Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Relax, Sit Back, Take it Easy, Don't Fret, Cool It!

"These hassles can have a big impact on physical health and well-being, particularly when they accumulate and we don't have time to recover from one problem before another hits us."
"Our fight, flight or freeze response never turns off; we get a build-up of cortisol in our bodies, and that makes us vulnerable to diseases."
Melanie Greenberg, psychologist, author, The Stress-Proof Brain

"Men who rated daily lives as extremely stressful were three times more likely to die during the study than those who reported low levels of daily stress."
"Being late to work may not be a major thing unless your boss has gotten mad at you for being late too much."
Carolyn Aldwin, director, Center for Healthy Aging Research, Oregon State University

"Being mindful of small, everyday pleasures, which are readily accessible to most people at little or no cost, can help dampen the impact of everyday annoyance and contribute greatly to our happiness and well-being."
Vanessa Patrick, researcher
Long-term stress (illustrated by a stock image) can cause memory loss and inflammation in the brain - and the immune system is to blame, according to a study in mice

A 2016 study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research described researchers having over one hundred university students and academic staff members track annoyances of a minor nature that occur throughout the course of a day: traffic, dead cellphone battery alternating with socializing with people, hobby engagement. They did this for six days, recording progress toward achievable goals.

Goal progress was noted to suffer on those days containing a considerable number of minor annoyances as opposed to the occurrences of simple pleasures. The reverse occurred when participants recorded a higher number of pleasurable incidents, minimizing the collateral effect of annoyances. On those occasions, the irritation level was buffered and tended not to interfere in achieving daily goals.

Normally, when the issue of stress relating to harm to one's pschological and physiological stability comes up, there is a tendency to imagine big-stress issues, like loss of employment, a death in the family, diagnosis of a chronic illness, a serious accident -- and the toll that these life-changing events take on one's emotional stability and health outcomes. However, minor, incremental issues of stress caused by irritating events such as flight delays, missing an important meeting, just things that tend on occasion to go wrong, are now being identified by a growing body of research, as harmful.

Harmful enough to conceivably affect longevity for some. According to psychologists studying this important issue, the never-ending strain associated with things that often go wrong in everyday life have the potential to burden one's mental and physical resources to a breaking point. As these issues crop up, sometimes even before we manage to accommodate ourselves to accepting previously occurring stressors, their accumulated effect can be overwhelming.

Carolyn Aldwin points out that these chronic, ongoing frustrations can lead to increased blood pressure which risks heart disease outcomes. Stress hormones are raised, a process affecting the immune system and possibly leading to chronic inflammation, associated with quite a number of serious illnesses, cancer among them. One 2016 study had researchers interview almost a thousand people relating to the frequency of experiencing stress.
woman feeling stress
Exploring Your Mind

These test subjects were asked to evaluate the severity of these incidents. Their resting heart rate variability was tested (HRV, representing the variation in intervals between heartbeats, where a higher HRV is associated with a healthy stress response while a lower one is linked to increased risk for heart disease and death). It turned out that the number of stressful events wasn't the issue, but the manner in which an individual perceived their associated stress, and reacted emotionally that was associated with lower HRV.

Ms. Aldwin, along with other researchers, asked participants in a 2014 study of 1,300 men to rank on a stress scale of zero to four, events daily encountered. A list that included items of a quotidian value such as "your kids", "your garden", and "your commute to work" was used, leading researchers to find that men who perceived their everyday frustrations as very stressful had a mortality risk similar to those who consistently report more highly stressful life events, including the death of a family member.

Ms. Aldwin points to research that suggests people who are inclined by character to react in a more volatile manner also have a tendency to experience a more reactive physiological response to perceived threats, resulting in increased heart rates and cortisol level, which leave them in a condition where it takes longer to becalm themselves, a situation that ensures it is more difficult to regulate emotions.

Dr. Greenberg points out that we become more vulnerable to daily irritations, work problems or interpersonal conflicts that cause us to overreact when we're constantly worn down by chronic stress. Psychologists speak of strategies to aid in regulating emotions. As example, psychotherapist Amy Morin advises patients to take note of physical symptoms indicating rising stress levels so that recognizing and managing the physiological response helps to mitigate the problem.

Excuse yourself from the situation; alternately take deep breaths to halt an angry escalation.

People might get stressed out just reading this item, wondering how and why it is that all the research subjects appear to be men.

post-it notes stress
Exploring Your Mind

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet