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 written repeatedly that walking is the Cinderella of the exercise world – totally unappreciated. Now comes this wonderful study from the University of Michigan about how a 20 minute walk in contact with nature actually lowers your stress levels.
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.
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
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
Thought you would appreciate this April first infographic from the National Institutes of Health. So, here is something good from the government that doesn’t cost us anything. Enjoy!
I have written about yoga a number of times here. About a month ago I posted on a yoga study – yoga and back pain.
For the record, I dated a yoga teacher some years ago and practiced it religiously for the two years we were together and for several years afterward. So I am very familiar with its practice and results. I have certainly used the relaxation techniques available from yoga breathing virtually every day of my life.
I recently had some problems with my lower back. It was stiff and painful. It also felt like I was aggravating it riding the bike. So I went to the doctor. Upon examination, she told me that at my age, 77, I may have lost some of my flexibility, particularly in my spine. She recommended doing some yoga to see if it gave me relief.
First, some back pain facts.
WebMD says, “Back pain includes lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica. Nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis can result in back pain.”
More than three million cases per year are reported in the U.S. alone. 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.
Lots of good information here. Because of my family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, these positive habits rang a bell with me.
To read further on them, you can check my pages:
Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)
How important is a good night’s sleep?
I have written a number of posts on dealing with stress. You can check them out by typing in the word s t r e s s in the search box. I recommend the following one which I wrote in 2010 as one of the most useful:
Some super tools for handling stress
Our Better Health
In a hyper-competitive world overflowing with information, our brains need to be able to keep up and outpace our competitors. Who doesn’t want their brain to process faster, remember more information or be able to come up with elegant solutions to complex problems? Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. Our brains more or less define our existence and who we are. So how can we get our brains to work better, faster and more efficiently?
HERE ARE SEVEN HABITS THAT WILL HELP IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN FUNCTION:
1. EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercising promotes blood flow, cardiac health and releases beneficial hormones and proteins into your body. These hormones and proteins protect your neurons, which are the cells that make up most of your brain, and encourage them to multiply and make new connections. Studies have shown that exercise helps you learn faster and remember more information. Further studies have shown…
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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.
All the while I could feel the bike path beckoning
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.
I like these eight simple mental actions. They can clearly make a mountain of difference in your daily life if your aren’t practicing them.
These reminded me of the ideas from Dr. Maggie Crowley in Super tools for handling stress. Check it out.
Our Better Health
MARK DENICOLA MARCH 17, 2016
As much as our lives may be impacted by our circumstance, I’m a firm believer that they are far more influenced by our attitude. While we may collectively look down upon certain things, you can almost always find an opposing, positive stance to pretty well everything.
Take a rainstorm, for example. Most would find it annoying, gloomy, and/or unfortunate, but others (such as a farmer) would consider it something to be happy, relieved, and/or excited about.
With so much of our experience being within our control, why do so many of us continually choose to take such pessimistic and negative views towards things? Here is a list of 8 mind shifts that I personally feel could be the keys to finding the always sought-after success and happiness:
(NOTE: Of course there are certain experiences that will be far more difficult to apply these…
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When I was a kid and watched hundreds of double feature cowboy movies on Saturday afternoons, one of the phrases that I heard in almost every movie was, “Let’s head ’em off at the pass.” I knew the bad guys didn’t have a chance to get away because the good guys always headed them off.
Amazingly, that is also an example of one of our best defenses against stress. Head it off at the pass. Don’t even let it get get into your head. Works like magic, but it isn’t at all.
The Harvard Medical School has produced a special 52 page report on stress management and offered some superb guidelines on exactly that. It is called Cognitive Restructuring.
Here is an example: “Stop for a moment and try to remember the thoughts that were running through your head the last time you were late for work. Perhaps a simple thought, such as “the train is late,” quickly transformed into “I’ll be late to work. I won’t make it to my meeting on time. My boss will be angry with me. My job is in jeopardy. This always happens to me.” Continue reading