What happens to your brain when you taste food – TED TALK

Click on the CURIOUStotheMAX link to see special posts  

how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic

(a bit of humor too).  

 
“With fascinating research and hilarious anecdotes, neuroscientist Camilla Arndal Andersen takes us into the lab where she studies people’s sense of taste via brain scans. She reveals surprising insights about the way our brains subconsciously experience food — and shows how this data could help us eat healthier without sacrificing taste.”

How Your Brain Can Turn Worry into Calmness

This was originally posted on CURIOUStotheMAX

where we are currently posting how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic (a bit of humor too).  Click on the above link to see.

 

Marty Rossman, M.D.is one of my firstInteractive Guided Imagery(sm) teachers.  Marty and David Bressler, Ph.Dare the co-founders of the Academy of Guided Imagery (AGI)

I “stumbled” onto one of their introductory workshops in the 1980’s. I had already been certified in hypnosis but was never comfortable with the idea that as the hypnotherapist I held the key, I had the power, to create change.

When I attended that first AGI workshop it was a eureka moment for me. The process and technique of Interactive Guided Imagery(sm)  Marty and David were teaching was how I intuitively did hypnosis:  The client held the key, the power, I was the guide.   Marty and David are brilliant and innovative.  I was hooked and went on to study with both of them and served as an AGI faculty, teaching other health care practitioners how to do Interactive Guided Imagery(sm) since 1988.

Calm

I “stumbled” across this video of Marty Rossman and want to share what he teaches about the mind and how you hold the key and the power to create calm.

It is an 1 1/2 hour lecture – easy listening and WORTH your time.

At the end Marty will lead you through an imagery exercise for you to experience the power of your mind-body connection .

Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant Martin L. Rossman, MD, discusses how to use the power of the healing mind to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, change lifestyle habits, and live with more wellness.”   THE HEALING MIND.org

COVID-19 Losses – Complicated Grief, Part II

In Part I we described ways the Pandemic has created massive amounts of loss and how it can manifest itself in physical symptoms we don’t always ascribe to grieving. OUR COMMENTS ARE IN RED

Based on the seminal work by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, the most well-known stages of grieving are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  We now know they do not happen in a neat linear timeline but are tools to help us identify what we may be feeling. Grief is often messy and each of us experiences it uniquely.
The universal expression of grief is described as a year.  Marking the end of a year after losing a loved one many cultures and religions hold ceremonies.  However, anyone who has ever lost a love one, grief doesn’t end, anymore than our memories end.  Our grief simply takes on different complexities, expressions, intensities over a life-time.
There are many labels for the duration experienced:  “normal vs pathological”, acute vs chronic, situational vs compounded, simple vs complex.  Basically each describes a variation of what we experience.

Here are excerpts from a WEBMD article on Normal vs. Pathological Grief
“Depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication of it. Depression raises the risk of grief-related health complications and often requires treatment to resolve, so it’s important to know how to recognize its symptoms. Sidney Zisook, MD, a grief researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says people can distinguish normal grief from depression by looking for specific emotional patterns.”

“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the more persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder,” Zisook says.”

“He says people usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief, while people who are depressed struggle with feelings of guilt and worthlessness and a limited ability “to experience or anticipate any pleasure or joy.”

“Complicated grief differs from both depression and normal grief. M. Katherine Shear, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and director of its Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as “a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that does not get better naturally. It happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.”‘

Symptoms of complicated grief include:

  • Persistent efforts to ignore the grief and deny or “rewrite” what happened.

  • Complicated grief increases the risk of physical and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, sleep issues, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and physical illness.

How Does Avoidance Harm Your Health?
“Margaret Stroebe, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, says that recent research has shed light on many of “the cognitive and emotional processes underlying complications in grieving, particularly rumination.”‘

“Research shows that rumination, or repetitive, negative, self-focused thought, is actually a way to avoid problems. People who ruminate shift attention away from painful truths by focusing on negative material that is less threatening than the truths they want to avoid. This pattern of thinking is strongly associated with depression.”

