Feeling Stressed? Ways to Improve Your Well-Being

Feeling Stressed? Ways to Improve Your Well-Being

Claremont Colonic Stress Management
Have you been feeling more stressed than usual? Many people are during these challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic has many people feeling overwhelmed.

Everyone feels stress sometimes. It’s a natural response to a challenge or demand. Stress can come from the day-to-day pressures of work and family.

But stress is much more than just being busy, explains Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of The Ohio State University, who studies the effects of stress on the body.

“It’s the feeling that you’re overloaded, out of control, and unable to cope,” she says.

Stress can also come from a sudden negative change in your life like a divorce or losing a job. Traumatic events like a major accident, assault, or natural disaster can cause severe stress.

It’s important for your health and well-being to learn how to cope with stress. Researchers are working to understand how stress affects health. They’re also studying ways to relieve stress. These techniques may help you to feel calmer and more relaxed.

Stress and the Body

Stress isn’t always bad. It’s actually a survival response. It helps you leap into action in the face of a threat. Your heart rate speeds up, and you breathe faster as you prepare to fight or run to safety.

Short-term stress can even help you perform—you’re more able to ace an interview or meet a project deadline. But when stress lasts a long time, it may also harm your health. Your body is constantly acting as if it were in immediate danger.

“There’s a really big body of research now that says that chronic stress promotes inflammation,” says Kiecolt-Glaser. Inflammation is associated with many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and some mental health conditions.

Stress may also affect your metabolism—the chemical changes in the body that release energy and produce the substances you need to grow, move, and stay healthy.

Kiecolt-Glaser’s research shows that stressful events can cause the body to burn fewer calories at rest. Stress can also cause changes in mood and increase irritability with those around us.

Ways to De-Stress

The first step is to recognize the signs that you’re stressed beyond a normal level. Trouble sleeping can be one. Some people get headaches or stomachaches. Stress can also cause changes in appetite that lead you to gain or lose weight.

Once you know you need to reduce stress, there are practical steps you can try. Getting regular exercise can be helpful. Doing an activity you enjoy can also help with stress. This can be anything—from dancing to making art or getting out into nature or having fun with friends.

Making sure to get enough sleep is important, too. “People are more sensitive to stress when they don’t have enough sleep,” says Kiecolt-Glaser.

Staying socially connected is important, too. Close personal relationships are key to reducing stress. Reaching out to friends and family by phone, video chat, and email can help you stay in touch even when you’re not able to see them in person.

“Make a conscious effort to reach out and to maintain contact,” says Kiecolt-Glaser. “Loneliness is really destructive.”

Eating regular, well-balanced meals and avoiding alcohol and other drugs also help reduce stress.

Mindfulness Approaches

Using mindfulness helps some people cope with stress. It teaches you to focus on being present in the moment. Research shows that simply being aware of what you’re doing can improve well-being.

One study showed that people spent nearly half of their waking life not paying attention to what they were doing, says Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an expert on mindfulness. “And when they were not paying attention to what they’re doing, they were significantly less happy.”

Davidson’s research is shedding light on how mindfulness affects the brain to improve mood. “Regular mindfulness practices can have an impact on specific circuitry in the brain that we know to be important in emotion regulation,” he explains.

For those starting to practice mindfulness: One size is not likely to fit all. Davidson recommends starting modestly with three to five minutes, a few times a day. That way you don’t get overwhelmed and stop. There are many mindfulness apps available that teach different techniques.

Just Breathe

The simple act of controlled breathing can bring stress relief.

“It’s well known that slow breathing techniques have a positive effect on emotional state,” says Dr. Jack Feldman of UCLA, an expert on the neuroscience of breathing.

His research has identified the brain circuits responsible for breathing and sighing. Now he’s working to understand how breathing techniques affect the brain to improve mood.

Breathing techniques can be used to help people who are depressed or anxious. Controlled breathing may disrupt the brain circuits involved in depression; he explains.

There are many different breathing techniques you can try. Practicing a few minutes a day can help you get started.

“People who start up a breathing practice may find that it reduces their stress and anxiety considerably,” he says. If you want to try controlled breathing, “belly breathing” is a simple form. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, taking air into your lower belly. The hand on your stomach should rise, while the hand on your chest remains still. Slowly exhale through your mouth.

Contributor: NIH, News in Health

‘Fat but fit’ is a myth when it comes to heart health, new study shows

'Fat But Fit' is a Myth When it Comes to Heart Health, New Study Shows.

Being overweight has negative effects on heart health even if an individual is physically active.

The negative effects of excess body fat on heart health can’t be canceled out by maintaining an active lifestyle, according to new research.

Previous studies had suggested that being physically fit could mitigate the negative effects of being overweight on heart health, but this is not the case, according to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), published Thursday.

“One cannot be ‘fat but healthy.’ This was the first nationwide analysis to show that being regularly active is not likely to eliminate the detrimental health effects of excess body fat,” said study author Alejandro Lucia, a professor of exercise physiology at the European University of Madrid.

“Our findings refute the notion that a physically active lifestyle can completely negate the deleterious effects of overweight and obesity.”

Previous research provided some evidence that people who were “fat but fit” could have similar cardiovascular health to those who were “thin but unfit,” but Lucia said this has had unintended consequences.

“This has led to controversial proposals for health policies to prioritise physical activity and fitness above weight loss,” he said. “Our study sought to clarify the links between activity, body weight, and heart health.”

Researchers used data from 527,662 working adults from Spain insured by an occupational risk prevention company, with an average age of 42.

They were put into groups according to activity level and groups by body weight: 42% of participants were normal weight, with a body mass index (BMI) of 20-24.9; 41% were overweight, BMI 25-29.9; and 18% were obese, BMI 30 or above.

Then researchers looked at their cardiovascular health by categorizing them for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, all of which are major risk factors for stroke and heart attack.

After investigating the associations between BMI, activity level and risk factors, researchers concluded that any level of activity meant it was less likely that an individual would have any of the three risk factors compared with no exercise, with the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes decreasing with increased activity levels.

“This tells us that everyone, irrespective of their body weight, should be physically active to safeguard their health,” Lucia said.

However, the study showed greater cardiovascular risk for overweight and obese participants compared with those of a normal weight, regardless of how much exercise they did.

Participants who were obese and active were twice as likely to have high cholesterol, four times as likely to have diabetes and five times as likely to have high blood pressure as those who were normal weight but inactive.

“Exercise does not seem to compensate for the negative effects of excess weight,” Lucia said. “This finding was also observed overall in both men and women when they were analyzed separately.” Lucia underlined that it is “equally important” to fight obesity and inactivity.

“Weight loss should remain a primary target for health policies together with promoting active lifestyles,” he said.

‘We don’t know what came first’

Questions remain, however, around the circumstances of those involved in the study. 

“This is a cross sectional study — all we can talk about is associations, we cannot talk about causality,” Michael Pencina, vice dean for data science and information technology at Duke University School of Medicine, told CNN.

“Because it’s a cross sectional study, we don’t know what came first — what this study is not telling us is, did the person who is obese and active, did they become active when they realized they were obese, and their risk factors were high? Or were they active, and despite that, they became obese and their risk factors went up?” Pencina, who was not involved with the study, added.

“What we see is that the risk factor burden increases by weight category. Obese people have the highest burden of associated risk factors. That remains true according to the activity level,” he added.

The study adds to an extensive body of research on the topic.

Scientists at the University of Oxford released results of a large study on January 12. Physical exercise may be even more important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease than previously known — and the more activity the better, the report revealed.

And researchers at the Cleveland Clinic published a study in January 2019 showing a sedentary lifestyle is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes or heart disease.

“While the controversy about the precise contribution of weight versus exercise to cardiovascular health will likely continue, to optimize health and minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, patients should pay attention to both: maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active,” said Dr. Anthony Rosenzweig, chief of the cardiology division at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Contributors: Jack Guy and Amy Woodyatt, CNN

The Ongoing Challenge of Pandemic Fatigue is Hitting People Hard

The Ongoing Challenge of Pandemic Fatigue is Hitting People Hard

Nearly a year of ever-changing public safety guidelines with long days cooped up at home are wearing on many people.

