Meditation for attention, stress, and anxiety

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Life transitions can be times of increased stress and anxiety; which can also impact your attention and focus.  One of those transitions includes moving to campus, preparing for the beginning of the fall semester, adjusting to new routines, campus life, etc.

While there are many strategies to help with the transition process, meditation may be the 1 thing to consider because it can be quick, easy, and has low potential for side effects; and has the potential to benefit everyone.  It is practiced by some of the most successful people in the world.

A review of 13 studies showed improvement in ADHD symptoms with mindfulness meditation (1).

41 trials show mindfulness meditation helped improve stress related outcomes such as anxiety, depression, stress, positive mood, etc. (2)

A review of 14 clinical trials shows meditation being more effective than relaxation techniques for anxiety (3).

What are come caveats?

  • While there are many types of mediation techniques, mindfulness-based meditation is the most studied.
  • Different people may benefit from different types of meditation, and this area is being further researched.
  • Practicing regularly may lead to improved benefits.

How to learn meditation?

  • Various apps, books, videos, classes, and guides may be a useful introduction to meditation.

What else might help improve attention, anxiety, and stress related to the beginning of the semester?

What are some helpful resources?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Poissant, H., Mendrek, A., Talbot, N., Khoury, B., & Nolan, J. (2019). Behavioral and Cognitive Impacts of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review. Behavioural neurology2019, 5682050. doi:10.1155/2019/5682050
  2. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2014 Jan. (Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 124.)Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK180102/
  3. Montero-Marin, J., Garcia-Campayo, J., Pérez-Yus, M., Zabaleta-del-Olmo, E., & Cuijpers, P. (n.d.). Meditation techniques v. relaxation therapies when treating anxiety: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Medicine,1-16. doi:10.1017/S0033291719001600

Leisure, academics, and mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In a national survey of over 31 thousand college students, about 31% of college students report stress impacting their academics, followed by anxiety (25%), and depression (16%). (1).

Excessive stress can also lead to depression and anxiety (2).

Leisure activities can play a role in stress management which can help with academics and with mental health.

What is leisure?

One definition of leisure activity is pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (3).

Are there studies on leisure activities and wellbeing?

A study by Trainor and colleagues looked at leisure activities and psychological well being (4).

Who was studied?

947 students were asked about social, non-social and unstructured leisure activities as well as measures of personality.

What were the results?
spare-time use may be related to well-being only insofar as individuals who are psychologically healthy tend to be involved in structured, supervised, goal oriented, leisure activities, such as sports with others and playing music with healthy peers (4).

What are some caveats?

This is a small cross sectional study which can tell us about association but not cause and effect.

The study was published in 2012, and newer leisure activities have become common, which may or may not be healthy (social media, online-gaming, active video gaming, interactive phone apps, etc).

What are some examples of healthy leisure activities (5)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Playing or watching sports
  • Hobbies

Also consider:

  • Working out or taking exercise classes
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in an activities based student organization
  • Journaling
  • Drawing/coloring/painting

Anything else that can help?

In addition to leisure activities, the following activities can also help with physical and emotional health:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits(healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy

sleep habits, etc.) (5)

  • Avoiding harmful habits(smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc) (5)
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play during leisure time. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

Learn more about play:

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/22/mental-health-benefits-of-leisure-activities/

https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2016/09/28/study-play-and-leisures-impact-on-mood-stress-and-wellbeing/

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2017. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.
  2. Khan S, Khan RA (2017) Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Ann Psychiatry Ment Health 5(1): 1091.
  3. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation. J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  4. Trainor, P. Delfabbro, S. Anderson, A. Winefield. Leisure activities and adolescent psychological well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 33 (1) (2010), pp. 173-186.
  5. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being. Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978Top of Form

 

Smartphone Apps for Mental Health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Most people today are familiar with apps for smartphones.  There are apps for many different purposes including mental health. In fact in 2015, mental health apps made up almost a third of disease specific apps in app marketplaces (1).

Some but not all apps are evidence based, researched, and known to work and some other apps are based on evidence based skills.

A 2017 meta review of studies looked at 190 individual papers researching 147 unique digital health tools and found that there may be some benefit of using apps for depression and anxiety but unclear benefit for other disorders at the time of publication. They also found research and method limitations for many studies (2).

A recent study looked at an app called “Virtual hope box” (VHB) (3).

Who was studied? (3)

  • 118 U.S. service veterans receiving mental health treatment and had a recent history of suicidal ideation.
  • They were divided into two groups.
  • One group received mental health treatment as usual supplemented with the VHB app and another group received treatment as usual supplemented with printed materials about coping with suicidality over a 12-week period.

What was measured? (3)

Using validated scales, the study authors measured coping, suicidal ideation, reasons for living, perceived stress and interpersonal needs at various points of the study.

What were the results? (3)

  • Participants using virtual hope box app showed improvements in their ability to cope with unpleasant emotions and thoughts over time.
  • Users found the app helpful for relaxation and distraction or inspiration when feeling distressed, when emotions were overwhelming, or when they felt like hurting themselves.
  • Participants found it easy to use, helpful in dealing with stress and emotional difficulties, likely to use in the future, and would recommended to others.

What are some caveats?

  • This is a small study and may not be applicable to everyone.
  • There are many apps for mental health but research in this area is limited.
  • Newer apps are being introduced frequently.
  • This is a new field of research, and as we learn more, study designs and outcome measures are being improved upon.
  • Not all the apps are free.
  • Mental health apps do not take place of professional treatment.
  • Your mental health professional may be helpful in considering the right app mental health for you.
  • There are many apps that use evidence based techniques such as apps for cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation skills, prolonged exposure, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness based apps, etc.
    • One such example is the OSUCCS app, which can be obtained from the app store.

How much time are you spending on your phone? How are apps in general impacting your mental health? Which app is helping you and which is not?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (2015). Patient adoption of mHealth: Use, evidence and remaining barriers to mainstream acceptance. Parsippany, NJ: IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.
  2. Hollis, C., Falconer, C. J., Martin, J. L., Whittington, C., Stockton, S., Glazebrook, C. and Davies, E. B. (2017), Annual Research Review: Digital health interventions for children and young people with mental health problems – a systematic and meta-review. J Child Psychol Psychiatr, 58: 474–503. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12663
  3. Nigel E. Bush, Ph.D., Derek J. Smolenski, Ph.D., Lauren M. Denneson, Ph.D., Holly B. Williams, B.A., Elissa K. Thomas, L.P.N., C.C.R.C., Steven K. Dobscha, M.D. A Virtual Hope Box: Randomized Controlled Trial of a Smartphone App for Emotional Regulation and Coping With Distress.  Psychiatric Services 2017; 68:330–336; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201600283.