(NOTE:  Rumination has also been show to be our cognitive brain and our emotional brain locked in a feedback loop which is set to protect us from further harm.  Negative, ruminations are not because of personality or intelligence but a function of brain processes. We can break into this process by forcing our thinking into neutral or positive thoughts but it takes effort to do so and over-ride the brain’s natural stress response.)

“Rumination and other forms of avoidance demand energy and block the natural abilities of the body and mind to integrate new realities and heal. Research by Stroebe, and others shows that avoidance behavior makes depression, complicated grief, and the physical health problems that go with them more likely. Efforts to avoid the reality of loss can cause fatigue, weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and prolong other ailments.”

But the researchers all indicate professional help is needed to heal from complicated grief and unremitting depression.

https://www.webmd.com/special-reports/grief-stages/20190711/how-grief-affects-your-body-and-mind

Click here to see part one

 

Covid-19 Losses – How Grief shows up in your body, Part I

This Pandemic has created loss of the most essential kinds – identity, connection, income safety, isolation from support systems and people, even loss of our daily routines and conveniences.

Initially, we are mobilized to find new ways of coping, new ways of living within the confines of an unseen threat.  At some point grief follows, the natural response to loss of any and all kinds. We typically think of grieving as an emotional response but the first signs can sometimes appear in ways we don’t label as grieving.

Grief can be physical

  • Your heart literally aches.
  • A memory comes up that causes your stomach to clench or a chill to run down your spine.
  • Some nights, your mind races, and your heart races along with it
  • Your body can be so electrified with energy that you can barely sleep.
  • Other nights, you’re so tired that you fall asleep right away. You wake up the next morning still feeling exhausted.
  • You lose your appetite or are driven to eat too much.
  • Headache, nausea, dizziness can occur
  • It’s hard to focus or concentrate

What causes these physical symptoms? A range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body:

  • Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and cause new ones.

  • It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection.

  • The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.

  • Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.

Stress links the emotional and physical aspects of grief. The systems in the body that process physical and emotional stress overlap, and emotional stress can activate the nervous system as easily as physical threats can. When stress becomes chronic, increased adrenaline and blood pressure can contribute to chronic medical conditions.

Research shows that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain. This may be why painkilling drugs ranging from opioids to Tylenol have been shown to ease emotional pain.

“In normal, situational grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite. People usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief.

What Can You Do to Cope With Grief?
Emotional and physical self-care are essential ways to ease complications of grief and boost recovery. Exercising, spending time in nature, getting enough sleep, and talking to loved ones can help with physical and mental health.

“Most often, normal grief does not require professional intervention.  Grief is a natural, instinctive response to loss, adaptation occurs naturally, and healing is the natural outcome,” especially with “time and the support of loved ones and friends.”

For many people going through a hard time, reaching out is impossible. If your friend is in grief, reach out to them.

Grief researchers emphasize that social support, self-acceptance, and good self-care usually help people get through grief.

  • Plan small rewarding activities and try to enjoy them as much as possible.
  • Participate in physical activities like going for walks
  • Social support helps most when friends reach out.
  • Acknowledge it.  Don’t spend the whole time trying to distract yourself or push it down.
  • But the researchers all indicate professional help is needed to heal from complicated grief and unremitting depression.

And if you feel like your whole life has fallen apart, It has. Now you haven’t lost your ability to decide how to respond.

Part II will follow explaining the difference between “Situational Grief” and Compounded Grief.

https://www.webmd.com/special-reports/grief-stages/20190711/how-grief-affects-your-body-and-mind

Social Isolation and Your Health

Research suggests that social isolation can trigger increased heart rate, muscle tension, and lead to chronic conditions such as hypertension

“Just after a few weeks of social distancing and self-isolation because of COVID-19, we have noticed the decline in our social interactions and might have felt the change in our mental and physical health. It is being called the ‘social recession’ — a collapse in our social contacts, matching the economic recession that is looming beyond COVID-19.”


