5C students, staff, and parents attended a talk on the science of well-being on Feb 13th, Family Weekend. The talk was led by Berger Institute Director Dr. Stacey Doan. Attendees listened to Dr. Doan discuss the impacts of stress in modern life, as well as evidence-based methods for reducing stress and increasing positive emotions. Dr. Doan explained how our stress responses–fight, flight, or freeze–may have served us in the evolutionary past, but in today’s modern world, our bodies can’t tell the difference between a tiger and a test. “Your body will still react the same way – your muscles will tense, your system will be flooded with adrenaline, and your mind will still feel like you are under a threat, despite being safe in bed,” she stated. Chronic, repeated stress responses can cause internal wear and tear and lead to a host of health problems.
To provide a counter
against the negative effects of stress, Dr. Doan also described some actions we
can take to reduce our stress, or at least temper the potential for long-term
physical harm. She explained that exercise can help relieve stress by releasing
the physical tension that gets stored in the body as it prepares to fight or
flee. Mindfulness exercises, such as yoga or breathing, can help train the mind
to focus on the present moment and let go of distractions or stressful
thoughts. Even displaying kindness, a way to bring about positive emotion in
yourself and others, can undo some of the physical effects of negative
track of future events.
Dr. Schaller brings a unique perspective to the Berger
Institute. With a background in labor and public economics, her interest in the
economic determinants of health and well-being align well with the Institute’s
mission of looking at the individual and social factors that influence personal
development and thriving families. “I believe that the best way to gain insight
into these is with cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration. . . I can
bring knowledge about how each family’s economic environment and individual
economic status contributes to those same outcomes, in particular, how economic
circumstances interact with psychology and social environments in influencing
health and well-being,” states Schaller. Having worked and studied at such
institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, University of
California-Davis, and University of Arizona, Dr. Schaller brings an expertise
and skillset that is sure to foster creative collaboration.
Currently, Dr. Schaller is studying how adverse health and
wealth events in older households affect different generations within families,
the complexities of family eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and
how media information/misinformation influences parents’ choices about their
children’s health. “I look forward to getting to know both faculty and students
across campus whose research areas overlap with my own. I also look forward to
getting to know CMC students and incorporating them into my research agenda as
collaborators,” shares Schaller.
Learn more about Dr. Schaller here.
To read more about the Berger Institute mission, click here or visit us at the
lab at Bauer North, Suite 224.
Resilience, or being able to successfully adapt and succeed despite adversity, is generally seen as positive. However, recent research suggests that there may be physical health costs with resilience due to chronic stress associated with trying to strive in the context of high risk. Recently, Dr. Stacey Doan and Dr. Tuppett Yates (UC Riverside) were awarded a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to examine the health costs of resilience.
The multi-year funded study will focus on: 1) links between
academic achievement, poverty-related risks, and adolescent health in diverse
ethnic groups (particularly Latinx youth), 2) factors that may help to reduce
health costs of academic resilience in the face of poverty, and 3) testing whether
poor sleep is part of the link between resilience and health problems.
Dr. Doan and Dr. Yates are tackling this problem with multiple methods (surveys, school data, interviews, hard biological data, etc.) and multiple informants (parents, teachers, etc.) over a long period of time to more fully understand information that is crucial for helping adolescents during a vulnerable time in their lives. “The grant allows us to follow-up on children who have been followed since 4 years of age. We hope to understand how their early experiences may shape their adolescent years. In particular, we want to know in what ways does resilience exert an influence. By understanding mechanisms, we can lay the foundation for future intervention and prevention efforts,” said Dr. Doan.
more about other research from the Berger Institute.
“The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets” (James Baldwin). Terisa Siagatonu (poet, activist, therapist) offered this quote as part of the night’s thesis for her presentation at the Ath on Tuesday, October 1st. Coming from the perspective of a 1st generation, queer, Pacific Islander woman, Terisa discussed her role as an award-winning poet and artist in being a voice that reflects what society is feeling and being an activist for healing and change.
In addition to reciting powerful poetry that filled the room
with snaps of agreement, Terisa shared her background of how she navigated the
1st generation struggle and how she found her voice through poetry.
She discussed the risks of being an artist, especially this day and age with
social media and increased vulnerability. Despite this, she says, “the cost of
my silence was way too high of a price to pay… it was affecting my whole
well-being”. It opened up conversations with her family that would otherwise
have been kept closed, and it helped her to find the transformative power of
poetry in trauma. With a degree in marriage and family therapy, Terisa has a
unique perspective of how creativity and artistry can be combined with healing.
She not only teaches this to small groups, but speaks out as a member of society,
following and reflecting current events and emotions. She shares how poetry is
becoming more popular now than ever – it’s economic and easy to access, it
grabs attention, and it forces you to be creative with what you want to say
while challenging you to be intentional with your words. But the benefits don’t
stop at there: “Our health improves when we have agency over our voice and
control of our narrative… and not just in art,” states Terisa. Her goal right
now is to find ways to not only have poetry impact the individual and the
larger community by using voice to address change, but to address the root
cause of current issues.
To keep track of Berger Institute events, click here. To learn more
about Terisa Siagatonu, click here.
On Monday, September 23rd, Claremont McKenna College’s Athenaeum and the Berger Institute welcomed Dr. Anna S. Lau in giving an eye-opening, evening presentation on the research-to-practice gap for evidence-based practice in mental health. Dr. Lau is a child clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In her presentation, Dr. Lau focused on the current views of evidence-based practice in mental health, the trouble with getting evidence-based research into practice while serving diverse families, and studies on how evidence-based practices can be adapted to be more culturally responsive.
“Effect sizes fall when evidence-based practices move from
research to practice settings,” states Dr. Lau. She shares that many of these
studies are from a specific sample of people from university settings who are
somewhat similar. These researched, evidence-based practices, while very
effective with the university samples, may not fare as well with the varying
and more complex needs of clients from the larger community. Many practitioners
in response may either adapt the evidence-based practices, possibly
compromising its effectiveness, they may discard the evidence and rely on their
expertise, or they may ignore the complex needs of their clients and rely too
much on the research. In studying this, Dr. Lau found that many community
therapists actually make pretty good calls when adapting the research, such as
lengthening the pacing or omitting small components, with the integrity of the
evidence-based practice still intact. Dr. Lau and others “want to give
community therapists more support in leaning into the evidence-based practices”
and how it can be adapted to fit their clients’ needs.
To keep up with Berger Institute events, click here. For the CMC
Athenaeum speaker schedule, click