Expressive writing can prepare anxious people for next stressful task, finds study

Expressive writing can prepare anxious people for next stressful task, finds study

“Put one word after another. Find the right word; put it down.” The famous quote by English author Neil Gaiman puts forth succinctly the way writers work. People pick up the pen for various reasons, ranging from wanting to share great stories to writing novels based on own or others’ experiences. It takes a lot to express oneself creatively including perseverance. Now, a study titled “The effect of expressive writing on the error-related negativity among individuals with chronic worry,” suggests that simply expressing one’s feelings by writing them down can help reduce the level of stress associated with an upcoming task.

Hans Schroder, the lead author of the study published in the journal Psychophysiology in September 2017, emphasized on how this method could prove to be a boon for those who worry constantly. “Our findings show that if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient,” said Schroder.

Researchers identified critically anxious college students using a tried and tested screening tool. These students were required to complete a computer-based “flanker test” that evaluated the correctness of their responses and reaction times. Prior to the task, nearly half of the respondents wrote about their deepest thoughts and emotions about the upcoming work for eight minutes, while the other half were required to write about what they did the day before.

The study found that while the participants belonging to both the groups carried out their work with similar levels of speed and accuracy, those in the former group performed the flanker task more effectively. The researchers concluded that the respondents had used fewer brain resources assessed with electroencephalography, or EEG, in the process.

Using car analogy to explain unwarranted stress

Study co-author Jason Moser compared their performance using car as an example and said, “Here, worried college students who wrote about their worries were able to offload these worries and run more like a brand new Prius, whereas the worried students who didn’t offload their worries ran more like an ’74 Impala – guzzling more brain gas to achieve the same outcomes on the task.”

The findings coincide with the observations of previous studies stating how expressive writing can alleviate stress or process past experiences of traumatic events. The researchers have stressed on how the same method can help anxiety-ridden people prepare themselves to perform stressful tasks in future.

Seeking recovery from anxiety

Recurring stress can result in mental health problems such as anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 40 million people in the U.S. aged 18 years or older – 18 percent of the adult population ­ are suffering from anxiety problems. However, not many know that untreated anxiety can be the root cause of a whole lot of other mental and physical disorders. If you or a loved one is suffering from any form of anxiety, it is imperative to seek professional medical assistance immediately.

Sovereign Mental Health Services is a trusted organization for services related to mental health, addiction and dual diagnosis. Our anxiety disorders treatment centers in California treat patients who complain of sudden unexplained anxiety. Our experts recommend customized panic disorder treatment plans, keeping in mind the specific needs of each patient. To know more about our centers that offer anxiety disorder treatment in California, call our 24/7 helpline 866-973-7164 or chat online with one of our representatives.

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