Fight or Flight Response

“We thrive on our social engagements and are wired to stay connected; when these connections are threatened or unavailable, our nervous system goes haywire and many negative effects on the body follow. So much so that both loneliness (the feeling of being alone) and social isolation (physical state of being alone) can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes like increased heart rate, increased muscle tension and thickening of blood. Together these physiological changes are called the fight-or-flight response, because it has evolved as a survival mechanism enabling us to cope with physical and psychological threats.”

 

Stressed

The health risks

“The uncertainty, fear of infection and lack of social interactions all can be perceived by our brains as a threat and can inadvertently switch our bodies to fight-or-flight mode. A recent meta-analysis published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews revealed that people who are more socially isolated have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen (a soluble protein that helps blood to clot), both of which are associated with chronic inflammation and poor physical and mental health.”


“Another oft-cited study in Perspectives on Psychological Science indicated that lack of social connection and living alone can be detrimental to a person’s health, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%. They also pointed out that social isolation can lead to several chronic conditions like hypertension, increased heart rate, increased levels of stress hormones and even accelerated ageing.”


“Feelings are so idiosyncratic that it is often hard to gauge how one is feeling at a particular time. We don’t have to be physically alone to feel lonely, sometimes just lack of diversity in our social interactions can also make us feel alone. Chronic loneliness can manifest at any age and in many forms, from a simple feeling of exhaustion and fogginess, to interrupted sleep patterns, decreased appetite, body ache and pains; to feelings of anxiousness. Good news is, these signs disappear as soon as the quality and diversity of our social interaction improve.”



Coping with isolation


“Usually when things get tough, we tend to lean towards our personal relationships to seek their advice and support. Ironically, that is the very thing we cannot do in the current crisis. While there are no quick fix solutions to deal with increasing anxiety due to social isolation, there are ways we can smarten our approach to deal with it.”

“Begin by acknowledging that these are unprecedented times, unlike what we have seen before, hence, it is quite normal to feel anxious and lonely. It is important to know that the whole world is in the same state as us, and we are all in this together. Use this time to establish forgotten connections via technology and catch up with friends and family whom you may have been putting on the back burner because of your busy schedule. Most importantly, put the focus back on your self-care, eat well, exercise regularly, find ways to calm and focus yourself.”

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/dont-let-the-social-recession-ruin-your-mental-and-physical-health/article31319862.ece

Feeling sick is meant to help you get better faster

With a viral epidemic encircling the globe this information may not quell fear, it won’t make those who are ill feel better but it will explain how our miraculous mind-body is ultimately trying to keep us safe.

Your body sets priorities when fighting germs
The human immune system is a complex set of mechanisms that help you suppress and eliminate organisms — such as bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms — that cause infection.

1. Activating the immune system, however, costs your body a lot of energy. This presents a series of problems that your brain and body must solve to fight against infection most effectively. Where will this extra energy come from? What should you do to avoid additional infections or injuries that would increase the immune system’s energy requirements even more?

2.  Fever is a critical part of the immune response to some infections, but the energy cost of raising your temperature is particularly high. Is there anything you can do to reduce this cost?

3. To eat or not to eat is a choice that affects your body’s fight against infection. On one hand, food ultimately provides energy to your body, and some foods even contain compounds that may help eliminate pathogens. But it also takes energy to digest food, which diverts resources from your all-out immune effort. Consuming food also increases your risk of acquiring additional pathogens. So what should you eat when you’re sick, and how much?

Health care providers often treat symptoms as side effects of having an infectious disease. But as it turns out, these changes may actually be part of how you fight off infection:

  • Fatigue reduces your level of physical activity, which leaves more energy available for the immune system.
  • Increased susceptibility to nausea and pain makes you less likely to acquire an infection or injury that would further increase the immune system’s workload.
  • Increased sensitivity to cold motivates you to seek out things like warm clothing and heat sources that reduce the costs of keeping body temperature up.
  • Changes in appetite and food preferences push you to eat (or not eat) in a way that supports the fight against infection.
  • Feelings of sadness, depression and general wretchedness provide an honest signal to your friends and family that you need help.

