Could Mom’s Stress Affect Her Baby’s Health?

How Can You Minimize Stress During Pregnancy?

StressIf you are pregnant, the advice you see on the internet can be overwhelming. There are so many things you “must do” and so many things you “must avoid” if you want a healthy baby. It’s enough to stress you out.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we are probably living through the most stressful period in recent memory. So, the last thing you want to hear is that your stress during pregnancy can affect the health of your baby.

Before I go any further, let me make it clear that the studies I will discuss in this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor” are intriguing, but they are preliminary. I don’t want to add to your stress.

Let me start by reviewing the literature:

  • Several studies suggest that stress during pregnancy is associated with preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality.
  • Other studies suggest that stress during pregnancy is associated with suboptimal cognitive development, hyperactivity, and asthma in the offspring.

The big question, of course, is how a mom’s stress during pregnancy can affect the health of her child months or years later. One hypothesis is that stress affects the mom’s gut bacteria, and those gut bacteria are passed along to the child as he or she passes through the birth canal.

We know that stress can affect your gut bacteria, but can it affect your child’s gut bacteria? Studies in mice suggest it can. Today I will discuss the first large clinical study (AK Aatsinki et al, Pyschoneuroendocrinology, 119 (2020) 104754) designed to evaluate that hypothesis in humans.

How Was This Study Done?

Clinical StudyThis study was an offshoot of an ongoing FinnBrain Cohort Project, which aims to study the influence of stress exposures during pregnancy on later childhood development and health outcomes. This particular study was designed to investigate the role of chronic stress during pregnancy on the population of gut bacteria in infants. There were 399 mothers and their babies who completed this study.

All Participants in the FinnBrain Project:

  • Filled out self-reported prenatal questionnaires at gestational weeks 14, 24, and 34. These questionnaires provided background information about the health, weight, age, and education level of the moms, as well as whether they were taking antidepression medications during their pregnancy.
  • Were also asked about breast feeding 2.5 months after giving birth.
  • Duration of gestation, birth weight, and method of delivery information were obtained from Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Participants in this study:

  • Were evaluated for depression and anxiety symptoms three times during pregnancy and at 3 months after giving birth. It should be noted that the questionnaires used to evaluate depression and anxiety symptoms did not measure the stressors (events causing the stress). Instead they were measuring the mom’s response to those stressors.
  • Cortisol levels were measured at gestational week 24 as another measure of the mother’s stress level.
  • Fecal samples were obtained from the offspring at the age of 2.5 months and analyzed for the population of gut bacteria.

Could Mom’s Stress Affect Her Baby’s Health?

Bad BacteriaThe results of this study were intriguing:

Infants born to mothers who experienced high levels of stress (such as depression and/or anxiety) during pregnancy had an increased abundance of potentially pathogenic gut bacteria such as:

  • Serratia, Haemophilus, Citrobacter, and Campylobacter from the Proteobacteria group of bacteria.
  • Veillonella and Finegoldia from the Firmicutes group of bacteria.

In addition, infants born to mothers with elevated cortisol levels (another measure of stress) had decreased abundance of potentially health promoting gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus.

In contrast:

  • Infants born to mothers who experienced low levels of stress had increased levels of potentially health promoting gut bacteria, such as Akkermansia.
  • Infants born to mothers with low cortisol levels had an increased abundance of Lactobacillus in their gut.

In short:

  • High levels of stress in the mother during pregnancy are associated with an increased abundance of unhealthy bacteria in their baby’s intestine.
  • Low levels of stress in the mother during pregnancy are associated with an increased abundance of healthy bacteria in their baby’s intestine.

The authors concluded:

“The observed fecal bacteria signature in the infants with exposure to chronic maternal stress, such as increased abundance of potentially inflammatory bacteria from the Proteobacteria group of bacteria, warrant future follow-up of these children, since similar alterations of fecal bacteria have previously been associated with adverse health outcomes such as asthma in children.

