Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.
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Stress, worry and more stress
Stress, depression, anxiety and more stress. From the emails that land in my inbox every day, the No. 1 problem afflicting Americans (and sometimes, dogs) is some form of mental unwellness.
Today’s emails include a pitch about a new book called “Shortcuts to Inner Peace,” because, I guess, we all want more inner peace but don’t have time to cultivate it. Shortcuts include “Catch and Release – When taking a shower in the morning, think of your three top worries. Release each one into the water and down the drain.”
Then there’s the email about a new study that shows moms who think they can have it all are more prone to depression than moms who expect to let some things slide. (That one seems both intriguingly on-point and emotionally loaded. You can read more here: asanet.org/press/AM11_Leupp_News_Release.pdf)
In conversations I’ve had with area doctors over the years, the talk has often turned to stress. From radiologists to neurologists to internists, doctors have told me that counseling patients on stress reduction is a significant part of their practice.
With school getting ready to start, I thought I’d share some anxiety-reducting tips that have been widely distributed in the past week, on medicalnewstoday.com and other reliable websites. The tips (from Toronto’s Ryerson University) are geared toward college students but could help people of all ages. Here’s a sampling:
“Chronic worry can be lessened by learning to relax. Meditation, yoga and mindfulness training are good relaxation exercises, as are progressive muscle relaxation, slow breathing and picturing calm images.
When you find yourself overly worried about something, force yourself to assess the situation more realistically. For example, if you are worried that you will fail a test, consider the following questions:
- Do I know for sure that I will fail the exam?
- Have I done well on past exams, even when I thought I would fail?
- Did I study less than I usually do for similar exams?
- What is really likely to happen if I fail the exam?
- Is it possible for a person to fail a single exam and still do well in life?
You can read more back-to-school anxiety advice at: ryerson.ca/news/media/spotlight/bts2011/20110808_anxiety.html
Nearly unrelated but I’ll make the link anyway: I also recently read about how anxious dogs get during thunderstorms. This resonated with me because my dog paces and whimpers and generally comes unhinged when it thunders.
“Thunderstorm-anxious dogs not only suffer classic signs of fear — including pacing, whining and hiding during a storm — but also show a 207 percent spike in the production of cortisol, a hormone also produced by humans during stress,” said a report on sciencedaily.com.
Sadly, trying to comfort them doesn’t make a difference, according to the study. The only thing — other than possibly medication — that seems to lessen their stress is being around another dog. Not that you need to rush out and get another one, but … You can read more at sciencedaily.com/videos/2006/0601-help_for_thunderphobic_dogs.htm
Finally, here’s a link to a series of quizzes that can help you gauge your stress: healtheducation.uci.edu/stress/stressinventory.aspx
And if you’re wondering what those doctors have told me over the years about stress reduction, their advice is pretty similar to the back-to-school tips above. They’ve all mentioned meditation and yoga, but they also give the classic advice for a healthy life: exercise, a diet rich in fruits and veggies, a good night’s sleep, and alcohol consumption in moderation, if at all.
For all the new research and new books I hear about, some things don’t change.