(“Of course these changes depend on the context. While it may make sense to reduce food intake to prioritize immunity when the sick individual has plenty of energy reserves, it would be counterproductive to avoid eating if the sick person has malnutrition or on the verge of starvation.”)

Sickness as an emotion
How does your body organize these advantageous responses to infection?

Anthropologists suggest that ” . . . humans possess a regulatory program that lies in wait, scanning for indicators that infectious disease is present. When it detects signs of infection, the program sends a signal to various functional mechanisms in the brain and body. They in turn change their patterns of operation in ways that are useful for fighting infection. These changes, in combination with each other, produce the distinct experience of being sick.”

“This kind of coordinating program is what some psychologists call an emotion: an evolved computational program that detects indicators of a specific recurrent situation. When the certain situation arises, the emotion orchestrates relevant behavioral and physiological mechanisms that help address the problems at hand.”

Some of these coordinating programs line up nicely with our understanding about what makes up an emotion. We understand the emotion of fear when in reality or imagination we think we are threatened by a threat OUTSIDE our body.  For example:

“Imagine you’re walking through the woods, thinking you’re alone, and suddenly you are startled by sounds suggesting a large animal is nearby. Your pupils dilate, hearing becomes attuned to every little sound, your cardiovascular system starts to work harder in preparation for either running away or defending yourself. These coordinated physiological and behavioral changes are produced by an underlying emotion program that corresponds to what you might think of as a certain kind of fear.”

Other coordinating programs have functions and features that we might not typically think of as “emotional.” The emotion of “feeling sick” is triggered by pathogens that threaten the INSIDE of our body:

“This way of thinking has helped researchers understand why some emotions exist and how they work. For instance, the pathogen disgust program detects indicators that some potentially infectious agent is nearby. Imagine you smell the stench of feces: The emotion of disgust coordinates your behavior and physiology in ways that help you avoid the risky entity.”

“These coordinated physiological and behavioral changes are produced by an underlying emotion program that corresponds to what you might think of as a certain kind of fear.
Some psychologists suggest these emotion programs likely evolved to respond to identifiable situations that occurred reliably over evolutionary time, that would affect the survival or reproduction of those involved.”

The next time you “feel” sick try to remember your mind-body wants you to survive.

 

https://www.mic.com/p/feeling-sick-is-emotion-meant-to-help-you-get-better-faster-19622982

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Joshua Schrock.

 

Pausitively Tuesday – Watch Words To Live By

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habit.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny”

—Lao Tzu

Can-do thinking

 

How to Recognize and Honor Your Losses in this Time of Uncertainty

If you are irritable, less motivated, sad, or even angry, depressed,you are not alone.  With loss there is a grief reaction.  Not only are we dealing with loss of life, loss of mobility, choice, sense of safety, during this current time our emotional reactions are compounded by anxiety & fear. 

It’s easy not to recognize less obvious, existential and secondary lossesbut important to honor our own losses even if those losses seem small compared to others.  Left unrecognized grief can negatively impact our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Recognize your losses

We can’t deal with, or heal, what we aren’t aware of

 Consider how you feel when you think of these losses:

  • Social connections– One of the most impactful loss is the separation from friends and family.
  • Separation from colleagues – Our work environment can be like a second family.
  • Habits and habitat– The world outside our homes no longer safe and we can’t engage in our usual routines and rituals.  No matter how mundane – from getting coffee at the local café, driving to work, or picking up kids from school – routines help define your sense of self in the world. 
  • Assumptions and securitythe spread of the virus has upended assumption we once counted on. And so we’re losing our sense of safety in the world and our assumptions about ourselves,
  • Trust in our systemsWhen government leaders, agencies, medical systems, religious bodies, the stock market and corporations fail or are unable to meet expectations, we can feel betrayed and emotionally unmoored. 
  • Sympathetic loss for othersEven if you’re not directly affected by a specific loss, you may feel other’s, grief including: displaced workers, health care workers, the homeless, people barred from visiting relatives in nursing homes, hospitals, or those who have already lost friends and family and to those who will.

