Tag Archives: stress

The Science of Stress


Psychologist Kelly McGonigal has some things she wants to tell you about stress – things that you, like me, have probably misunderstood up until now. Per the introduction for the TED Talk by Dr. McGonigal:

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

There were two things she said in this talk which resonated with me:

“When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.”

“Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”

Take 10 minutes out of your day and watch this TED Talk when you have a chance. She will help reshape the way you view stress from a scientific point of view. You will thank me later for linking to this video. Your future self will thank you when you don’t drop dead from a cardiovascular-related condition a year from now. And I have already thanked Dr. Andrea Dinardo for introducing me to this video.

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Quote of the Day

Image result for The Dalai Lama on What Matters Most: Conversations on Anger, Compassion, and Action

“Fear, anxiety, and stress weaken the immune system. Some scientists have described anger as eating our immune functions. On the other hand, a relaxed state of compassion and kindness brings us inner peace and supports and augments the function of the immune system.”

The Dalai Lama on What Matters Most: Conversations on Anger, Compassion, and Action, Noriyuki Ueda (in conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

From my years spent living in Korea and traveling around Asia, I can now look back and say that one of the most striking differences between the West and the East is how we approach health/wellness and sickness.

This Quote of the Day embodies a simple truth. If you want to remain healthy, listen to simple yet sage thoughts like the above. Be proactive in the maintenance of your physical and mental health, and be reactive and benefit from the wonders of modern medicine when you are sick or weak.

Here are some other simple truisms I learned along the way: Eat until your 80 percent full; don’t eat alone; concentrate on the meal; acupuncture is real; singing can make your body stronger; meditation improves cognitive processes.

With respect to the book itself, here’s a brief intro from the publisher:

A few years ago, prominent cultural anthropologist Noriyuki Ueda sat down with the Dalai Lama for a lively two-day conversation. This little book is the result. In it are some surprising truths and commonsense wisdom.

Click here to visit the Dalai Lama’s official website. And, yes, His Holiness is also on Twitter (@DalaiLama) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DalaiLama/).

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Stress & Language (Or Words to Avoid for Writers)

Image result for stressed out and speaking

According to Lindsay Dodgson, “Using any of these words could indicate that you are more stressed.”

Stress, of course, is not a funny thing. However, what’s funny about this list of words is that it’s a real what’s what! for budding writers to avoid.

In a beautifully shaped nutshell:

  • A new study has identify words linked to high stress levels.
  • It found that “really,” “so,” and “very” can be giveaway signs.
  • Researchers determined stress by examining white blood cells.
  • They believe listening to medical patients’ vocabulary could let doctors give more accurate diagnoses.

Or, to paraphrase a little-known writer, last name King, first name Steve Baby, “Stay the **** away from adverbs like they’ve got a raging case of ***ing face herpes and toe jam.”

Further to that, and per Ms. Dodgson’s article, paraphrased:

If someone is stressed, they tend to talk less, but they also use more adverbs like “really,” and “incredibly.” According to Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona and lead author of a study on this subject reported to the scientific journal Nature, these words may act as “emotional intensifiers,” suggesting the speaker is more “aroused,” meaning excited or alert.

Now, of course, the other funny thing is that I think we already knew that, not by the adverbs, but by the colourful language most of us display when we’re stressed out. For example, consider the following dialogues and check (O) for “stressed out” or (X) for “cool as a head of napa cabbage kimchi”:

1. A: How’s it going?

     B: Well, I just got ****ing fired from my *%$&* job at Pet Smart for mistakenly feeding the birds to the cats this morning, and came home to an eviction notice from my ***hat super.

2. A: Sorry to hear about your exams. You really shat the bed, huh? Fully parked a trout on those bad boys. I guess that’s four years down the drain.

     B: No, no. It’s all good. I look at it as money well spent on supporting our economy. Go Falcons!

3. A: Hey, did you just shave?

     B: Nope. Raging case of face herpes, I’m afraid. Gonna $%&^* kill the guy at work who thought it was funny to lick my face this morning ’cause I smelled so $%&*ing good.

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Anxiety, Not Depression


“Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”

On the heels of World Mental Healthy Day, The New York Times has followed up with an informative article about the disorder which doesn’t get as much “play time” in the headlines as its more infamous sibling, depression, but is deadly nonetheless.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has published a well-researched article titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Anxiety?” and the answer, though never easy to pinpoint for any one specific person, is sometimes more obvious when looking at entire groups of people. As Mr. Denizet-Lewis writes:

“For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances.”

And for those who think that those raised in affluent families have it any easier, he adds this:

“Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”

Not surprisingly, one thing that ties all young people together – rich and poor – is the anxiety brought on by social media. As one college student put it, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities. Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

It’s disconcerting to learn how so many men and women, boys and girls, suffer from anxiety to the point that they shut down. When I was living in Korea, a lot of the people I knew from other countries would dismiss the heightened state of anxiety there as “Koreanness,” what was euphemistically called a “bballi, bbaali (quickly, quickly)” culture. But it’s not unique to Korea, nor does it only affect teenagers fighting to get into university.

It would seem that many of us are having a tough go of it in modern society. However, according to the article, there are certain things we can do to alleviate the pressure. While these activities are sometimes easier said than done, they include mindfulness techniques, art and equine therapy, and exposure therapy (facing your fears).

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when stress/anxiety starts building in my life, the best thing I can do is unplug from social media and, even more importantly, sit down and read a book. That one single act, I think, is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to mollify the Demons of Angst and Anxiousness.


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