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OBJECTIVE:Despite the well-known stress of medical school, including adverse consequences for mental and behavioral health, there is little consensus about how to best intervene in a way that accommodates students׳ intense training demands, interest in science, and desire to avoid being stigmatized. The objective of this study, therefore, was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and initial effectiveness of an adapted, four-week stress management and self-care workshop for medical students, which was based on the science and practice of mind-body medicine. METHODS: The current study used a prospective, observational, and mixed methods design, with pretest and posttest evaluations. Participants (n = 44) included medical and physician-scientist (MD/PhD) students from a large, southeastern medical school. Feasibility was assessed by rates of workshop enrollment and completion. Acceptability was assessed using qualitative ratings and open-ended responses that queried perceived value of the workshop. Quantitative outcomes included students׳ ratings of stress and mindfulness using validated self-report surveys. RESULTS: Enrollment progressively increased from 6 to 15 to 23 students per workshop in 2007, 2009, and 2011, respectively. Of the 44 enrolled students, 36 (82%) completed the workshop, indicating that the four-session extracurricular format was feasible for most students. Students reported that the workshop was acceptable, stating that it helped them cope more skillfully with the stress and emotional challenges of medical school, and helped increase self-care behaviors, such as exercise, sleep, and engaging in social support. Students also reported a 32% decrease in perceived stress (P < .001; d = 1.38) and a 16% increase in mindfulness (P < .001; d = 0.92) following the workshop. Changes in stress and mindfulness were significantly correlated (r = -0.42; P = .01). CONCLUSION: Together, these findings suggest that a brief, voluntary mind-body skills workshop specifically adapted for medical students is feasible, acceptable, and effective for reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and enhancing student self-care.
OBJECTIVES:Stress is a well-known predictor of smoking relapse, and cortisol is a primary biomarker of stress. The current pilot study examined changes in levels of cortisol in hair within the context of two time-intensity matched behavioral smoking cessation treatments: mindfulness training for smokers and a cognitive-behavioral comparison group. PARTICIPANTS: Eighteen participants were recruited from a larger randomized controlled trial of smoking cessation. OUTCOME MEASURES: Hair samples (3 cm) were obtained 1 month after quit attempt, allowing for a retrospective analysis of hair cortisol at preintervention and post-quit attempt time periods. Self-reported negative affect was also assessed before and after treatment. INTERVENTION: Both groups received a 7-week intensive intervention using mindfulness or cognitive-behavioral strategies. RESULTS: Cortisol significantly decreased from baseline to 1 month after quit attempt in the entire sample (d=-0.35; p=.005). In subsequent repeated-measures analysis of variance models, time by group and time by quit status interaction effects were not significant. However, post hoc paired t tests yielded significant pre-post effects among those randomly assigned to the mindfulness condition (d=-0.48; p=.018) and in those abstinent at post-test (d=-0.41; p=.004). Decreased hair cortisol correlated with reduced negative affect (r=.60; p=.011). CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary findings suggest that smoking cessation intervention is associated with decreased hair cortisol levels and that reduced hair cortisol may be specifically associated with mindfulness training and smoking abstinence. RESULTS support the use of hair cortisol as a novel objective biomarker in future research.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week meditation program known to improve anxiety, depression, and psychological well-being. Other health-related effects, such as sleep quality, are less well established, as are the psychological processes associated with therapeutic change. This prospective, observational study aimed to determine whether perseverative cognition, indicated by rumination and intrusive thoughts, and emotion regulation, measured by avoidance, thought suppression, emotion suppression, and cognitive reappraisal, partly accounted for the hypothesized relationship between changes in mindfulness and two health-related outcomes: sleep quality and stress-related physical symptoms. As expected, increased mindfulness following the MBSR program was directly correlated with decreased sleep disturbance (, ) and decreased stress-related physical symptoms (, ). Partial correlations revealed that pre-post changes in rumination, unwanted intrusive thoughts, thought suppression, experiential avoidance, emotion suppression, and cognitive reappraisal each uniquely accounted for up to 32% of the correlation between the change in mindfulness and change in sleep disturbance and up to 30% of the correlation between the change in mindfulness and change in stress-related physical symptoms. Results suggest that the stress-reducing effects of MBSR are due, in part, to improvements in perseverative cognition and emotion regulation, two “transdiagnostic” mental processes that cut across stress-related disorders.