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:
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
Last evening our extended family met at my twin sister’s farmhouse out in Chatham County for our annual “Holiday Family Feast.” Each family brings their best dishes and we all converge on the huge dining room table which is laden with a variety of mouth-watering amazing dishes.
This year was different for me ~ since March I have not eaten meat so ham was definitely not going to be on my plate. I usually bring meatballs in a great sauce (my father’s recipe) and for years I only used beef. Last year we chose to offer beef as well as ground turkey. This year I chose to make the turkey meatballs, but no beef, but also brought something for myself ~ vegetarian meatballs ~ and they were amazing! I noticed that these, along with the turkey ones, disappeared quickly! (If you would like the vegetarian version recipe, let me know) ~ it came from a Meatball Shop Restaurant and apparently they sell faster than the meat ones!
The great thing about this year was that everyone thought to bring a salad ~ we had potato, green, Lebanese, bean, persian ~ they were all delicious. And Robyne’s Carrot Raisin Rice, as always, was delicious. So when the desserts arrived ~ Maia’s famous sugar cookies, Aunt Joyce’s fudge, Raelee’s Whoopie Pies, Jaleh’s Gingerbread Cake, etc. we indulged without guilt! (well, sort of)
I am sure there are many of you attending such holiday events. It is all part of the season. But what about all that rich holiday food and drink? Knowing that salt and alcohol can raise blood pressure, fatty foods can boost cholesterol, and even one rich meal can adversely affect blood vessels ~ perhaps those veggie meatballs and all those salads were a great choice! Although that rich holiday food and drink have not been linked to a rise in winter heart attacks, stress, according to Robert Kloner, a cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, plays a pretty major role. Heart attack deaths peak on three days of the year, and one of them is Christmas. The other two are the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Perhaps creating a simpler holiday and facing the holiday with less expectations can help with that stress. We all know that flu and pneumonia can play a role in the winter so keeping our immune systems strong is important. One of the ways I practice prevention is by taking an immune support supplement. When used daily, it increases the production of my body’s natural interferon, a critical activator of the immune system. It works at the cellular level, by rapidly activating my immune system’s defenses.
A recent study published in Cell Metabolism showed that by taking a resveratrol supplement for 30 days significantly lowered multiple markers associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other chronic diseases. These include markers of inflammation, improved mitochondrial capacity, lowered blood pressure, and blood glucose. The study participants showed significant increases in markers of mitochondrial function (our body’s energy producers that tend to decrease in number and output as we age). I take a high potency resveratrol supplement daily for a longer and healthier life.
As we all enjoy the holiday season and “indulge” in those occasional feasts and parties, perhaps we can focus on making our holidays a little slower pace, lessening our expectations, and most importantly practicing prevention by providing our body with important immune and cell defense. Happy Holidays!
As I look at my little snowmen marching across my mantle, I cannot believe another year has passed. The holiday season is upon us and I feel like summer had barely ended.
Is that what “getting old” does to us? It doesn’t seem possible that the children in our lives are so grown up! It makes me want to even more take the time to enjoy the present.
One thing for certain ~ I am paying more attention to ways I can improve and instill habits that will help me live healthier long into the future. I loved this video by Dr. Oz where he shows us in just 7 minutes how we can get going. I came across some interesting health trivia the other day ~
At age 20, our health is affected by genetics 80%, by the environment 20%
At age 30, genetics is a 50% factor in our health and the environment 50%
But, by age 50, genetics is responsible for only 20% of our health ~ the environment and our lifestyle choices contributes 80% to our health!
AND the average 50 year old weighs 15 to 20 pounds more than they did at 30
One of the things I have done consistently for the past 18 years is to take a protein shake each morning. It is a complete meal for me (24 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, lactose free, non-GMO protein, gluten free, and low glycemic index. I often add frozen organic berries (which are filled with antioxidants and help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress). At times I just mix it with water and add organic kale and berries for a “green shake.”
Taking a break in the afternoon with an Energy Tea Mix (I love my Pomegrante tea) is a great alternative to sugary snacks and coffee (particularly since I have had to give up coffee) for a quick energy lift.
Probably the most helpful addition to my diet has been to add a resveratrol and proprietary phytonutrient blend liquid dietary supplement each day. I just learned that in a well-designed human clinical study, (Cell Metabolism) researchers showed that taking a resveratrol supplement for 30 dayssignificantly lowered multiple markers associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other chronic diseases. This was very exciting new to hear about.
