“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Or is it?
Yes, the holiday season can be magical — with all of its dazzling displays of lights, parades, festive parties and fun family gatherings. But it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year, when Christmas shopping is unfinished, budgets get blown and out-of-town guests overstay their welcome.
Furman University Associate Professor of Psychology Cinnamon Stetler says it’s unrealistic to think you can eliminate all holiday stress.
“If you don’t have any stress, you’re not really engaging with life,” she says. “You should try to keep stress to a minimum, but it will not be something you can eliminate entirely.”
The key to managing stress is to recognize it and work to minimize it so it doesn’t overwhelm, according to Stetler.
Here are five ways to cope with holiday stress. Continue reading
Research from the lab of Mark Alkema, PhD, professor of neurobiology, sheds light on how the “flight-or-flight” response impairs long-term organism health. The study, conducted in the nematode worm, C. elegans, a common research model, was published in Nature.
When humans perceive a dangerous or stressful situation, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenalin. Adrenaline makes the heart beat faster, increases blood flow to the brain and muscles, and stimulates the body to make sugar to use for fuel. The rush of adrenaline triggers the “fight-or-flight” response which gives the person the ability to escape a predator or respond to a threat. Continue reading
People generally think of stress and anxiety as negative concepts, but while both stress and anxiety can reach unhealthy levels, psychologists have long known that both are unavoidable — and that they often play a helpful, not harmful, role in our daily lives, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
“Many Americans now feel stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious. Unfortunately, by the time someone reaches out to a professional for help, stress and anxiety have already built to unhealthy levels,” said Lisa Damour, PhD, a private-practice psychologist who presented at the meeting. Damour also writes a regular column for The New York Times and is author of the book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” Continue reading
Eat less; move more; live longer is the many-times repeated mantra of this blog. Now, it seems that eating less is particularly relevant when we experience stress.
Australian researchers have discovered a new molecular pathway in the brain that triggers more weight gain in times of stress.
It’s no secret that overindulging on high-calorie foods can be detrimental to health, but it turns out that under stress, watching what you eat may be even more important. Continue reading
I have been writing about the dangers and damage of stress on the body for nearly the entire nine years of producing this blog. Check out my Page – How to Deal with Stress for more details.
Adults who report high levels of stress and who also had stressful childhoods are most likely to show hormone patterns associated with negative health outcomes, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
One of the ways that our brain responds to daily stressors is by releasing a hormone called cortisol — typically, our cortisol levels peak in the morning and gradually decline throughout the day. But sometimes this system can become dysregulated, resulting in a flatter cortisol pattern that is associated with negative health outcomes. Continue reading
I just ran across this newly-published set of guidelines for helping seniors succeed in retaining their mental function and well-being as they age. As a senior myself who has a family with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia I found it to be on point with my own situation.
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts from around the world who are working in areas of brain health related to human cognition. The GCBH focuses on brain health relating to people’s ability to think and reason as they age, including aspects of memory, perception and judgment.
We believe the following suggestions will increase the chances for people to experience or optimize mental well-being. If you are already engaging in these healthy activities, continue to do so, and consider trying something new as well.
1. Take the time to develop and strengthen relationships with family and friends. For more about the brain health benefits of strong social ties, see the GCBH report, The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health.
Foll disclosure: I don’t loathe it, but I wouldn’t go out on Black Friday shopping with your money. I do know folks who get up at Midnight and plunge right in. The following is what Neuroscience News has to say about Black Friday shopping.
Summary: Researchers consider why some people enjoy the thrill of Black Friday shopping, and why others don’t. Enjoyment of the social aspects of shopping may determine whether you are a fan of the day, or not. Source: The Conversation.
If the thought of taking part in the annual ritual of Black Friday gives you cold chills rather than a rush of excitement, you’re not alone. For every avid bargain hunter who plans for the day as if training for a marathon, there’s someone else who stays home, secure in the knowledge that no one will trample them, shove them or invade their personal space just to get this season’s hottest deals.
NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from The Conversation news release.
It’s not just a lack of appreciation for bargains that drives this disconnect. Psychology research indicates that several factors determine which side of the shop-‘til-you-drop divide you land on. Some people just aren’t wired to enjoy the more social aspects of shopping.
What you prioritize plays in
This is perfectly in line with our mantra of eat less; move more; live longer. Besides all the health benefits of exercise on the brain and body, Harvard Health Publishing says that it also reduces stress.
How does exercise reduce stress, and can exercise really be relaxing?
Rest and relaxation. It’s such a common expression that it has become a cliche. And although rest really can be relaxing, the pat phrase causes many men to overlook the fact that exercise can also be relaxing. It’s true for most forms of physical activity as well as for specific relaxation exercises.
Exercise is a form of physical stress. Can physical stress relieve mental stress? Alexander Pope thought so: “Strength of mind is exercise, not rest.” Plato agreed: “Exercise would cure a guilty conscience.” You’ll think so, too — if you learn to apply the physical stress of exercise in a controlled, graded fashion.
How exercise reduces stress
Aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart. You may not agree at first; indeed, the first steps are the hardest, and in the beginning, exercise will be more work than fun. But as you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it, and finally depend on it. Continue reading
As far as I am concerned when it comes to the benefits to our body and brain from exercise, the hits just keep on coming. The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions reports the following good news.
