To date, The Psychology Times has published 4 Stress Solutions columns. Let’s review where we have been.
In July 2014, the topic was “10 Stress-Free Minutes a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.” The main theme was that chronic stress is clearly linked to many health problems like obesity, emotional issues like anxiety, and cognitive changes such as memory problems. Even though as psychologists we know this, tell our patients about stress, and offer many suggestions to help them reduce stress, oddly enough, we do a poor job of following our own advice. July’s article suggested that we should all “draw a line in the sand” and start reducing our excess cortisol by doing something at least 10 minutes every day to reduce the effects of stress on our own bodies. I suggested the Mindfulness training and/or some focused breathing with music each day.
August 2014 was titled, “Is Your Treadmill Keeping You From Losing Weight?” Even exercise can produce more cortisol when we stress our systems by overexercising. The increased cortisol can then keep us from losing weight. Short bursts of high intensity exercise is recommended to use up the body’s glycogen stores without over- releasing cortisol. The benefit of regular exercise is that your body’s response to exercise improves with regular practice and that over time, regular exercisers deal better with social stress and emotional situations.
September’s column, “What do Obesity, Chronic High Stress, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, and Depression have in common?,” addressed sleep deprivation and how sleep deprivation can keep you from losing weight. Sleep deprivation is a major stressor on the body and is related to reduced alertness, concentration, and memory efficiency. Good sleep is related to normalized blood pressure, lower morning blood glucose levels, and normal physical reactions to stress and activity. Many psychologists are focusing on sleep habits in their treatment sessions.
Last month’s topic was “Salmon and Sardines for Stress Reduction.” Eating fish rich in Omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids has been shown to counteract the detrimental effects of mental stress on your heart. 9 grams of fish and/or fish oil supplements a day is recommended. Oily fish are species of fish that contain significant amounts of oil throughout their body tissues and in their belly cavity. Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout, sardines, kipper, eel, and herring. The benefits of eating such fish during pregnancy have been shown to carry over to the offspring in the form of reduced behavioral and attention problems.
Hopefully this mini-review will remind us all to get good sleep nightly, set up a regular exercise regimen, make ourselves take at least 10 minutes a day to reduce the body’s load of cortisol, and to eat oily fish at least twice a week or take Omega 3 supplements to reduce the effects of stress on our hearts. Coming up we will examine the effects of stress on our memory.
by Susan Andrews, PhD
The Psychology Times, November 2014
Dr. Susan Andrews, Clinical Neuropsychologist, is currently Clinical Assistant Professor, LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, engaged in a Phase III study on HBOT and Persistent PostConcussion Syndrome. In addition to private clinical practice, Dr. Andrews is an award-winning author of Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms (2013).