MANAGE STRESS MANAGE STRESS MANAGE STRESS
Spend a few quiet minutes every day meditating or practicing mindfulness; this will help ease anxiety and lower stress hormones. To learn more about meditation, watch a guided meditation with Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, Ph.D at bit.ly/Kornfield-med. For more info about mindfulness visit umassmed.edu/cfm or read Jon-Kabat Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, Illness.
For online (and sometimes free) courses on Mindfulness, visit palousemindfulness.com.
Try to be physically active for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day, says Ronald Petersen, MD, Ph.D director of the Mayo clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Cnter and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. Choose an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, practicing yoga, hiking, etc. Anything that gets you moving vigorously will help reduce stress–but check in with your physician before starting any exercise program.
ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU LAUGH MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. Some evidence even suggests that laughter can deactivate stress hormones. (Three Stooges; Dumb and Dumber, to name a few).
TUNE IN TO MELLOW MUSIC
Music has a powerful effect on the brain, and can induce the release of calming hormones, thereby reducing stress, says Mark Gudesblatt MD a neurologist at South Shore Neurological Associates in Patchogue NY and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
There is strong evidence that being socially active boosts cognitive ability says Gary Small, MD, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences…interacting with other people also helps us avoid feelings of loneliness, which may protect the brain, since associating with others appears to decrease the risk of Alzeimer’s disease, even if you like being alone.”
For example, a UCLA study found that chronically lonely people have higher levels of inflammatory cells, which can cause brain cell damage and neurodegeneration. “The good news is that becoming and staying socially engaged may reduce your risk for dementia by as much as 60 % says Dr. Small.”
In the same issue Dr. Herbert Benson MD, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and the endowed Mind Body Medicine professor at Harvard Medical School compared the activity of 40,000 genes in people who meditate regularly with gene activity a group of people who never meditated. He and colleagues collected blood before and after the program, during which participants were asked to meditate for 10 minutes twice a day. They checked the samples for white blood cells in order to measure gene expression.
They observed that in the meditation group, there was an enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, insulin secretion, and maintenance of aging cells, and a reduced expression of genes associated with inflammation and stress-related pathways, says Dr. Benson, whose work was published in the Journal PLOS ONE in 2013.
He credits these genomic changes to something he calls the “relaxation response,” a physical state of deep rest in white blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels decrease. The genomic changes intensified the more people practiced” he says. (To learn more about the relaxation response, visit relaxationresponse.org/steps)
SOURCE: NEUROLOGY NOW. APRIL/MAY 2015
S T R E S S
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING STRESS?
Here are a few common stress indicators:
*Feelings of anger
*Changes in eating habits
*Changes in sleeping habits
*Inability to focus
As you can see, stress and depression share many common symptoms. So many of the same life changes and self care steps you can take to ease symptoms of depression will also help alleviate stress.
In addition to adopting the lifestyle changes suggested above, you might want to try one of more of the following techniques for relaxing the mind and the body, and reducing the physical tension associated with stress.
+Place one hand on your abdomen right below your rib cage.
+Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the bottom of your lungs. Your chest should move only slightly, while your stomach rises, pushing your hand up.
+ As you exhale, just let yourself go and imagine your entire body going loose and limp. It should take you twice as long to exhale as it did to inhale.
+Practice three times per day for 2-3 minutes.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
+Pay a mental visit to your muscles, stopping at each area of the body from head to toe to pay attention to areas of tension.
+As you stop at each area, tense then relax each muscle, trying to release unnecessary tension.
+Imagine tension flowing out of your body, down your shoulders and arms and out through your fingertips into the air, down your thighs and legs, and out through the soles of your feet to the ground.
+Take a mental “vacation.” Imagine yourself in a pleasant, relaxing place such as on the beach or in the woods.
This technique adopted from Buddhist practices, is gaining acceptance in Western medicine as a simple and effective way to keep your mind focused on the present, observing your own thoughts and experiences as they occur, without judgment. By keeping your focus “in the moment“, it is possible to acknowledge the source of your stress, without dwelling on it or attaching too much meaning to it.
Practicing mindfulness lets you reserve judgment on the accuracy of your thoughts and feelings and just observe them for what they are – products of your mind. Here are the basic steps to follow when practicing mindfulness.
+ Focus on your breathing or some other sensation, or on an object in your surroundings.
+While focusing, allow other thoughts and feelings to flow over you.
+Acknowledge and name each feeling, but then let it fade away.
+Allow the next thought or feeling to enter your mind. Again, acknowledge it, and then let it go.
+When learning mindfulness, individuals are encouraged to practice 30 minutes a day to become comfortable with the technique.
See recovery tool: In the Moment and Meditation