The results of this study describe only associations, yet corroborate certain interesting findings reported in earlier literature and offer hypotheses for future mechanistic studies.”

How Can You Minimize Stress During Pregnancy?

Simply put, this study shows that chronic stress during pregnancy increases populations of gut bacteria in the newborn that are associated with adverse health outcomes in children. More studies are needed to confirm and understand this observation, but it raises an issue that is often ignored.

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, especially if you are a first-time mom. Plus, we are living in the most stressful time any of us can remember. So, this study is particularly relevant today.

However, let’s put this into perspective. It’s not the stress in our lives that harms us. It is how we respond to the stress. This study did not measure stress, per se. It measured depression, anxiety, and cortisol levels associated with the stress.

Some of the women in this study had very low levels of all three. It wasn’t that they led stress-free lives. They simply coped better with stress. So, the real question isn’t how to minimize stress. It’s how to better cope with stress. Here are some suggestions.

1) Take time to relax. What you do with this time will be different for each of you. Think about what kind of activity relaxes you the most. Here are some suggestions.

    • Meditation or prayer.
    • Yoga or Tai chi.
    • Watching a comedy.
    • Listening to your favorite music.

2) Make time for hobbies. Again, these would be different for each of you. They should be something that you enjoy and engages your mind. Examples include:

    • Reading.
    • Creating your favorite art. It could be painting, pottery, or knitting, for example.
    • Playing your favorite sport such as golf or tennis.
    • Doing puzzles.
    • Playing cards or board games.
    • Watching a movie.

3) Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise produces endorphins that elevate your mood. It’s even better if you are exercising outdoors so you can enjoy nature or listening to your favorite music while you exercise.

4) Relax your muscles. This is particularly important after you have exercised. Examples include:

    • Do some stretching exercises.
    • Take a luxurious hot bath.
    • Set a regular time to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.
    • Get a massage.

5) Eat a healthy diet. Studies have shown that people who eat lots of junk and processed foods tend to be depressed and anxious. Aim for a whole food diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. That kind of diet is best for your baby as well.

6) Try deep breathing exercises.

7) Ask for support from your family members, especially if they are stressors in your life.

8) Talk with someone. Find a friend or family member who is willing to listen and support you.

In short, take care of yourself. Don’t let stress affect your health and the health of your baby.

The Bottom Line

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, especially if you are a first-time mom. Plus, we are living in the most stressful time any of us can remember. That is why a recent study is particularly relevant.

Simply put, the study showed that chronic stress during pregnancy increases populations of gut bacteria in the newborn that are associated with adverse health outcomes in children. More studies are needed to confirm and understand this observation, but it raises an issue that is often ignored.

However, let’s put it into perspective. It’s not the stress in our lives that harms us. It is how we respond to the stress. This study did not measure stress, per se. It measured depression, anxiety, and cortisol levels associated with the stress.

Some of the women in this study had very low levels of all three. It wasn’t that they led stress-free lives. They simply coped better with stress. So, the real question isn’t how to minimize stress. It’s how to better cope with stress.

For more details and a discussion on how to cope with stress, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Reduce Holiday Stress

Treat Yourself To A “Mental Massage” and Enjoy The Season

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Merry Christmas

Vegan FoodsI love the Christmas season. The colors, the smells, the sounds of music. I’m a vegan so turkey isn’t happening for me, but the array of deliciously prepared vegetables, and the variety of desserts always make me excited for this month to get underway!

We give so much to others, especially during this season, that I want to remind you to take care of yourself too.  Like they say on the airplane…”Put your own oxygen mask on first!”  One of the best gifts you can give to those you love, is a healthy and happy you!

Eliminate the aches and pains that can make you feel grumpy, and if you have someone who could benefit from eliminating pain, please feel free to send them my way.  That includes people who don’t live near me, we can meet on Zoom.us and work together to find, and stop, pain. I’ll be happy to help both of you.

I hope you have a wonderful, blessed Christmas!

P.S. Be sure to scroll down to the end, so you can claim my Christmas gift to you.

