Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to reduce stress.

Post 531 - In the August 2010 issue of Wired, Jonah Lehrer asserts that “stress doesn’t kill us – but it makes everything that does kill us much worse.” In the article that follows, Lehrer explains how to reduce stress with science. To read the complete article once it is accessible online, please click here - http://www.wired.com/magazine/

Make Friends:
“Social relationships are a powerful buffer against stress. In fact, several studies in Europe and the U.S. have found that people with fewer friends and family members they’re close to have significantly shorter life expectancies.”

Drink in Moderation:
“While the moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the stress response, blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent – most states consider 0.08 the legal limit for driving – trigger an automatic spike in stress hormones and convince your body it’s in a state of mortal danger.”

Get Enough Sleep:
“Recent studies have found that even a single night of insufficient sleep ... triggers an automatic spike in stress hormones.” The result is increased stress and more insomnia, which explains why sleep problems are such an important risk factor for depression.

Don’t Fight:
Extensive recent research on baboons by Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky suggests that human beings as well as baboons with a less aggressive personality (i.e. the ability to walk away from a provocation) have much more stable and much less stressful relationships.

Confront Your Fears:
As one research study of Norwegian paratroopers reveals, there was massive stress prior to and then following their first jump but over time, after repeated jumps, “they showed elevated levels of stress hormones only while in midair.”

Extensive research suggests that “even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety.“ At least once or twice a day, it's a good idea to take a brief “time out” from tensions and pressures: calm down, relax, take a few deep breaths, and envision an especially pleasant scene (such as walking along a tropical beach). Most people feel refreshed and energized after these brief moments of decompression.

Don’t Force Yourself to Exercise:
“While exercise is remarkably effective at blunting the stress response, at least for a few hours, this effect exists only if you want to exercise in the first place.” Otherwise, those who force themselves to suffer through exercise won't reduce their stress level; on the contrary, they may exacerbate it.

You can check out several videos on YouTube where Robert Sapolsky shares what he's learned about stress.

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