People have been social distancing, wearing masks and skipping gatherings with friends and family in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic, however, didn’t stop many from traveling for the holidays despite guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep up with social distancing. At least 1,327,289 people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on January 3, the highest since March 15 of last year.

Dr. Neelima Denduluri says pandemic fatigue has negatively impacted her everyday life, whether it’s worrying that she’s an asymptomatic carrier when seeing her patients or struggling to facilitate online learning for her children.

“By the time I got home late, I wasn’t necessarily the most mentally alert, nor were (my children), to help them make sure that their stuff got done,” said Denduluri, a medical oncologist at Virginia Cancer Specialists in Arlington.

Pandemic fatigue also can make people feel isolated, which is how Sarah Tallent, a pediatric critical care nurse practitioner in North Carolina, felt after giving birth in July. There is an added challenge to giving birth during a pandemic, she said, and Tallent felt the most alone in the weeks after giving birth.

“I was on maternity leave with the newborn, which is normally a time where your family is coming and your friends are coming to meet your new baby, and it was such an isolating and alone time because we couldn’t do any of those things,” Tallent said.

Most visitors had to wait until six weeks after her daughter was born until Tallent felt comfortable enough for them to visit, and all visitors had to isolate themselves for two weeks prior to their visits.

The challenge of pandemic fatigue

Pandemic fatigue happens when people are asked to make behavior changes over a long period of time, which is much harder than short-term changes, said Dr. Itai Danovitch, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

It’s similar to other lifestyle changes people try to make, like eating healthier and working out to lose weight, Danovitch said. Most people can follow the new rules for a short period of time, but sustaining the new behaviors can be tough.

“We get tired and we resort to our usual behaviors, and when the requirements are coming from sources outside themselves, it adds a whole other layer of complexity,” Danovitch said.

Young adults are especially susceptible to pandemic fatigue, according to a news release published by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The fatigue could be explained by taking a peek inside their brains. The frontal lobe, which is in charge of decision-making, Danovitch said, is not fully developed until age 25.

He attributes it as one of the main reasons why young adults make impulsive decisions and are “less inclined to weigh the risks and consequences over the long term of a given behavior.”

Research psychologist Jeffrey Arnett of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, is skeptical of that theory, mainly because young adults throughout history have had to make important decisions at young ages.

One hundred years ago, people were “married by the time they’re in their late teens, maybe early 20s, and having children of their own and doing adult work,” Arnett said.

Instead, he describes the brain as being shaped by a person’s circumstances. In the United States, many young adults are not required to exercise much mature thinking where they are responsible for others, he said.

Because these young adults are less likely to have people to answer to or take care of, their independent thinking doesn’t always look at how their actions affect others. In the case of the virus, Arnett said, young people might not be thinking how their actions could make others ill.

Vaccine rollout

Despite the steep rise in coronavirus cases in recent months, people are optimistic that with the Covid vaccine rolling out, there are better times ahead in sight.

Tallent has taken the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and believes it will take at least a year for life to start looking normal again.

In recent months, she noticed that there have been issues with vaccine distribution, so she signed up to administer the vaccine so she could “pull us together and help get everyone immune to this thing.”

Others are hoping herd immunity ends Covid-19, but no one knows exactly how many people would need to be immune to the virus, said Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, in an earlier story. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, most recently estimated that 85% of Americans would need to be vaccinated.

So far, getting to 85% has been a challenge. Some people are hesitant to receive the vaccine, and those that do want it have trouble getting it due to distribution issues.

The Trump administration is hoping to solve this by releasing the second vaccine dose immediately instead of reserving it. The new strategy, which mimics President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed plan, would also allow anyone 65 years and older to receive the vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the new plan Tuesday, according to earlier CNN reporting.