Reduce Holiday Stress

Beach At SunsetIsn’t it a shame that this beautiful time of year also brings an overload of stress to so many people?  Shopping, especially if finances are short, is a stress producer; large family gatherings can cause stress; and just the hustle and bustle of the season with so many parties and extra functions added to our daily schedule can also be stressful.

Many, if not most, of these stressful situations are meant to be happy, and often they are happy, but they put additional stress on our already busy lives.  What can we do?

Most likely you’ve already read articles that offer suggestions about limiting parties, inexpensive gifts that are thoughtful, and other great holiday ideas, and that’s all wonderful.  What I want to offer you is a holiday gift you can use all year, a gift that will enable you to lower your stress every day.

Back in 1990 I was the massage therapist on the S.S. Queen of Bermuda, a cruise ship that went out of New Orleans and traveled as far south as the Panama Canal, and as far north as Montreal and Quebec.  I LOVED it!  I was super-busy doing 6-7 hours of massage four out of seven days, and 4 hours on the other days.  It was while I was on the ship that I developed the foundation of the unique style of therapy that I do now…but that’s another story.

One of my jobs on the ship was to entertain the passengers for an hour at 9AM on Sunday morning.  I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to lead a relaxing visualization program.  I’d start by having everyone stand up and do a 5-minute self-applied Shiatsu (tapping) treatment on each other.  You can do it to yourself, but it’s better if you have someone do it for you, and then you repay the favor.  It’s a great way to relax, and when you come to the office, I’ll be happy to show it to you.  That left me fifty-five minutes to go…I needed something relaxing that would start their cruise off on a happy note.

Treat Yourself To A “Mental Massage” and Enjoy The Season

MeditationThat’s where my “Mental Massage” concept came about.

I had people relax in their chairs and I’d start talking – visualizing tension like a block of ice that was being melted with their thoughts. I’d gently lead them into relaxing their muscles from their forehead to their feet, watching the ice as it flowed out of their fingers and toes.

Then we’d go back up to their head and visualize fluffy blue mittens gently stroking their face, arms and legs, cradling and rocking their heart and stomach, and their muscles just totally relaxing while they felt heavy in their chairs.

Finally, we’d go back to their head again and visualize pure, positive energy, in the form of diamond dust, sparkling pink, blue and yellow crystals, filling their entire body and flowing out through their fingertips and toes.

Then they would sit there for 5 minutes just enjoying the feeling, knowing they could do this any time they wanted.

It was so relaxing that passengers would come to the massage room and ask me for a cassette tape of my visualization.  I didn’t have one, so I made one and would run off copies for anyone who asked.  The results were so good for so many people that it encouraged me to continue doing it when I was off the ship and started my therapy practice.

Here Is My Christmas Gift To You

Christmas GiftThere were a few of my clients who had serious conditions that caused them so much stress that they really needed to relax. One woman had Crohn’s disease, and a man had a heart condition. Another woman had an ulcer, and another man had PTSD.  I ended up making them special tapes that focused on each of the organs that needed attention.

Eventually I made a professional copy of the visualization, changing the title to “Relaxing into a Perfect Body” because it ended up combining the healing statements that helped my clients, covering organs throughout the body.  I’ve been giving it away ever since.

I want to give it to you so you can relax during this happy, but stressful, time of year. And then you’ll have it whenever you feel you want it. Just click here to listen to the recording: Relax into a Perfect Body!

Enjoy A Stress-Free Holiday Season

Stay Pain Free

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Welcome To December – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of Year

This is such a beautiful season with lots of special events filling up our time. There are holiday gatherings and good food, in fact, even the TV commercials are more fun to watch than normal.  But, how do we still enjoy a stress-free holiday?

This time of year is a mixed blessing for many people.  The fun of getting together with friends and family can be tempered with the stress of trying to do too much in a limited time, and the additional stress of the extra financial outlay. It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves when we’re focusing on a long “to-do” list.

