Faculty Mentor: Beth Pyatak PhD, OTR/L, CDCES, FAOTA
Research Lab: Lifestyle Redesign for Chronic Conditions (LRCC)
Year of Entry: 2017
My research interest lies in contributing to efforts to understand the demands of everyday activities and their impact on well-being, capacity for self-regulation, and cognitive performance. The overall demand of an activity can be measured by considering all its different types of demands including those mental, physical, emotional (e.g., frustration), and temporal (e.g., time pressure) in nature. These demands come with an associated physiological stress response, and as such there is a limit to the total amount of demands our bodies can experience. Whether or not activities are truly stressful or relaxing, physiologically, may depend on the demands required by them.
My current goals are to help advance measurement of activity demands through self-report, and in the future, to capture the physiological effects of the total demands placed on our bodies using smartphones and/or wearable technology. My goal is to develop tools that will provide metrics to help people determine if their everyday pattern of activities need to be adjusted (e.g., changing the number of high or low demand activities in which they engage) to improve or maintain well-being, capacity for self-regulation, and/or cognitive performance.
Master of Science (MS)
in Occupational Therapy
2015 | California State University, Dominguez Hills
Bachelor of Science (BS)
2012 | University of California, Los Angeles
Hernandez, R., Vidmar, A., & Pyatak, E. A. (2020). Lifestyle balance, restful and strenuous occupations, and physiological activation. Journal of Occupational Science, 27(4), 547-562. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2020.1732229 Show abstract
A balance between stressful and restful occupations is an important component of lifestyle balance (LB). We argue that excessive physiological activation from the stress of everyday engagement in occupation, and/or inadequate engagement in restful occupations, can lead to negative health outcomes through accumulation of allostatic load (AL), or physiological wear and tear on the body. This physiological activation manifests as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in elevations in serum levels of hormones such as cortisol and catecholamines. “Stress,” as the term is used colloquially, is just one possible source of physiological activation. Other possible sources include cognitive challenges and high motivation tasks. The purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to present an explanatory model for how the LB component of a “pattern of occupations with a balance between stressful and restful engagements” can affect health and 2) to discuss metrics to measure physiological activation from stress/rest and explore how these metrics relate to existing measures of lifestyle and occupational balance. We speculate that these metrics may relate to existing measures of lifestyle and occupational balance in ways that help explain the mechanisms underlying them, with the amount of physiological activation that individuals experience on a daily basis determining their long-term health outcomes. There remains a need to develop innovative lifestyle interventions that support management of stress related physiological activation to promote health and well-being.
Keywords. Occupational science, Life balance, Occupational balance, Restful occupations, Strenuous occupations, Physiological stress, Explanatory mechanisms, Allostatic load
Hernandez, R. (2019, November). Activity focused view of stress, recovery, and allostatic load. Paper presented at the Work, Stress, and Health Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
Hernandez, R. (2018, October). Allostatic load as physiological indicator of occupational imbalance. Paper presented at the Society for the Study of Occupation, Lexington, KY.
Pyatak, E., Hernandez, R., Díaz, J., Carandang, K., Blanchard, J., & Vigen, C. (2018, April). Habit formation in an occupational therapy self-management intervention: The Resilient, Empowered, Active Living (REAL Diabetes) study. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, New Orleans, LA.