Category Archives: stress reduction
Regular readers know that I am a big fan of walking. I call it the Cinderella of the exercise world because it is so unappreciated. If you want to learn a lot more about the benefits of walking – after you watch this less than five minute video – check out my Page – Why you should walk more.
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
One of my favorite songs as a kid in the 1940’s was “Don’t fence me in.”
Here are some of the lyrics:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in
It appears I still feel that way, particularly when it comes to exercise. Working out in the health club really turns me off.
A new report reveals that exposure to green space reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.
Populations with higher levels of green space exposure are also more likely to report good overall health – according to global data involving more than 290 million people. Continue reading
I have written numerous times about using deep breathing to combat stress. Turns out that a recent study from Brigham Young University says that exercise helps to combat negative effects of stress.
The study, newly published in the journal of Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” said study senior author Jeff Edwards, associate professor of physiology and developmental biology at BYU.
“The ideal situation for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise,” Edwards said. “Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise. It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”
To see the paper online, click here. Ten undergraduate BYU students served as co-authors on the paper, included David Marriott, who began the project for his undergraduate honor’s thesis. First author Roxanne Miller graduated in December with her Ph.D. and the research was part of her dissertation.
“Even though we will never be able to completely remove stress from our lives, it is nice to know that we can go out and do cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes a day to help keep the stress from overwhelming our brains,” Miller said.
To read further on the benefits of exercise and the brain check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits).
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
Eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog. Now, it seems that our bodies are taking it upon themselves to extend our life span.
Research shows a collection of small adaptations in stress activated proteins, accumulated over millennia of human history, could help to explain our increased natural defenses and longer lifespan.
Publishing in Nature Communications, the team of collaborators from the UK, France and Finland and lead by researchers at Newcastle University, UK explain the importance of a protein called p62.
Many cells in our body, such as those which make up our brain need to last us a lifetime. To do this our cells have developed ways of protecting themselves. One way is through a process called autophagy, which literally means self-eating, where damaged components are collected together and removed from the cell.
This is very important as accumulation of damage in cells has been linked to several diseases including dementia.
Lead author, Dr Viktor Korolchuk from Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing explains: “As we age, we accumulate damage in our cells and so it is thought that activating autophagy could help us treat older people suffering from dementia. In order to be able to do this we need to understand how we can induce this cell cleaning.”
Here is a really useful summary of successful aging guidelines.
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
This is so nice to learn, both on its own and in connection with nature itself for me. As I have written more than once one of my great pleasures riding my bike on the Chicago Lakefront is being out in nature.
The study compared TV show genres to see which makes people happiest.
Watching nature documentaries — like being out in nature itself — can help you feel happier.
The survey of 7,500 people around the world found they felt happier after viewing clips from BBC nature documentaries.
The study compared watching the documentary to the news or a popular drama show.
People reported that after viewing the nature documentary they felt more:
- and curiosity.
At the same time it reduced feelings of anger, tiredness and stress.
Professor Dacher Keltner, who teamed up with the BBC for the study, said:
“I have long believed that nature and viewing sublime and beautiful nature in painting, film and video shifts how we look at the world, and humbles us, brings into focus our core goals, diminishes the petty voice of the self and strengthens our nervous system.
When the BBC…
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Anxiety seems to be a near-universal condition. In the United States alone, approximately 40 million adults – or 18 percent of the population – suffer from an anxiety disorder.
And these numbers represent only the diagnosed (i.e. reported). The actual number is likely to be significantly higher.
The truth is that society is somewhat to blame (not to negate our own sense of responsibility.) We’ve managed to build a 24/7 “constantly connected” infrastructure that has permeated into schools, businesses and elsewhere. Many people are under constant pressure to succeed; most ironically by leveraging this very infrastructure. This only exacerbates the problem.
“Prevention is the best cure” is a universal axiom within the medical community, including within the mental health sphere. Understanding what “triggers” certain symptoms or condition can – in some instances – drastically reduce the likelihood of a symptom or episode.
Here, we focus on ten established “triggers” that…
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“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 […]
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.
Yesterday I had a series of events that would have had my hands trembling with frustration and stress a year ago. However, I have been using some tools for dealing with stress that served me very well. Maybe this recounting will help you to do the same.
The day started with a dentist visit. That wasn’t the stressor. I was simply having a crown fitted. The problem was that the appointment was at 9:00 AM. The weather forecast said very hot.
Stressor number one. Normally, I would be out first thing in the morning to ride my bicycle and avoid the afternoon’s extreme heat. But, I couldn’t because I had to go to the dentist. A year ago, I would have raced off to the dentist fretting about how hot it was going to be and all the attendant difficulties. I chose not to. The dentist visit was something I needed to do and I decided that I would adjust my riding accordingly even if it meant riding in hotter weather than I would have liked. It was simply a matter of priorities. I looked at it in a positive way. When I finished with the appointment I relaxed and walked home, I didn’t race home to save seconds and stress myself further. I changed clothes, got the dog and went downstairs to the bike room.
Stressor number two. My bicycle speedometer battery had died. I needed to go to the bike shop and get it replaced. That would set me back at least a further 15 minutes. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, I could deal with that. The alternative of riding without a speedometer and odometer was not acceptable as how many miles I ride is relevant to me. I rode down to the bike shop.
Stressor number three. My two regular bike mechanics weren’t there. They are familiar with my speedometer and have changed the batteries before. I was going to be stuck a longer time as the new guy figured out the workings of the little gadget. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, it’s still a day I can ride. So, that is a plus for me. Just a little further delay to deal with. The new guy got it changed, reprogrammed and I was ready to go. The charge $3.00. No biggie. But wait, it rained the other day and I had to hang up my cycling shorts to dry out. I keep my money in the pocket. The shorts are still hanging up in the bathroom and I am wearing a different pair. I have no money! Take a deep breath; let it out slow.