 

Enjoy A Stress-Free Holiday Season

stress free techniqueHere’s a quick 3-minute relaxation technique that will help bring peace and release stress:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair. Have your hands relaxed at your side, and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take 2-3 slow, deep breaths…breathing out tension and mentally sinking down into the chair.
  • Visualize tension melting like ice cream, starting at your forehead and slowly going all the way down your body until it is flowing out through your fingertips and toes.  Enjoy the feeling as the tension is draining away.
  • Next, visualize pure, positive energy in the form of diamond-dust showering you, moving down from your head and flowing out through your hands and feet. “See” it sparkling…pink, blue, yellow…shining crystals that bring calmness to your body.

Enjoy the feeling for as long as possible before slowly coming back to reality.  Once you have done this a few times you’ll be able to sit quietly and fast-forward the entire process to less than a minute.

You Are Your Own Best Therapist

YOU are your own Best Therapist!  Visit www.JulstroMethod.com and www.FlexibleAthlete.com to discover logical answers to questions about chronic pain and repetitive strain injuries.

 

Wishing you well,

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

Stress and Jaw Pain

Get Rid Of Jaw Pain Forever

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

In this article we will show a connection between stress and jaw pain. 

stress and jaw painStress is a part of everyone’s life, but the way you handle it makes a huge difference.  People think of stress coming from challenges like divorce, bills, etc., but it can also come from happy situations. Positive life changes such as getting married or having a baby can also cause stress.

For some people, the solution to stress is to take a yoga class or practice tai chi regularly.  For others, running, exercising, or listening to music eases their mind.

In my Muscular Therapy office, people frequently tell me “I hold my stress in my shoulders,” or “…in my back.” However, a common stress reaction is to clench your teeth tightly. Actually, people hold stress all over their body, from headaches and clenched jaws to foot pain. I want to discuss how clenching your jaws is a common cause of TMJ. Fortunately, it’s a condition that is easy to treat by yourself.

Stress And Jaw Pain

jaw painJaw pain is commonly caused by a shortening of the masseter muscle. The masseter muscle (circled on graphic) is the muscle that contracts to enable you to chew your food.  Normally, as you chew the muscle shortens and then lengthens as you put more food into your mouth.  How can stress and jaw pain be related?  If you are under stress and your teeth are clenched, you miss the lengthening movement. This imbalance causes the muscle to shorten.

Put your fingers on your cheeks so you are pressing into your back teeth.  Now, clench your teeth and you’ll feel the muscle bulge.  If you clench your teeth when you sleep or you tend to clench your teeth when you are upset, you are setting yourself up for TMJ.

Stress And Jaw Pain (TMJ)

TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) pain is a condition where your jaw bone rubs or “clicks” over the bone that is just in front of your ear. It is painful, and over time it will damage the bones. When you are under stress and clenching your teeth, you are shortening your masseter muscle. A phenomenon called “muscle memory” will cause the muscle to actually get stuck in the shortened position. The now-shorter muscle prevents you from opening your jaw completely.  For example, when you yawn.  As you are trying to yawn, your jaw flips over the bone and it hurts.

Several years ago, I had a client who had such tight masseter muscles that a dental surgeon was going to sever them so she could open her mouth.  This is a terrible solution because it would mean her mouth would hang open for the rest of her life. Fortunately for this client, she had to get medical approval before she could have the surgery.  When Dr. Cohen (the doctor I worked with) felt her masseter muscles, he refused to sign the permission form. He told her that she had to see me first.  Fortunately, I was there at the time.  It took just 30 minutes for me to release the spasms and teach her how to do the treatment.  At the end of the session she was pressing into both masseter muscles and opening her mouth.  She did it easily and without pain!  She started to cry because she came within one day of having this unnecessary surgery.

Her life was changed by just a simple self-treatment!

Self-Treatment For TMJ Pain

stress and jaw pain reliefHere is how to administer TMJ pain relief to yourself.  Place your fingers as shown in the picture to the left.  Clench your teeth so you can feel the muscles bulge.

