Stress fires up the body’s fight or flight response; a very primitive function of our brains that protects us from danger. The urge to flee, pounding heart, sweating, breathlessness and dry mouth are all responses the body has if threatened. They prepare the body to defend itself and mobilize you for survival and may even save your life.
But when there aren’t any charging tigers or elephants, and stressful daily activities like commuting, taking a test at school, worrying about paying your bills or meeting a deadline add up and you can’t cope with the pressure, the chemicals and hormones released on a continual basis can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Here is a round-up of some interesting (and a few most-shared) articles on the web from May 1, 2014 to May 15, 2014 from Psychcentral, “The Huffington Post,” an ABC News anchor and other psychology and wellness experts on how to deal with stress and panic in our daily lives.
Watching TV, exercise, thinking, socializing, ignoring
Psychcentral.com’s article, “6 Strategies That Surprisingly Don’t Shrink Stress” points out some activities we think might reduce our stress, but in fact may make it worse. Carla Naumburg, Ph.D, LICSW, a clinical social worker who writes the Psych Central blog “Mindful Parenting” and Heidi Hanna, PhD, author of the book “Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress” reveal what doesn’t reduce stress and why.
Watching television, high intensity exercise, thinking your way out of stress, solitude, socializing and just ignoring stress are some of the activities that they mention that boost those stress hormones.
Beliefs about success and money
The article, “How Rethinking Happiness Can Help Cure the 'Stress Pandemic'” discusses how our belief that academic achievement and career success will bring happiness, might actually be leaving us feeling stressed out, unhappy and unfulfilled. Psychology lecturer and best-selling author Tal Ben-Shahar who teaches happiness at Harvard University joined HuffPost Live’s host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on May 15, 2014 to discuss the stress that can arise from outmoded ideals of success.
“What leads to happiness are other things -- things like relationships, things like contributing to others, feeling that what you’re doing makes a difference -- and it doesn’t need to be on a grand scale,” he said. “It’s the journey that’s made meaningful that ultimately leads to long-term happiness.” You can watch the video on The Huffington Post.
Stress from dead smartphone batteries
Would you panic if your smartphone runs out of battery? Some 25% of Brits said they would, while 90% of the U.K. smartphone-owning population said they would feel stressed.
Techtimes.com article, “Dead Smartphone Battery Causes Stress in 92 Percent of Britons” reports on 872 smartphone owners who were surveyed and said they would feel stressed if their phone's battery died out on them and there is no charger nearby. Aside from stress, 6 out of 10 Brits or 61% of those surveyed said they would feel frustrated if their smartphones run out of battery, while some 25% reported they would feel panicked.
Discrimination because of sexual orientation
A new study, “Why gay, lesbian teens binge drink: Stressful experiences, such as victimization and homophobia, linked to heavy episodic drinking” presents evidence that discriminatory experiences can cause lesbian and gay teens to drink more than their heterosexual peers in an effort to deal with social stress.
A study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver analyzed responses from 1,232 youths aged 12 to 18 years old who took part in an online survey conducted by OutProud: The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth shows that chronic stress due to discrimination, rejection, harassment, concealment of sexual orientation, internalized homophobia (negative attitudes toward homosexuality) and other negative experiences leads to poor health.
Talk to yourself using second or third person pronouns
The article, “A Simple Mind Trick That Will Help You Manage Stress” by clinical psychologist and author of the book “Emotional First Aid,” Guy Winch, Ph.D. discusses a University of Michigan study that had participants prepare themselves for a task by talking to themselves in either first-person or second and third-person pronouns. Surprisingly, the participants using second- and third-person pronouns had less emotional distress before the task, and felt less feelings of shame, and engaged in less damaging self-critical thinking afterwards.
Winch says: “Switching from first-person pronouns to second- and third-person pronouns is a way of creating psychological distance from a stress-inducing task (by thinking of the 'self' as 'other'). The more psychological distance we have from an anxiety-producing or stressful event, the better able we are to manage any distressing feelings we have and to reduce their impact on our behavior.”
Stress of the unemployed who go back to work
In the HRmagazine.co.uk article, “Long-term Unemployed May Suffer With Stress When Returning to Work, Warns Expert” reports that people returning to work after long periods of unemployment may struggle the most with stress.
Alistair Dornan, Capita Employee Benefits head of health and risk management, speaking at the launch of the Capita Employee Benefits Employee Insight Report 2014, said the effect of long-term unemployment "can be very detrimental to people's physical and mental health, especially around stress and depression".
He added, "When people come back to work after a long period of unemployment, you will often find that their attitudes towards things like pride in an employer and trust can be damaged," he said. "Employers should be aware of that and try to help them."
Foods the reduce stress
In Totalbeauty.com’s article, “Women and Stress: 6 Foods That Calm Panic” by Robin Immerman mentions foods that will restore ones sanity, reduce panic and quell stress.
The article mentions Greek yogurt with probiotics that boost the immune system, whole-grain carbs that raise our serotonin levels, eggs with mood elevating vitamin D and B-12, green tea with its anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and walnuts, and avocados with vitamin E.
No meditation required to reduce stress
MindBodyGreen.com’s article, “7 Simple Steps To Lower Your Stress (No Meditation Or Exercise Required)” by Megan Bruneau show us how she counsels her clients to manage stress without overwhelming them with even more responsibilities like eating better or getting more sleep. She mentions a few solutions like: Not beating yourself up for feeling stressed, asking yourself: who or what is putting pressure on you, putting yourself first, acknowledging what's in your control and what's not, giving yourself permission to be a human being and other cool information that might actually ease some of the pressure.
How an ABC News anchor found Buddhist meditation
ABC News anchor Dan Harris recounts having a panic attack live on Good Morning America. Harris went on to encounter a number of snake-oil-selling self-help gurus before he finally discovered the effectiveness of traditional Buddhist meditation. In the video, “Dan Harris' Panic Attack (and Discovery of Meditation)” he explains his journey through his panic and later embarrassment to his contact with self-help guru, Eckhart Tolle and finally finding Buddhist meditation.
Your mind isn’t a villain
Mark DeNicola’s article, “5 Things to Help Overcome Panic & Anxiety” relates some simple tips and reminders that he found to be incredibly helpful in moving beyond his own panic and anxiety. He recommends remembering that even though it may be intense, it always has an end, that your mind isn’t a villain and to make friends with it, however overwhelming just ride with it and other helpful advice.