4 ways to “honor” your grief

Grief is not a problem to be solved

  • Communicate & Share your stories
    If you “bottle up” emotion your brain neurochemistry can negatively impact you physically and emotionally.
    Communicate with your friends or family about your experience.
    Pick up the phone, send an e-mail.  Ask to share your feelings and give permission/direction to NOT give or receive  advice nor “fix” anything. 
    Gather a group of friends to share losses together on social media.
  • Write – Writing, whether it’s a journal or just a piece of paper, is another way to express, identify and acknowledge loss and grief.
  • Create – Make a sculpture, draw a picture or create a ceremonial object that symbolizes your feelings. This is not about making art but about expressing yourself.
  • Ritual– Do breathing exercises to symbolically blow away sadness, fear or anger.  Find a rock to throw away. Write feelings on paper and rip it up.
  • Meditate
    Regular meditation gives you time to slow down your thinking.  Take several deep, breaths throughout the day to lower stress.
  • Be open to joy & gratitude – Look for it in small places – the chirping of a bird, a funny video.

Remind yourself that grief is a normal reaction to loss

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/26/820304899/coronavirus-has-upended-our-world-its-ok-to-grieve

Trauma Experience: It may be better NOT to Sleep

Before I was licensed I was the director of a Rape Trauma program.  It proved to be wonderful training and in private practice I went on to successfully treat people with all manners of traumatic experiences from being in airplane crashes to being buried alive.   However, one of the hallmarks of trauma is disturbed or disrupted sleep. No matter what suggestions I had or what the clients tried, including sleep medications, didn’t often help.   

Reading this release from The University of Massachusetts about how it might be better NOT to sleep after a traumatic event got my attention.  (jw)

Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst asked more than 100 healthy adults to rate their emotional responses to a series of images, some depicting unsettling scenes. Twelve hours later, they rated the images again. The difference: Half of the subjects slept during the break; the other half did not.
“Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional reaction,”said Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist at UMass Amherst and co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Study subjects who stayed awake for 12 hours had a weaker emotional response to the unsettling images the second time around, suggesting sleep serves to preserve and even amplify negative emotions. Their memories were also weaker than those of their well-rested counterparts, as they struggled to remember whether they had seen the images before.

“It’s true that ‘sleeping on it’ is usually a good thing to do,” said Spencer, citing evidence that sleep boosts memory and other cognitive functions. “It’s just when something truly traumatic or out of the ordinary happens that you might want to stay awake.”
Spencer said people often find it difficult to sleep after a traumatic event.”

“This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be a healthy,”she said. “Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.”
While the findings may have implications for post traumatic stress disorder, Spencer emphasized that daily emotional ups and downs are not grounds for sleep deprivation.
“Just because we have a bad day doesn’t mean we should stay awake,” she said. “We need to maintain some memories and emotional context to know what to avoid. We do learn something from them.”

“Although sleep gives the body some much-needed rest, the brain stays active. Spencer used polysomnography to monitor brain activity in some sleeping subjects.
“REM sleep in particular was associated with a change in how emotional you found something,” she said. “We think there are parts of the brain being activated during sleep that allow us to process those emotions more than during day.”

http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/newsreleases/articles/144715.php

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College.

This post was originally posted on Curious to the Max. Click here to see other Curious posts.

Best & Easiest Technique to Reduce Anxiety & Stress Response

This stress and anxiety QUICK technique is my favorite.  I’ve taught it, shared it, used it for years and it just occurred to me, why not post it!  So for those of you who suffer from anxious thinking or under stress here’s a simple technique that works.  