Apply deep pressure on just one side for 5 seconds. Then release that pressure and apply deep pressure to the opposite side for 5 seconds. Go back and forth until it doesn’t hurt anymore.  Then find a different “hot spot,” and repeat.  Continue doing this until you can’t find any more tender points on your muscle and jaw.

To stretch the masseter muscle, just press deeply into the original point on the muscle pain free living book coverand slowly open your mouth wide.

Hopefully, you can now see the connection between stress and jaw pain.  Stress is a killer, and is the cause for pain all over your body.  It’s also important to find the cause of stress and do all that is necessary to resolve it.

My book, “Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living,” will show you how to self-treat painful spasms throughout your body.  Don’t let the pain caused by stress stop you in your tracks. You can become pain-free, and then go and enjoy a yoga class to release stress from your life.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

julie donnelly

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Repetitive Strain Injury From Sleeping

Get Off To A Great Start Every Morning

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

How Can Sleep Cause Repetitive Strain Injury?

repetitive strain injury causesFor most of us during sleep we stay in one position for hours at a time.  So if you wake up with back pain after sleeping, you are experiencing the side effects of muscles held in one position for hours.  This is an example of repetitive strain injury or repetitive stress injury.

Because the muscles have to contract to pull your body into your favorite sleeping position and then the muscles stay in a shortened position for hours this can cause pain and tension in your back.

When you wake up with back pain after sleeping you may think you need a new mattress.  You might, but it’s definitely worthwhile to address the tight muscles first as they may be the whole problem.

stretchingHave you ever seen a dog do their “downward dog” stretch after a nap?  Before the dog bounces back into the world it takes time to awaken its body.  This is your pain relief “role-model” for stretching your back after sleeping.  You’ll be amazed at how simply moving in bed before starting your day eliminates pain and tension.

Let’s get started!  While still in bed begin moving around; raise your arms over head and stretch your legs out and flex your feet.  Maybe roll to each side stretching the sides of your body.  Try these 3 stretches we recommend

Repetitive Strain Injury Treatment:  3 Stretches After Sleeping

The following stretches will help relieve symptoms of repetitive strain injury due to sleeping in one position for long periods.

When you are ready bring yourself to a seated position (still in bed!).

 

stretches for back painOne at a time, bring your arm across the front of your body.  Pull your shoulder and shoulder blade toward the front, but without moving the rest of your trunk.  This is a great stretch for your triceps, shoulders and upper back.

repetitive strain injury treatmentNext stretch!  Bring your feet together, as pictured here.Start with a straight spine then slowly roll your chin into your chest, rounding your back.  Mmmmm…this feels good!

repetitive stress injury treatmentAnd finally, try this juicy spinal twist.Sit with left leg straight out or you can bend it as pictured.  Cross the right foot over the left leg, press your right hand behind you, place your left elbow on your right knee now twist.  Stretch as far as you are comfortable.  Try holding it 15-20 seconds.

This stretch will even help to loosen your hips if you sit as pictured!

As with all stretches, start out easy – stretching should feel GOOD.  You’ll feel the tension ease as the blood starts flowing.The tight muscles that cause back pain after sleeping can hamper your entire day, but doing these simple stretches will make a world of difference!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

julie donnellyAbout The AuthorJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

How Do You Fight Insomnia?

Preventing Sleeplessness Without Medication

Author: Dr. Pierre DuBois

man-with-insomniaDo you struggle to fall asleep at night?  Do you find yourself wide awake at three in the morning staring up at the ceiling and wondering if you’ll fall back to sleep at all before your alarm goes off?

If you answered “yes”, you are not alone. Research has shown that up to 50 percent of the population suffers from insomnia with up to a third having struggled with it for at least a year.

 How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The average adult requires a little over 8 hours of sleep each day.  However, very few people are able to manage that with lives that are more hectic than ever. Jobs, children and other obligations require us to be up with the birds and to go to bed far later than we would if we were following our own biological rhythm. A disruption to our circadian rhythm, which governs our hormone production, body temperature and sleep, can lead to insomnia.

