The secret lies in the deep nervous system.

Teenager lying in bed
Teenager lying in bed
Kids with school anxiety often won’t get out of bed. Photo by Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

It’s a familiar visit in my pediatric office. The frustrated parent brings their child to see me because they won’t go to school. The young person, usually a pre- teen or adolescent, has been increasingly anxious about school. And now, the child can’t even get up in the morning, so the missed days of school are piling up.

Parents usually try one of two techniques when facing a child who won’t go to school. They try insisting on it, which is when their child accuses them of being harsh and insensitive to how bad they feel. Or they try letting…


That’s how we know it’s working.

Doctors celebrate when they get side effects from the Covid-19 vaccine: that means it’s working. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash.

Doctors have been worried about this for a long time, and now it’s starting to happen. As the Covid-19 vaccine has started to become available beyond health care workers, people are starting to refuse to take their shot. If people won’t take the vaccine that could end the coronavirus pandemic, what comes next?

One of the most common reasons people develop fears of vaccines has to do with a common misunderstanding about side effects. But what most of the public doesn’t know is that doctors who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 were delighted when the vaccine gave them symptoms.

When…


It’s surprisingly old school.

New research uses brain imaging to find the best way to clear our minds. Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

Marie Banich has spent her career trying to understand how the brain works with information. She has also noticed that some of her anxious relatives have a way of getting stuck on a thought and not being able to move on from it. “People have these thoughts they can’t get rid of,” Banich told me. “I wanted to know if there are mechanisms for getting rid of those thoughts that are going around and around on virtual repeat.”

Now a new study by Banich of the University of Colorado Boulder, Jarrod Lewis-Peacock of the University of…


People who react strongly to stress may be less likely to develop PTSD.

People who react strongly to stress may be less likely to develop PTSD. Image by Tengyart on Unsplash.

Ruth had always been told she was hypersensitive and she needed to grow a thicker skin. No one was ever going to see her as a leader unless she learned to “never let them see you sweat.” But Ruth could not help sweating the small stuff, and even so, had developed a reputation for being a great problem solver.

In good news for those who have been called hypersensitive, researchers have found that people who showed a more intense response to stress before the Covid-19 pandemic were less likely to experience PTSD after it started. …


But it’s still definitely worth it.

Mindfulness may actually make us more sensitive to life’s minor annoyances. Image by Darius Basher on Unsplash.

Mindfulness has been embraced as the modern answer to stress. In fact, there in a solid body of evidence to back up the claim that mindfulness helps with stress. But until now, few have asked how mindfulness impacts the experience of stress in the moment.

When researchers at the University of Buffalo set out to study this, they expected to find that people who practiced mindfulness would have a more positive experience when exposed to acute stress. Instead, they found the opposite. People who were more mindful actually experienced more stress, and it showed up in measurements of their cardiovascular…


Getting curious about things outside your field boosts the quality of your ideas.

A window with the words Your Ideas Matter
A window with the words Your Ideas Matter
People who are open to a range of interests produce better ideas. Image by Mika Baumeister via Unsplash.

Innovators have a way of being interested in everything. In childhood they were always getting called on by their teachers for being distracted. If we could listen in on their thoughts, it might go, “Ooh, a squirrel. Hey, look at that! Shiny.”

In a culture that sells us on the idea that success comes from a focused pursuit of our one passion, innovators have a way of forgetting to focus. Instead, they play with a range of interests. It’s nicknamed the ‘squirrel method.’ In adulthood, innovators still find themselves distracted by shiny objects or passionately chasing squirrels. …


Coronavirus attacking the brain
Coronavirus attacking the brain
The S1 protein crosses the blood-brain barrier and causes an inflammatory storm in the brain. Image courtesy of Alice Gray.

William A. Banks has been studying HIV for years. He’d done a lot of work on the gp120 protein in HIV-1, the protein that is responsible for the brain fog so common in HIV. That’s because gp120 crosses the blood-brain barrier and is likely toxic to brain tissues. So when Banks started hearing about the long-term brain fog happening in people who’ve had COVID-19, he said in a news release, “it was like déjà vu.”

Banks began wondering if the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, behaved similarly to gp120. …


New research finds that people adapt best to a chaotic world when they learn from what they get right more than what they get wrong.

Happy man celebrating success.
Happy man celebrating success.
People adapt to chaotic environments faster when they focus on what worked for them in the past. Image by Bruce Mars via Unsplash.

Sonia Bishop had been doing work on anxiety when she heard about her colleague’s research. He had shown that people can learn one environment and then adapt quickly when that environment suddenly becomes volatile. The findings were getting a lot of buzz, but all Bishop could think is, “Anxious people are going to have a problem doing that.”

Now, in a new study Bishop and her fellow researchers have shown just that. People who were anxious or depressed had difficulty adjusting to a rapidly changing environment. On the other hand, what the researchers called ‘resilient’ people did adjust well, especially…


Image by Bady Abbas via Unsplash

Zach’s mom was at her wit’s end. Even after three months of trying, she could not leave Zach alone in the room with his father for even a moment without Zach crying. During the coronavirus pandemic, she’d been alone with Zach most of the time, and her husband’s demanding job kept him from spending much time with them. But he wanted to play with his fifteen-month-old son, and she wanted five minutes to herself. Due to Zach’s crying, his mom couldn’t even get that.

It is normal for kids to be attached to their mothers in the toddler years, but…


Enhance openness to experience in children

paintbrushes and a palate of paints
paintbrushes and a palate of paints
Creativity is a core competency for careers in both the arts and sciences. Image by Liza Pooor via Unsplash.

What makes someone a creative person? For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind is the arts. How many of us use the term creative to describe a person who is good at math? But new research calls that perception into question, finding that the same amazing human creativity is at the root of both.

The myth (and it is a myth) that the arts are creative and the sciences are quantitative shapes the way we approach education. …

Alison Escalante MD

How can we take effective action under pressure? Forbes Contributor | TEDx Speaker | Pediatrician | PsychToday | ShouldStorm.com

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