Of course we all know that stress plays a big role not only in the breaking down of our immune system According to Deepok Chopra, M.D., in his book, Ageless Body, Ageless Mind, most of the time our cells are occupied with renewal ~ roughly 90% of a cell’s energy normally goes to building new proteins and manufacturing new DNA and RNA. When the brain perceives threat, however, the process of building is set aside. Whatever you decide to do in fight-or-flight situations, your body needs a massive burst of energy to propel your muscles. To allow this, the normal style of metabolism that builds the body, called anabolic metabolism, converts to its opposite, catabolic metabolism, which breaks down tissues. This adrenaline launches a cascade of responses ~ blood pressure rises, muscles tense, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, sexual desire and hunger are suppressed, digestion stops, and the brain becomes hyperalert. At times this stress response is vital, but if not terminated in time, Chopra states that the effects of catabolic metabolism are disastrous, leading to such illnesses as hypertension, ulcers, impotence, wasted muscles, and diabetes, all of which are common signs of aging
I just recently learned that processed meats such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, all of which contain nitrates, may be linked to Alzheimer’s. Perhaps that “fake bacon” is not so bad after all? In a society that eats half of its meals at fast-food stands and runs record-high rates of obesity,, alcoholism, eating disorders, and crash dieting, we can see that improper diet is clearly linked with disease and premature aging. Choosing a diet consisting largely of plant-derived foods, with occasional bits of meat and fish, along with nuts, seeds and grains and certainly eliminating sugar as much as possible (average American diet contains 130# of sugar per year) can help add to our healthy years.
My other “tool” to avoid aging too fast has been to take care of my skin. I chose a product that was nutrient based, pH balanced, never animal tested, always hypoallergenic, with no Parabens, FD&C or D&C dyes, Propylene glycol, animal products or by-products, mineral oils or petrolatum, Sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate as well as no Phthalates. As a result, my skin looks and feels great.
What about you ~ what are your “anti-aging tools?” In closing I found this quote and found it very appropriate:
“People don’t grow old. When they stop growing, they become old.”
When I look back at my own past in raising my five children, yes, life was stressful. I do think it was family support and my own aversion to drugs that kept me from what 1 in 4 women are doing today according to a recent report from MedCo Health Solutions…taking a prescription drug for depression, ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, etc. I do remember many nights without sleep ~ am not sure how I caught up on that one!
Watching the nightly pharmacy ads on tv certainly validates all of this. They seem to really zero in on women’s issues ~ and relief is just a pill away. As I watched this short clip showing the stresses this woman was under, I can see why those ads would be so appealing. That second baby, as she stated, was the catalyst that triggered immense stress for her as well as lack of sleep. Caught up with not only the full-time of motherhood with two young ones, she was also juggling a full-time job as well as a home, and a husband. It reminds me of a being on a moving treadmill that literally never stops!
According to Dean Ornish, M.D., stress can have a negative impact on just about every part of your body. It can suppress your immune function, cause a heart attack or stroke, increase your risk of cancer, delay wound healing, promote inflammation, cause you to gain weight, impair your memory, cause depression, exacerbate diabetes, worsen your sexual function, and makes you age faster at a genetic and cellular level.
What alternatives are out there besides taking those appealing tv drug solutions ~ which all come with side effects? According to Dr. Ornish, stress comes not only from what’s going on in your life, but, even more important, from how you react to it. Practicing some simple stress-management techniques on a regular basis, you can be in the same job, the same environment, even the same family but react in more constructive and healthful ways. Suggested techniques ~ yoga-based stretching, breathing techniques, meditation, and imagery as well as participation in a support group.
Dr. Frank Lipman, in his book, Total Renewal, states the following benefits of breathing with awareness:
It helps relieve tension.
It energizes us.
It anchors us in our bodies.
It leads to better health.
It is easy and convenient ~ it can be done anywhere, anytime.
One of the leading proponents of mindfulness meditation, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes meditation this way:
Mindfulness is about living fully in the present moment, observing ourselves, our feelings, others and our surroundings without judging them. Mindfulness meditation is moment to moment awareness. It is being fully awake. It involves being here for the moments of our lives, without striving or judging. Mindfulness is coming home to yourself, to live your own life, as you are, in the only moment that you have to live ~ this moment.
Caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, sodas and chocolate and even some medication, can add to daily stress. It shortens your fuse, making you more reactive to stress. (the opposite of meditation) It gives you immediate energy but then later you feel really tired ~ thus you want more stimulant to pick yourself up ~ it becomes a vicious cycle. I was very attached to my coffee throughout the day until I had acidity issues and had to give it up. Now when I want a “pick-up”, particularly in the mid-afternoon, I drink a delicious tea that offers me a safe, natural energy boost. It is an exclusive, antioxidant-rich blend of teas, including Matcha (a premier ceremonial green tea from Japan), white tea (magnificant and rare), red tea (from South Africa and antioxidant-packed), and taurine.
Exercise is a known physical benefit and is a great way to discharge all those stressful feelings.
How do you deal with the stress in your life? Are you the 1 in 4 women taking prescription drugs to calm down or sleep better? I would love to hear your suggestions about alternatives to the drug approach to relieve our daily stresses of life.