What Does Insomnia Do To Us?

We need adequate, restful sleep in order to perform at our best. Prolonged insomnia can cause mental fuzziness and interfere with how you perform your daily activities. It also increases your risk of depression, headaches, auto accidents, and can lead to substance abuse.

Of course, worrying about the lack of sleep you are getting rarely helps you get more sleep! Stress, anxiety, and widespread use of coffee and alcohol are some of the greatest contributors to insomnia.

How Do You Fight Insomnia?

Learning how to manage stress effectively is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, and making some changes to your lifestyle may make a difference in the number of hours of sleep you get. The following are the top 10 strategies you can use:

  • Get regular exercise before dinner, which can help put your body in a restful state by bedtime. Just be sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this will likely make you restless.
  • Try to get out in the late afternoon sun as often as possible to stimulate melatonin release, which will help get your circadian rhythm back on track.
  • Use stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi, which are great ways to help teach your mind and body to relax.
  • Caffeine and smoking keep the body stimulated. Try to avoid them from mid-afternoon on, and keep your consumption of alcohol to a minimum.
  • Eat a small snack of protein with a complex carbohydrate just before bed, such as peanut butter on a whole-grain cracker. It can keep your blood sugar from dipping too low and waking you up in the night.
  • Keep to the same sleeping and waking schedule every day and don’t change it by more than an hour on weekends.
  • Avoid television or computer use at least an hour before bedtime, as it stimulates the brain, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.
  • If you are lying awake for more than about 20 minutes, get up and go sit in another dimly lit room until you feel sleepy.

These strategies have proven useful for many people in getting them back to a regular sleeping rhythm. Give them a try — they may help you too!

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Is There Really Such A Thing A Positive Stress?

Stress Can Be Your Friend

Author: Dr. Pierre DuBois

Motorbike racing on the track.Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? When the going gets tough, the optimists among you can take heart—new research that has found that viewing stress positively can be of benefit to both the mind and body.

When the brain perceives stress (either physical or psychological), it reacts by releasing cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine to prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response. Fortunately for us, this response is not triggered in most people today as frequently as it once was or for the same kinds of reasons.

After all, relatively few of us are in life-threatening situations on a regular basis. Today’s “modern” stresses are more likely to be caused by wrestling with the IRS, trying to escape a traffic jam or competing with a coworker for a promotion.

It is interesting to note that stress, in itself, is not necessarily a negative thing. It is how we perceive it that makes it either good or bad for us. This is a hopeful discovery, as most people have only limited control over how much stress they experience. The everyday stresses of modern life are difficult to escape. But if we can train our minds to view them as a challenge rather than a threat, it could actually help to bring about better health.

Scientists from a handful of universities, including Yale University and Columbia University, examined the effects of stress on 300 investment bankers who had just emerged from a round of layoffs (I know it’s difficult to feel bad for the stress of investment bankers, but stay with me here). In the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, scientists divided the participants into two groups, and tried to alter the perception of half of them to view stress as debilitating and the other half to view it as an enhancement.

The first half of the participants were shown videos of people succumbing to stress. The other half were shown videos of people meeting challenges, such as sports figures accomplishing a difficult goal. The results showed that those who had a more optimistic view of stress had fewer health problems, including headaches and muscle pain, and performed better at work than the pessimistic group. In addition, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) were lower in those who viewed stress as potentially enhancing.

There is actually a term for positive stress, called eustress, which was coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye in the 1970s. It has been proven that stress in moderation improves cognitive performance and improves memory.

Good stress involves the kind of challenges where we feel that we are in control and are accomplishing something. It boosts the immune system and can improve heart function. So eliminating all stress from our lives is probably not a good idea.

The stress to watch out for is the chronic, long-term emotional stress, which causes stress hormones to remain at persistently high levels, leading to many chronic ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.

However, viewing certain stressors as challenges rather than threats can be a positive thing and can help ensure that you have a healthy, satisfying and exciting life.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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