A senior defense researcher is warning against retreating to an earlier time in the day for fear of falling into an all-too-common mental trap: a time warp.
Key points:A study by Dr. Daniel Wengreen and his colleagues suggests that when people are stressed out, they are more likely to revert to their old time zoneThe study suggests that the more anxious people are, the more likely they are to revert back to their original time zoneDr Wengreens research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.
He said the reason is simple: when you are stressed, you have less time to think about what to do with your energy.
He was part of a study that was published in the Journal of Psychological Traumatic Stress (JPT) in May 2017.
In the study, which involved almost 4,000 people, Dr Wengerns team used a simple technique to measure the time that it took to revert into the original time.
“We wanted to find out if people who were stressed out and were on a time crunch had a tendency to revert in time to their habitual time zone,” he said.
“So we were interested in whether it was the same for people who had an easy time of it and those who had a hard time of adjusting to a new time zone.”‘
They are always on edge’In the research, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups:Those who had trouble adjusting to their new time (targets: adults, those with low incomes and those with poor social connections);Those who were in a relaxed state of mind (tasks: people in different groups);Those in a tense, competitive situation (tones: those who were at work, those at home, those who worked in a stressful environment); orThose in an isolated situation (Tones: people who worked, those in a busy office, those alone at home).
Participants were asked to rate their happiness and stress levels, then their habitual timescale and their mental state.
Results showed that people who reported being stressed at the time of the study were more likely than those who didn’t to revert immediately to their time zone.
“What we found was that the people who didn and were stressed were more prone to revert,” Dr Wensley said.
The study is based on data from more than 4,700 people in the study.
“They were always on end of their own time,” Dr Wolters said.
“When people are on edge, they’re less likely to be able to think of a way out of the situation.”‘
It is easy to lose track of time’When someone is stressed, they tend to become more likely for their thoughts to be directed towards the stress.
When they revert back into their original timescale, they often lose track, Dr Wolins said.
This is a process known as time warp, he said, which could make it harder for people to think clearly and make them more vulnerable to becoming distracted by their stress.
“When you’re stressed, it is easy for you to lose your balance, lose your concentration, become distracted by thoughts that are more important than your own wellbeing,” he added.
“You’re more likely, in the moment, to revert.”
What is a time-warp?
The researchers used a technique known as temporal fMRI to measure brain activity during times when people were in “time” and during times where they were not.
“In the time-fMRI scans, we found that when you’re feeling stressed, people are more active in their temporal cortex than when they’re relaxed, as opposed to when they are in the time zone they were in when they were feeling stressed,” Dr Gao said.
While the researchers say their findings do not prove that time-switching is harmful, they say it is important to know the exact time at which it occurs and to plan accordingly.
“It is important that people think about time-tracking, and that time is not fixed, so if they are going to go out in the evening, for example, they might want to go to bed at 10:30am and not wake up the next morning and have to do it again,” Dr Atencio said.
If you are struggling to make time for a loved one or yourself, you may want to talk to your GP or psychiatrist.
Dr Wolins and his team are now trying to develop a more robust version of the technique to detect time-shift issues in a wider population.
“I think it will be important to start looking at how we could use it in other situations, particularly in sports and in working situations,” Dr Cauchara said.
Follow John Graham on Twitter: @johngrahamgm.