Summary: Researchers report, in animal models of addiction, daily aerobic exercise alters the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.
New research by the University has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment — and even prevention strategies — for addiction.
Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood, and is associated with decreasing many negative health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It also is linked to numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Continue reading
People with moderate to severe mid-life anxiety may face a greater risk of dementia in later life, suggests an analysis of the available published evidence led by University College London (UCL) and University of Southampton researchers and published in BMJ Open. But as yet, it’s not clear whether treatment for anxiety could curb dementia risk, say the researchers.
“We need more research to find out what impact anxiety treatment might have on dementia risk – whether that’s through pharmacological intervention, or talking therapies or treatments based on mindfulness or meditation, which are known to help reduce anxiety,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Natalie Marchant (UCL Psychiatry).
A mounting body of evidence suggests that mental illness may be associated with dementia in older age, but it’s not clear if it represents initial (prodromal) symptoms before fully fledged disease or acts as an independent risk factor. Continue reading
A hundred years ago, it seems, I dated a woman who taught yoga. While we were dating I did yoga every day. After we parted, I still practiced daily yoga for some years. While I still do yoga from time to time, one aspect I have carried into my daily life is breath control. I can honestly say that I use it to calm myself at some point every day of my life. I also employ it at night when I finally crawl under the covers. I am quick to sleep. Herewith Harvard Medical School on relaxation techiques.
The term “fight or flight” is also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.
Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.
Deep breathing benefits Continue reading
Group of older mature people lifting weights in the gym
Here is a really useful summary of successful aging guidelines.
Our Better Health
What is the secret to longevity, and why do some people attain it while others don’t? Is it sheer luck, or are there some key factors at play here? Are we all born with the same potential to live a long and healthy life or is that determined solely by genetics?
Interestingly, it seems as though people living in specific regions of the world tend to live longer than those living elsewhere. So, what is it about these specific regions that offer people a chance to live a full life? This was the question that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner wanted to answer.
Through his research, Buettner identified five geographic locations where people have been observed to live the longest. He has identified these regions as “Blue Zones,” and found that even though these zones differ widely geographically, the diets and lifestyles of their residents share much in common.
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I have written numerous posts on the brain, stress and relaxation. This study seems to be an amalgam of them all. If you want to read further on any of them, punch the word into the S E A R C H box at the right and have at it. There is a lot of information available.
- A pattern of brain activity that occurs during psychological stress may predict bodily reactions, such as surges in our blood pressure, that increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
- People who have exaggerated responses to stressors, like large rises in blood pressure or heart rate, are at greater risk of developing hypertension and premature death from cardiovascular disease, researchers say.
The brain may have a distinctive activity pattern during stressful events that predicts bodily reactions, such as rises in blood pressure that increase risk for cardiovascular disease, according to new proof-of-concept research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Continue reading
Dealing with stress seemed like a daily occurrence back when I was in the working world. These days, being retired, it’s a different story. I know that many of you are still working and deal with severe stresses on a regular basis. For that reason, I have written numerous posts on the subject. I offer some examples at the bottom of this post.
Here is Harvard taking a positive look at stress:
Changing your mindset doesn’t mean taking a Pollyanna view of the world. The key isn’t to deny stress, but to recognize and acknowledge it — and then to find the upside, because a full-throttle fight-or-flight response is not the only possible reaction to stress (at least when the stress does not involve a potentially life-threatening situation).
In people with a more stress-hardy mindset, the stress response is often tempered by the challenge response, which accounts for the so-called excite-and-delight experience that some people have in stressful situations, such as skydiving. Like the typical stress response, the challenge response also affects the cardiovascular system, but instead of constricting blood vessels and ramping up inflammation in anticipation of wounds, it allows for maximum blood flow, much like exercise. The balance of hormones is different, too, including more DHEA. Continue reading
Stress is like some kind of shark that has gotten into our private swimming pool and threatens to ruin our otherwise perfect day. I have written about it numerous times. At the bottom of this post, I list some of my favorites.
Here is what Harvard has to say.
Stress in adults, especially older adults, has many causes. You may experience it as a result of managing chronic illness, losing a spouse, being a caregiver, or adjusting to changes due to finances, retirement, or separation from friends and family. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do for stress relief.
Tailor the treatment
The type of stress relief that works best depends on what someone is experiencing. For example, if insomnia is a considerable source of stress in adults, a special type of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to treat insomnia, called CBT-i, may help. It aims to correct ingrained patterns of self-defeating behavior and negative thoughts that can rob you of sufficient amounts of sleep. In fact, the American College of Physicians now recommends CBT-i over medications as the first-line treatment for insomnia.
If disability is a source of stress, changes in your home may help you live more independently. Turn to your doctor, a geriatrician, an occupational therapist, or a staff member at your local council on aging for guidance. Continue reading
“My job creates so much stress.” “My marriage is so stressful.” “The holidays are always a stressful time of year.” We hear the word “STRESS” so often, we are almost immune to the REAL HARM it often produces. It is NOT just a NOUN or VERB. It is an EMOTION that causes SERIOUS HEALTH COMPLICATIONS […]
via STRESS ISN’T REALLY THAT DANGEROUS; IS IT? — All About Healthy Choices
After reading this superb explanation of the damage stress wreaks on your body, please check out my post – Some super tools for handling stress. There is an answer for it.