Better yet, it requires no Rx, no money, no time and you take it with you where ever you go:

Signal Breath:
1.  Take a deep breath through your nose.
2.  Hold the breath for just a moment
3.  As you release it gently through your nose, relax in any way you choose
4.  As you relax say silently:  ‘Thank you brain, I’m safe.”

5. “Sprinkle” the Signal Breath/I’m safe cue throughout the day and evening.  It’s a good idea to get a cue(s) to remind yourself to do this.  A post-it-note on the bathroom mirror, every time your phone rings, a note in your appointment book etc.  

Sound too simple!?  A brain is easily fooled in that it can NOT tell the difference between when we are actually in danger (anxiety is our brain’s way of keeping us on alert for danger so we can survive) and when we perceive danger through thoughts or other cues. 

Imagine a snake, a spider, anything that you are afraid of – Your brain will register “danger!” and flood your cells with the neurochemistry of fear/anxiety.  Watch a sad movie – Your brain will flood you with sadness and if you are like me, you’ll sob like a baby.  Neither are real but your brain doesn’t know and reacts to protect you as if it is actually happening.

Soooooooooo, tell your brain you are safe and it will stop flooding you with the neurochemistry related to fear and anxiety. 

It’s not instant cup’o’soup because once you are flooded with the anxious feeling it will take about 20 minutes or so for the neurochemistry to metabolize out of your body’s cells. 

You HAVE to breathe anyway so you’ve got nothing to lose – except your anxiety! 

Originally posted on Curious to the Max.Click here to see more from Curious to the Max

Important things to know about COPING so you aren’t more anxious

During our 30+ years as psychotherapists we never had to address the fear and uncertainty the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic has created.  The disruption to individual lives and society is surreal.

There are coping truths that we know are real:

  1. Everyone copes with horrible situations differently.  Some use humor (even gallows humor), some become immobilized or depressed, for others anxiety explodes, some grasp at things that are seemingly frivolous but under their control (like hoarding toilet paper).  I watch the news obsessively since I find comfort in information.
  2. We want our family & friends to cope in the same way we cope. “Why aren’t you acting more worried?”, “Don’t be so obsessive”.  “Do something productive.”  “Calm down and slow down.” There’s comfort in thinking we are connected and not alone in our own way of seeing and responding to threats, real or perceived.  When other people don’t cope the way we cope it makes us nervous, as if something is wrong with them.
  3. The higher the stress the more the brain reverts to automatic, old, tried and true patterns and coping mechanisms that are basic to who we are and how we are in the world.  Our mind-body stress response says this is NOT time to change our normal behaviors and natural tendencies because doing something new creates more stress.
  4. It’s normal to feel productiveanxiety right now,and while we need to allow ourselves to feel these feelings.  Some anxiety is productive—it’s what motivates us to wash our hands often and distance ourselves from others when there’s an important reason to do so. If we weren’t reasonably worried, no one would be taking these measure to help reduce the viral spread.
  5. Unproductiveanxiety— unchecked rumination—makes our mind spin in frightening directions. Our anxiety is actually trying to keep us safe by focusing on potential threats preparing us for fight, flight or freeze. However, anxiety when constant elevates our stress response chronically which dampens the immune response which is the last thing we want during a pandemic.

    Click here for your FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit PDF

In recent weeks we have been doing daily posts on coping with stress, anxiety and social distancing.

Scroll down to see these posts.

How Gossip Helps You Survive and Thrive

I’m so relieved to know that my urge to read the Tabloid Headlines at the check-out stand means I’m highly adaptive in the food chain . . . if not the food market.

This is fascinating!

Psst! The Human Brain Is Wired For Gossip  

by Jon Hamilton

“Hearing gossip about people can change the way you see them — literally.

Negative gossip actually alters the way our visual system responds to a particular face, according to a study published online by the journal Science.

The findings suggest that the human brain is wired to respond to gossip, researchers say. And it adds to the evidence that gossip helped early humans get ahead.

