The holidays are upon us and that feeling of overwhelm is settling in. Anxiety levels in this country are the highest they have been in seven decades, surveys show. And, of course, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Stress in America” survey of 1,226 adults in 2011 the top 5 sources of anxiety were:
- The Economy
- Family Responsibilities
Unfortunately, weight gain, depression, even cancer has been linked to chronic stress.
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.
As we all get busy with our holiday plans, let’s try and take the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Those moments pass so quickly; before you know it, 2013 will be here. Enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones, as stress-free as possible. Breathe
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