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 articlethat follows, Lehrer explains how to reduce stress with science. To read the complete article once it is accessible online, please click here.
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Make Friends: “Social relationships are a powerful buffer against stress. In fat, several studies in Europe and the US 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 fir 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 insomnia.
Don’t Fight: Recent and extensive 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 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.”
Meditate: Extensive research suggests that “even a short training session in meditation can dramatically reduce levels of stress and anxiety. “
My own take on this point is that, at least once or twice a day, it is 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 (for me, walking along a tropical beach). I always feel refreshed and usually 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 will nit reduce their stress level; on the contrary, they may exacerbate it.
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To learn more about this subject, here are links to two of Lehrer’s blog posts:
To check out several videos during which Robert Sapolsky shares what he has learned about stress, please click here.
Who is Jonah Lehrer? “I’m a Contributing Editor at Wired and the author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. I graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. I’ve written for The New Yorker, Nature, Seed, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. I’m also a Contributing Editor at Scientific American Mind and National Public Radio’s Radio Lab.”