“Gossip is helping you to predict who is friend and who is foe,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University and an author of the study.

Barrett is part of a team that’s been studying how gossip affects not just what we know about an unfamiliar person but how we feel about them. The team has shown that getting second-hand information about a person can have a powerful effect.

But Barrett and her team wanted to answer another question: Once hearsay has predisposed us to see someone in a certain way, is it possible that we literally see them differently?

It makes sense when you consider that the human brain has lots of connections between regions that process visual information and areas involved in our most basic emotions, Barrett says.

Volunteer subjects looked at faces paired with gossip. Some of these faces were associated with negative gossip, such as “threw a chair at his classmate.” Other faces were associated with more positive actions, such as “helped an elderly woman with her groceries.”

The Study:
Participants in the study were shown a neutral face paired with (A) negative gossip, (B) positive gossip, (C) neutral gossip, (D) negative non-social information, (E) positive non-social information, and (F) neutral non-social information. When the study participants viewed the faces again, their brains were more likely to fix on the faces associated with negative gossip.
Then the researchers looked to see how the volunteers’ brains responded to the different kinds of information. They did this by showing the left and right eyes of each person very different images. So one eye might see a face while the other eye would see a house.

These very different images cause something called binocular rivalry. The human brain can only handle one of the images at a time. So it unconsciously tends to linger on the one it considers more important.

Researchers found that volunteers’ brains were most likely to fix on faces associated with negative gossip.

Gossip doesn’t just influence your opinions about people, it actually influences how you see them visually,”

The finding suggests “we are hardwired to pay more attention to a person if we’ve been told they are dangerous or dishonest or unpleasant.”

“If somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them. You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”

“I was actually pretty excited to see this paper,” says Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “For years people like me have been saying that our intense interest in gossip is not really a character flaw. It’s part of who we are. It’s almost a biological event, and it exists for good evolutionary reasons.”

“Even when primitive humans lived in small groups, they needed to know things like who might be a threat and who was after a particular mate, McAndrew says. And learning those things through personal experience would have been slow and potentially dangerous”, he says.

One shortcut would have been gossip.

“People who had an intense interest in that — that constantly were monitoring who’s sleeping with who and who’s friends with whom and who you can trust and who you can’t — came out ahead,” he says. “People who just didn’t care about that stuff got left behind.”

And it makes sense that our brains pay special attention to negative gossip”, McAndrew says.

“If somebody is a competitor or somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them,” he says. “You want negative information, because that’s the stuff you can exploit to get ahead.”

Who knew tabloid news is honing our survival skills ?  

Originally posted on Curious to the Max. Click here for more on Curious to the Max

How to Respond Better to Stress: Three “C’s” and one “L”

Lori, a friend who underwent breast cancer treatment sent me a note with this article about stress which reflected how she coped with the intense stress she experienced after her diagnosis.
Not everyone experiencing the same stressful challenges gets sick or overcome by worry and anxiety. . . .The effects of a stressful challenge are not simply a result of the challenge itself; they also greatly depend on our responses.
In the early 1980s the world’s biggest company, AT&T, fell apart due to a change in regulatory laws. Hundreds of thousands of people were suddenly out of work or uncertain of their financial and career futures. Seven percent of the laid-off executives died within a year of this event, and many others fell ill with stress-related responses.
Suzanne Kobasa, a psychologist at the University of Chicago,studied the effects of this uncontrolled human stress experiment and noticed that there was a cadre of executives who, rather than collapsing under the weight of this stress, seemed to thrive during and after the corporate dismantling. Her now famous study identified characteristic traits in these people that she came to call the “three Cs,” which stand for:
  • challenge
  • control
  • commitment

“When faced with a big change, these “stress hardy” individuals responded to it as a challenge; they felt that they could have some control over what happened to them; and they felt committed to making the best of it, for their sake and that of others. Their response to stress protected them from adverse physical reactions.This may not be the only successful coping mechanism, but it dramatically demonstrates that how we respond to stress makes a huge difference in how it affects us.. .” 

