Derailing Stress This Holiday Season
I am so drawn to this picture I think because just gazing at it makes me want to slow down…..and I intuitively know I need to do just that. We all can get stressed with everyday happenings and even occasions such as the holidays can create a feeling of overwhelm. According to the Mayo Clinic increases in blood pressure related to stress can be dramatic. But once the stressor disappears, your blood pressure returns to normal. However, even temporary spikes in blood pressure — if they occur often enough — can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys in a way similar to long-term high blood pressure.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Stress in America” survey of 1,226 adults in 2011 the top 5 sources of anxiety were:
Of course we would have to add politics to this list as this was a particularly divided election year. According to Alan J. Lipman, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the psychology of political behavior, the plethora of fear-based messages (typical during any campaign season, and particularly prominent during this cycle) can present a formidable challenge to mental health. Prolonged exposure to political fear mongering seriously harms people who suffer from anxiety disorders, he notes. But toxic political campaigns affect us all to some degree by reducing our sense of stability and security. So what are some tools we can use to avoid the stress that can unfortunately affect our health?
- A positive approach is literally being able to actually train your brain to be less anxious. Kate Lowenstein, Health, October 2012, discusses this new research, in particular, ~ CBT ~ cognitive behavioral therapy, which in a nutshell, centers on the idea that we can free ourselves from a lot of angst by becoming aware of our distorted view of situations (particularly the stressful ones), thus adjusting our behaviors accordingly. Richard Davidson, Ph.D, director of the Lab for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, states, “Our brains are constantly being shaped, most often unwittingly. But there are things we can do to purposefully shape them and reduce anxiety. ” (If you are interested in finding therapists specializing in this in your area go here.).
- Mindfulness is another approach which focuses your brain on the present, actually conditioning your mind to be more stress-resistant. I highly recommend a book, Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He describes mindfulness as waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world, examining who we are, with questioning our view of the world and our place in it, and with cultivating some appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive. Most of all, it has to do with being in touch.
- In 2012, a study had students training in a mindfulness technique and they had a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol and an increase in signaling connections (called axons) in a part of the brain that controls emotions. The more we can shift our mind to the present, the better equipped we are when stress and anxiety strike. I just recently learned about a class called Stress Management The Mindfulness Way – “Live Your Life More Fully”, a program based on a program whose content was developed by Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Mass Hospitals in the 1970’s. Offered by the Senior Center in Chapel Hill for 5 weeks, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in January and look forward to learning how to develop such things as quieting and calming the mind, decreasing the symptoms associated with stress and improving overall physical and emotional well-being. This is a great way to begin a new year!
Information about a nutritional product that can help with these everyday stresses can be found here. It contains a blend of clinically tested ingredients and has been designed to support a calm, more relaxed state without causing drowsiness. Stress can elevate your body’s levels of cortisol, and continuously high levels have been linked to long term health impacts. This product was designed to help support your body’s response to stress. Ask me about it.