Tag: Stress management

Looking at stress from a different perspective

Who doesn’t get stressed out!  Maybe not such an issue?

I have in my bookshelf a book called The Anxiety Epidemic.  On the back cover it explains this:

The Pain & Stress Center was founded in 1979, but the dream started long before that.  The goal is to help individuals realize their true potential and to support and conduct research in the areas of man’s greatest needs – natural alternatives.

I had seen the book in a second-hand bookshop and paid $1.99 for it!

Clearly I have some interest in the topic and like many others around me know that certain situations cause me stress.

Thus when recently there was a TED talk on the topic of ‘How to make stress your friend’ it seemed like a worthwhile thing to watch.  I was not wrong!

Published on Sep 4, 2013

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

It was an easy matter to find Kelly McGonigal’s website and discover a mine of advice and other good stuff.  For example, this:

Watch: How to Think Like a Psychologist

My fall 2011 Stanford University course “How to Think Like a Psychologist” is now available as a series of free, downloadable videos through iTunes university.

In this fun course, I invited my favorite psychology and neuroscience researchers at Stanford to talk about their work and what it means for everyday life and real-world problems. Each class starts with a 45-min lecture by the guest speaker, followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A from myself and course participants. I had a great time grilling these amazing scientists about everything from politics to education, parenting, shopping, and the scientific process. You’ll even hear a few personal stories they’ve never shared in public before!

Then there was this:

Learn: Mindfulness of Breathing.

I’m frequently asked questions about how to get started meditating, what is the best meditation for beginners, what is the best meditation for reducing stress (or training willpower, or cultivating self-compassion, or developing focus, etc.). Below is my favorite meditation for all these intentions.

You can listen to (or download) a version of these instructions and a 15-min guided practice here.

Mindfulness of Breathing

The intention of this practice is to turn your attention to the breath, notice when the mind wanders, and bring your attention back to the breath.

This meditation cultivates self-awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to make conscious choices about what you are doing. It also is good practice in not following every impulse or habit.

There are a few different ways to focus on the breath; choose the one that feels right to you.

There’s more to read here.

Of course, I couldn’t sign off without offering yet another thing to learn from dogs- relaxation.

Cleo dealing with stress!
Cleo dealing with stress!

So have a great week ahead: With or without stress!

Not so daft an idea!

Is there a link between anxiety and dementia?

Before going to a recent BBC report about this important subject, let me offer a personal anecdote.

A couple of months ago I had cause to be seen by a neurologist.  I wanted to get a professional opinion as to whether a degree of forgetfulness that I was experiencing was normal for a person of my age (68 next birthday).  Dr. G. not only confirmed that there was absolutely no sign of dementia but that my forgetfulness was perfectly normal for someone of my age who had been through some major life changes in the last few years.

Dr. G. stressed (probably not the best word but you know what I mean!) that me worrying about forgetting stuff and the resulting anxiety was a self-feeding issue.  I had to stop being anxious.  Indeed, Dr. G. said the following (and this I haven’t forgotten!):

Anxiety is the killer of good bodies and the killer of good brains!

So with those words ringing in your ears, have a read of this recent report from the BBC News website.

Role of stress in dementia investigated

By Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News online

UK experts are to begin a study to find out if stress can trigger dementia.

The investigation, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, will monitor 140 people with mild cognitive impairment or “pre-dementia” and look at how stress affects their condition.

The researchers will take blood and saliva samples at six-monthly intervals over the 18 months of the study to measure biological markers of stress.

They hope their work will reveal ways to prevent dementia.

The results could offer clues to new treatments or better ways of managing the condition, they say.

Dementia triggers

People who have mild cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of going on to develop dementia – although some will remain stable and others may improve.

And past work suggests mid-life stress may increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A Swedish study that followed nearly 1,500 women for a period of 35 years found the risk of dementia was about 65% higher in women who reported repeated periods of stress in middle age than in those who did not.

Scottish scientists, who have done studies in animals, believe the link may be down to hormones the body releases in response to stress which interfere with brain function.

Prof Clive Holmes, from the University of Southampton, who will lead the study, said: “All of us go through stressful events. We are looking to understand how these may become a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s.

“Something such as bereavement or a traumatic experience – possibly even moving home – are also potential factors.

“This is the first stage in developing ways in which to intervene with psychological or drug-based treatments to fight the disease.

“We are looking at two aspects of stress relief – physical and psychological – and the body’s response to that experience.”

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We welcome any research that could shed new light on Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia.

“Understanding the risk factors for Alzheimer’s could provide one piece of the puzzle we need to take us closer to a treatment that could stop the disease in its tracks.”

More on This Story

Related Stories

Your guide to reducing the risk of dementia

Stress linked to OAP memory loss

Dementia: Your stories

oooOOOooo

Finally, let me leave you with this.

Better than pills

I’m talking about dogs, of course!

 

Perfect!

 

 

Don’t know where today has gone but my plans to write a long, thoughtful piece have evaporated much like the snow that fell over the week-end.

So I am taking the liberty of reproducing a piece on About.com showing the health benefits that come from being close to dogs and cats.

When thinking of ways to reduce stress in life, usually techniques like meditationyoga and journaling come to mind. These are great techniques, to be sure. But getting a new best friend can also have many stress relieving and health benefits. While human friendsprovide great social support and come with some fabulous benefits, this article focuses on the benefits of furry friends: cats and dogs! Research shows that, unless you’re someone who really dislikes animals or is absolutely too busy to care for one properly, pets can provide excellent social support, stress relief and other health benefits—perhaps more than people! Here are more health benefits of pets:

Pets Can Improve Your Mood:
For those who love animals, it’s virtually impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand. Research supports the mood-enhancing benefits of pets. A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to a press release, men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.)

Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:
Yes, it’s true. While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a recent study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!

Pets Encourage You To Get Out And Exercise:
Whether we walk our dogs because they need it, or are more likely to enjoy a walk when we have companionship, dog owners do spend more time walking than non-pet owners, at least if we live in an urban setting. Because exercise is good for stress management and overall health, owning a dog can be credited with increasing these benefits.

Pets Can Help With Social Support:
When we’re out walking, having a dog with us can make us more approachable and give people a reason to stop and talk, thereby increasing the number of people we meet, giving us an opportunity to increase our network of friends and acquaintances, which also has great stress management benefits.

Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! All these benefits can reduce the amount of stress people experience in response to feelings of social isolation and lack of social support from people.

Pets Can Reduce Stress—Sometimes More Than People:
While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also agood listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better!Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! (This may be partially due to the fact that pets don’t judge us; they just love us.)

It’s important to realize that owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Pets do come with additional work and responsibility, which can bring its own stress. However, for most people, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks. Having a furry best friend can reduce stress in your life and bring you support when times get tough.

Sources:

Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and DepressionJournal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005.

Siegel JM, Angulo FJ, Detels R, Wesch J, Mullen A. AIDS diagnosis and depression in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: the ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care. April 1999.


Want more? Then go to this article on The Huffington Post published last December