Denduluri has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and believes that by the fall of 2021, people will mostly be able to return to their normal lives — while still wearing masks.

Whether people are at the grocery store, a physician’s office or a dentist’s office, she hopes they “feel more comfortable to do what they need to do and carry on with their lives.”

Contributor: Megan Marples, CNN

5 Signs You are Drinking Too Much Water

5 Signs You are Drinking Too Much Water

Since the human body is made up of roughly 75 percent water, it’s commonly recommended that you stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Let’s face it; without this elixir of life, humans couldn’t survive more than three to four days. But when does too much of a good thing turn into a bad thing? Here are the subtle and not so subtle ways your body warns you; you’re drinking way too much water.

Excessively Clear Urine
Water is vital for the human body…But, here’s a subtle sign you’re over-hydrated; your pee is clear. According to the Mayo Clinic, the concentration of pigment in your urine indicates how hydrated or dehydrated you are. Hydrated pee varies in color, depending on your water intake. Water dilutes the color in urine. So, the more you guzzle that water, the clearer your urine will appear. Deep amber color, obviously, means you’re dehydrated. If your pee is clear most of the time, then that’s a sign you’re likely drinking too much water. Moreover, if you’re running to the bathroom often and your pee is clear, then you may want to cut back on the water.

You’re Peeing Too Much
If you’re drinking eight cups of water over a 24-hour period, then it’s normal to pee six or seven times per day. Even up to 10 times is normal, according to Medical News Today — if it doesn’t interfere with life. While certain factors such as age and bladder size could affect how much you pee, so can drinking excessive amounts of water. If you have no underlying conditions and you’re peeing more than 10 times per day, then you’re probably drinking way too much water. Keep in mind, caffeine and alcohol both have diuretic effects and will increase your need to go.

Your Lower Legs Swell
Under normal circumstances, excessive amounts of water can be easily eliminated from the kidneys, according to the MSD Manual. However, overhydration can occur if you’re drinking more water than your body actually needs, thus leading to low sodium levels in your blood. This can cause your body to retain fluid in your lower legs.

You Start Carrying Water Weight
You don’t suddenly gain pounds of fat overnight, suggests Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., for WebMD. “Water weight is real for some people.” If you’re drinking more water than your body needs, and it can’t manage to flush out the extra water, then it will cause weight gain, also known as “water weight.” But what you eat, any additional beverages you drink throughout the day, work habits, and overall health typically play a role in the amount of water you drink. For instance, after a very salty meal, you’ll naturally crave more water that your body needs. All that extra salt will cause water retention, which in turn causes extra pounds on the scale. This is also referred to as bloating. Unlike chronic water retention, which indicates a problem with kidneys or hormones, bloating is only temporary.
Water typically retains throughout your body, between blood vessels or in the tissue, and will pool in the lower legs, fingers, and toes. Interestingly, your body also may store water if you’re dehydrated. When you don’t drink enough water, the ratio between the salt and water gets unbalanced. As a result, your body hangs on to any extra fluids until the balance is restored. The best way overall to deal with water weight, is to start moving and drink up to flush that sodium out of your system. Just don’t go overboard with how much you drink.

You’re Drinking Water Even When You’re Not Thirsty
Here’s a mind-blower; maybe you’ve been doing this water thing all wrong. Instead of regimenting yourself to drink eight to 10 cups of water a day, how about only drinking when you’re thirsty? Popular rules that say you need x-amount of cups per day may not be based on actual evidence, suggests research. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at how the brain controls the sense of thirst and the reflex that pushes you to swallow. It found that the brain actually reduces your swallowing reflex once you’ve had enough water. This means that the act of drinking water, even when you’re not thirsty, forces you to override your brain. It basically, stops your instinct. Apparently, this biological override is a way to stop you from drinking too much.

So, forget about sticking to a strict regimen of forcibly drinking excess amounts of water. Instead, drink when you’re thirsty. Your brain and body know instinctively how much you need. The key is to listen to them.

Contributor-Katherine Marko-The Alternative Daily