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Facebook Can Make Users Feel Worse

A University of Michigan study found that time spent on Facebook could decrease a person’s mood.  Other studies have found that increased envy can occur while reading other people’s Facebook pages.  On the other hand, a study at the University of Wisconsin found that Facebook users could increase their self-esteem.  In general, it seems that Facebook use, within which many activities take place, can have different effects on different people.  Thus, it is important for users to be aware of their own responses as they use Facebook, monitor their moods and change behavior as needed.

If you think talking with someone would help you, call the EAP at 8-5860 and schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor

Couples’ Workshop Series

For You and Your Partner

The EAP will be holding a Workshop for couples interested in enhancing their relationships.  The small group will meet for five sessions, Oct0ber 22- November 19, 2013 on Tuesdays, 4:30-6:30.  Space is limited.  You can sign up now to reserve your space.  Please call us at 410.328.5860 or by email us at mmccarre@psych.umaryland.edu.

Having Trouble Relaxing?

This might be the right tool for you!

One of our senior counselors, Cheryl Confer, recently attended a workshop on Coherent Breathing. This is a simple breathing practice that is designed to reduce stress and anxiety and create a relaxed state of mind and body.  It is based on a scientific principle of regulating the body’s autonomic nervous system responsible for our feelings of calm and relaxation.  If you are interested in learning about this practice, you are invited to schedule an appointment with Cheryl at the EAP.

Boston Marathon Tragedy

In the days to come, images and stories about the explosions at the Boston Marathon will dominate the media.
Althought trauma affects people differently, you may experience some common reactions. These signs and symptoms may begin immediately or you may feel fine for days or even weeks, then suddenly be hit with a reaction. Although you may feel abnormal, it is very normal for people to experience emotional ‘aftershocks” following a traumatic event. Some common responses are:
Physical Reactions:
Insomnia
Fatigue, hyperactivity or “nervous energy”
Pain in the neck or back
Dizzy spells
Appetite changes
Headaches
Heart palpitations or pains in the chest
Emotional Reactions:
Flashbacks or “reliving” the event
Excessive jumpiness or tendency
Anger
Irritability
Feeling vulnerable
Feelings of anxiety or helplessness
Behavioral Reactions:
Changes in normal activities
Change in speech
Substance abuse
Change in communication
Emotional outbursts
Inability to rest
Tips for Coping After a Traumatic Event:
As you are experiencing various emotions resulting from a traumatic event, below are suggestions that may help:
Physical exercise along with relaxation may help relieve the physical stress.
Talk to people; talking can be healing.
Spend time with others. Resist the tendency to isolate.
Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
Keep a journal; write your way through sleepless times.
Get plenty of rest and eat regular meals, even if you don’t feel like it.
Seek medical assistance if your physical symptoms concern you.
Follow a familiar routine.
Take one thing at a time.
If you or a loved one is feeling traumatized or vulnerable, remember that the EAP is available to help. To talk with a counselor you can contact the EAP at 410-328-5860.

Want to Improve your Memory?

PHYS ED

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

Two new experiments, one involving people and the other animals, suggest that regular exercise can substantially improve memory, although different types of exercise seem to affect the brain quite differently. The news may offer consolation for the growing numbers of us who are entering age groups most at risk for cognitive decline.

It was back in the 1990s that scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., first discovered that exercise bulks up the brain. In groundbreaking experiments, they showed that mice given access to running wheels produced far more cells in an area of the brain controlling memory creation than animals that didn’t run. The exercised animals then performed better on memory tests than their sedentary labmates.

Since then, scientists have been working to understand precisely how, at a molecular level, exercise improves memory, as well as whether all types of exercise, including weight training, are beneficial.

The new studies provide some additional and inspiring clarity on those issues, as well as, incidentally, on how you can get lab rats to weight train.

For the human study, published in The Journal of Aging Research, scientists at the University of British Columbia recruited dozens of women ages 70 to 80 who had been found to have mild cognitive impairment, a condition that makes a person’s memory and thinking more muddled than would be expected at a given age.

Mild cognitive impairment is also a recognized risk factor for increasing dementia. Seniors with the condition develop Alzheimer’s disease at much higher rates than those of the same age with sharper memories.

Earlier, the same group of researchers had found that after weight training, older women with mild cognitive impairment improved their associative memory, or the ability to recall things in context — a stranger’s name and how you were introduced, for instance.

Now the scientists wanted to look at more essential types of memory, and at endurance exercise as well. So they randomly assigned their volunteers to six months of supervised exercise. Some of the women lifted weights twice a week. Others briskly walked. And some, as a control measure, skipped endurance exercise and instead stretched and toned.

At the start and end of the six months, the women completed a battery of tests designed to study their verbal and spatial memory. Verbal memory is, among other things, your ability to remember words, and spatial memory is your remembrance of where things once were placed in space. Both deteriorate with age, a loss that’s exaggerated in people with mild cognitive impairment.

And in this study, after six months, the women in the toning group scored worse on the memory tests than they had at the start of the study. Their cognitive impairment had grown.

But the women who had exercised, either by walking or weight training, performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests after six months than they had before.

There were, however, differences.

While both exercise groups improved almost equally on tests of spatial memory, the women who had walked showed greater gains in verbal memory than the women who had lifted weights.

What these findings suggest, the authors conclude, is that endurance training and weight training may have different physiological effects within the brain and cause improvements in different types of memory.

