How the Science of Well-Being Can Help Fight Stress

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 emotions.

Keep track of future events.

Advancing Tech and the Future of Work: Experts Share Their Insights for What’s Next

Experts came together at the Athenaeum on Monday, February 10th, to discuss the evolving workplace and share their predictions about the future of work in the digital age. Panelists included Arjun Lall (’07), Co-Founder at Rocket, Faye Sahai (’90), Partner at Miral Global, and Stacie Yee (’99), Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Ms. Yee shared her view of the future of work from a legal perspective, such as how biometric data collection is impacting privacy and how there is a renewed interest in unionization in protecting employees from an automated workforce. Ms. Sahai gave an overview of all the different ways work is changing due to technology, from a sharing economy to autonomous vehicles to 3D printing and encouraged the skills that will be needed in this era of change. “This decade will see more change than any that has preceded it,” agreed Mr. Lall, who gave advice on ways we can thrive in this new environment, such as being adaptable. David Day, Academic Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute and moderator of the panel, encouraged discussion on what we have to be optimistic about for the future and how future careers might change. The panel is part of the 20/20 in 2020 theme for the CMC research institutes and is a collaboration between the Berger Institute, the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and the Kravis Leadership Institute. Keep track of future events.

Students Envision Their Futures at the Annual Women and Leadership Workshop

Students from the 7C’s and CMC alumni gathered at tables around the McKenna Auditorium to take part in the annual Women and Leadership Workshop on Friday, February 7th. The event gives students a chance to gain advice from alumni and professionals in various fields, work through pathways to success, and navigate networking and finding their voice. With the theme of “Envision Your Future”, the keynote presenter and workshop leader, Dr. Cindy Pace, Vice President and Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Metlife, motivated students to find their purpose. “Purpose is the imperative for empowering women to lead. It can provide direction and motivation to stay the course in the face of obstacles and career setbacks,” stated Dr. Pace. After hearing her advice and networking with alumni and peers, students had the chance to put some of her advice into practice. Dr. Pace led the group in trying to pinpoint their mission. A few students passionately shared their answers, and Dr. Pace encouraged others to share their thoughts with others around them even after the event. “You have to speak it, because as you speak it, it comes to fruition,” she said. The workshop was sponsored by Tom and Susan Handley, and hosted by the Berger Institute, Kravis Leadership Institute, and the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights.

Meet Dr. Jessamyn Schaller, Our New Berger Institute Affiliate

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 Isn’t Always Good, and We Want to Know Why

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.

Learn more about other research from the Berger Institute.