutions, focused on the psychology underlying satisfaction derived from exercise in an attempt to understand why some people find joy in working out while others do not.

Researchers went into the study with the mindset of mindfulness not being a significant help in affecting people’s interest in wanting to work out but rather affected their experience during exercise. Almost 400 adults who self-identified as physically active were surveyed for the study. They were asked questions about how much they exercised, their satisfaction levels with exercise, how mindful they were, and how these concepts intersected with one another.

The study found that individuals who reported the most satisfaction in their exercise routines were also those who worked out the most. Individuals who reported being mindful during workouts also commonly reported greater satisfaction with exercise. Researchers concluded that mindfulness influences exercise in an indirect fashion, by affecting satisfaction.

Lead author of the study and Marie Curie Research Fellow at Utrecht University, Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, states, “The message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent. For those experiences to be noticed, one must become aware of them. We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”

This week’s roundup is dedicated to the Lunar New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Sheep! Or Goat!


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