That idea tallies nicely with the results of the other recent study of exercise and memory, in which lab rats either ran on wheels or, to the extent possible, lifted weights. Specifically, the researchers taped weights to the animals’ tails and had them repeatedly climb little ladders to simulate resistance training.

After six weeks, the animals in both exercise groups scored better on memory tests than they had before they trained. But it was what was going on in their bodies and brains that was revelatory. The scientists found that the runners’ brains showed increased levels of a protein known as BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is known to support the health of existing neurons and coax the creation of new brain cells. The rat weight-trainers’ brains did not show increased levels of BDNF.

The tail trainers, however, did have significantly higher levels of another protein, insulinlike growth factor, in their brains and blood than the runners did. This substance, too, promotes cell division and growth and most likely helps fragile newborn neurons to survive.

What all of this new research suggests, says Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor in the Brain Research Center at the University of British Columbia who oversaw the experiments with older women, is that for the most robust brain health, it’s probably advisable to incorporate both aerobic and resistance training. It seems that each type of exercise “selectively targets different aspects of cognition,” she says, probably by sparking the release of different proteins in the body and brain.

But, she continues, no need to worry if you choose to concentrate solely on aerobic or resistance training, at least in terms of memory improvements. The differences in the effects of each type of exercise were subtle, she says, while the effects of exercise — any exercise — on overall cognitive function were profound.

“When we started these experiments,” she says, “most of us thought that, at best, we’d see less decline” in memory function among the volunteers who exercised, which still would have represented success. But beyond merely stemming people’s memory loss, she says, “we saw actual improvements,” an outcome that, if you’re waffling about exercising today, is worth remembering.

O’s-pening Day!

Orioles Win Opening Day!

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) would like to congratulate the Baltimore Orioles on their Home Opener win.   We wish you many more!

Autism and Aspergers

Did you know April is National Autism Awareness Month?

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals to varying degrees.

Are you living with a person with autism? Are you experiencing stress due to the high demands of caring for someone with autism? If so, you are not alone. The demands of living with a person with autism are great and families frequently experience high levels of stress and anxiety.

The Autism Society (www.autism-society.org) offers a variety of resources for families who are living with and/or caring for a person with autism. To talk with someone about how to cope with the stress and anxiety of autism, call the EAP at 410-328-5860.

Some people have a version of autism called Aspergers.  People with Aspergers are often very intelligent and can figure out a variety of problems, but have trouble reading people’s faces, or interpreting sarcasm or social cues.  If you would like help in improving your social skills, call the EAP to meet with a counselor today.  Or, you can email Maureen McCarren, LCSW-C at mmccarre@psych.umaryland.edu

Happy Spring!

Help for Caregivers

Assistance for Those Caring for Elderly Relatives

The EAP is committed to helping those who are helping others.  We will have a special guest come to present ideas to those who are caring for elderly parents, relatives or friends.
 
Regina Curran, MA CMC, is a geriatric care manager. She assists older adults and persons with disabilities reach their maximum functional potential.  The person’s independence is encouraged, while safety and security concerns are addressed.
 
Every person’s circumstances are different.  Families can be faced with many alternatives and may not know how to choose the alternative that will be the best fit for that person and that  family.  Geriatric care managers can help identify alternatives and provide guidance to help a family as they address the needs of the older adult or the person with disabilities.
 
Regina Curran is the President of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Caregivers Association.  She will be at the EAP on April 26, Friday, at noon to share information and answer questions. 
 
Seating is limited, so reserve your spot now by emailing Maureen in the EAP at mmccarre@psych.umaryland.edu or by calling 8-0412.
 
Information on geriatric care  management is available at http://www.caremanager.org/ .
 

On-Line Support Group

Email Group for Caregivers?

Are you caring for someone?  Is it difficult for you to find time for yourself? Would you like to be part of an email group with others in the same situation?  You could share ideas, frustrations, offer solutions, etc.   The Employee Assistance Program is in the process of developing an on-line support group for Caregivers. If you are interested in the group, please email Maureen at mmccarre@psych.umaryland.edu or call 410.328.0412.

Stress Can Interfere with Sleep

How Can I Sleep Better?

Stress often interferes with sleep, which then can make the next day more difficult to manage.  If this continues, it can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, and forgetfulness.  Many anti-depressants are effective because they help people sleep better.

Some people want to try natural ways to increase sleep and then boost mood.  First, take an inventory of your current habits.  Are you ingesting too much caffeine or drinking it too late in the day? Try decreasing coffee, tea, chocolate, and stop all caffeinated products by 2:00 p.m. Cigarettes, although initially relaxing for the smoker, are stimulants and add to sleep problems. Exercise is great to help people sleep better, but don’t do vigorous exercise late in the day or right before bed. Gentle stretching or a long walk late at night is better to help people sleep.  Alcohol helps people  feel sleepy but it interferes with the deepest phases of sleep and causes frequent nighttime awakenings. Do you have a medical problem such as back pain, or a thyroid disorder that may interfere with sleep?  Or, is the medication you’re taking hampering sleep? Try a little meditation or yoga and see if that helps you.  For more information, or to talk with someone about the issues that are bothering you or worrying you, call the EAP at 410.328.5860. Sometimes, having an objective person help you look at things differently can help decrease stress.  Sweet dreams!