Do you find it difficult to detach yourself from work at the end of the day, especially if you have been working from home more this year? Are you able to really switch off or do you find your thoughts steering back towards your to-do list?
While it may feel counterintuitive to stop thinking about work when you know you will have a complex day ahead, it is important to detach yourself mentally from work during non-work time. When you can put your mind off work during your non-work time, research shows, your brain gets some time to reset and this can help preserve your engagement and performance at work the next day.
Another important factor that helps to increase work engagement throughout the day, as research by Sabine Sonnentag and Jana Kühnel has shown, is taking time to reattach to your work before starting your day. You can reattach by running the upcoming day through your head while you are having breakfast at home, during your commute or even during the first few minutes at work. Clarifying your goals for the day makes it easier to transition to your work tasks, as your task attention will already be increased before starting to work. You will find it easier to get absorbed back in your work, which can be tough, especially on Monday mornings.
Another great way to reattach is making a schedule for the day. When you are making your schedule, start with the tasks you are not looking forward to and plan more exciting tasks towards the end of the day, as Sonnentag and Kühnel also found that work engagement is naturally higher in the morning than in the afternoon.
Summary: Early childhood trauma has an impact on glucose metabolism and blood composition, which are passed on to the next generation.
Source: University of Zurich
People who live through traumatic experiences in childhood often suffer long-lasting consequences that affect their mental and physical health. But moreover, their children and grand-children can also be impacted as well. In this particular form of inheritance, sperm and egg cells pass on information to offspring not through their DNA sequence like classical genetic heredity, but rather via biological factors involving the epigenome that regulates genome activity. However, the big question is how the signals triggered by traumatic events become embedded in germ cells.
“Our hypothesis was that circulating factors in blood play a role,” says Isabelle Mansuy, professor of neuroepigenetics at the University of Zurich’s Brain Research Institute and the ETH Zurich’s Institute for Neuroscience. Mansuy and her team demonstrated that childhood trauma does have a lifelong influence on blood composition and that these changes are also passed to the next generation. “These findings are extremely important for medicine, as this is the first time that a connection between early trauma and metabolic disorders in descendants is characterized,” explains Mansuy.
Traumatic stress leads to metabolic changes across generations
In her study, Mansuy used a mouse model for early trauma that had been developed in her lab. The model is used to study how the effects of trauma in early postnatal life on male mice are transmitted to their offspring. To determine whether these early experiences have an impact on blood composition, the researchers conducted multiple analyses and found large and significant differences between blood from adult traumatized animals and blood from normal, non-traumatized control group.
Changes in lipid metabolism were particularly striking, with certain polyunsaturated fatty acids metabolites appearing in higher concentrations in the blood of traumatized male mice. These same changes were also observed in their offspring. Even more strikingly, when the serum of traumatized males was chronically injected into non-traumatized males, their offspring also developed metabolic symptoms of trauma – providing a direct link between circulating factors and germ cells, thus confirming the hypothesis that blood delivers stress signals to the gametes.
Comparison with traumatized children
The researchers then investigated whether similar effects are present in humans. For this, they assembled a cohort of 25 children from an SOS Children’s Village in Pakistan who have lost their father and were separated from their mother, and analyzed their blood and saliva. When compared with children from normal families, the orphans showed higher level of several lipid metabolites – just like the traumatized mice.
“These children’s traumatic experiences are comparable to those in our mouse model, and their metabolism show similar changes in blood,” explains Mansuy. “This demonstrates the importance of animal research for providing us with fundamental insights into human health.” Up to one fourth of children across the world experience violence, abuse and neglect, that can lead to chronic diseases later in their life, highlighting the importance of Mansuy’s research.
Receptor interferes with gametes
Further experiments led the team to discover a molecular mechanism by which lipid metabolites can transmit signals to animals’ germ cells. PPAR, a receptor at the surface of cells, plays a key role in this process; it is activated by fatty acids and regulates gene expression and DNA structure in numerous tissues. The researchers discovered that this receptor is upregulated in the sperm of traumatized males.