The researcher makes an important point at the end of her report: “This may not be the only successful coping mechanism.”
    __________________________
Lori experienced another “mechanism” left out of the study. This is how she ended her message to me:

“I wanted to share the bible verse below because the love I have received really has helped to sustain me.”

“There are three things that will endure–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians13:13 

This information is from http://theworrysolution.com by Dr Marty Rossman.

Originally posted on Curious to the Max. To see more from Curious to the Max click here.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety & Changes Your BRAIN

Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few years (meditating of course), you’ve been reading the huge number of articles touting the benefits of meditating from stress reduction to better concentration.

Here research areas – supporting what cave dwelling meditators have experienced but not read (cave dwellers don’t get good internet reception)– which found that meditation has very real effects on your brain and can be seen on a brain scans (which are not available in caves).

Cushy Cave by Peggy

Meditation measurably reduces anxiety.

The medial prefrontal cortex is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. Normally the neural pathways from our bodily sensation and fear centers in the brain to the prefrontal cortex are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong neuro-chemical reaction creating a “fear response” and you think you are “under attack”.

Meditation weakens this neural connection and consequently we don’t react as strongly to any sensations we might have . The more we meditate the better we weaken this connection and simultaneously strengthen the connection between the part of our brains known for reasoning. So when we experience frightening or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.

Don’t Want to Meditate?

Try simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into daily life. 

  • Pay attention. It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it.
  • Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
  • Accept yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend.
  • Focus on your breathing. When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help.

Want to learn meditation?  Check out  Joy on Demand, by Chade-Meng Tan, He makes meditation seem fun and easy.

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-meditation-rewires-your-brain-for-less-anxiety-and-faster-learning.html

Analytical meditation for anxiety reduction and problem solving

Meditating is hard for me.  My monkey-mind jumps over and around what I’ve decided to focus on, climbs into places and spaces that have no bearing on anything  and swings from thought-branches I didn’t even know were there. 
 240_f_18373096_zlgbhf2cmavplmkx2hdkkqk4pq0wktsj
When I read this article written by Sanjay Gupta, MD and his invitation to meditate with the Dalai Lama I was a bit more reassured.  Here’s the HOW-To part that caught my monkey-mind attention:  (jw)
“This is hard for me,” I said. (Dr Gupta)
“Me, too!” he exclaimed. “After doing daily for 60 years, it is still hard.”
It was at once surprising and reassuring to hear him say this. The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monk and spiritual leader of Tibet, also has trouble meditating.”

‘”I think you will like analytical meditation, he told me. Instead of focusing on a chosen object, as in single-point meditation, he suggested I think about a problem I was trying to solve, a topic I may have read about recently or one of the philosophical areas from the earlier sessions.”

“He wanted me to separate the problem or issue from everything else by placing it in a large, clear bubble. With my eyes closed, I thought of something nagging at me — something I couldn’t quite solve. As I placed the physical embodiment of this problem into the bubble, several things started to happen very naturally.”
“The problem was now directly in front of me, floating weightlessly. In my mind, I could rotate it, spin it or flip it upside-down. It was an exercise to develop hyper-focus.
Less intuitively, as the bubble was rising, it was also disentangling itself from any other attachments, such as subjective emotional considerations. I could visualize it, as the problem isolated itself, and came into a clear-eyed view.”
Too often, we allow unrelated emotional factors to blur the elegant and practical solutions right in front of us. It can be dispiriting and frustrating. Through analytical meditation, His Holiness told me, we can use logic and reason to more clearly identify the question at hand, separate it from irrelevant considerations, erase doubt and brightly illuminate the answers. It was simple and sensible. Most important, for me — it worked.”

Meditation for skeptics

“As a neuroscientist, I never expected that a Buddhist monk, even the Dalai Lama, would teach me how to better incorporate deduction and critical thinking to my life — but that is what happened.
It changed me. And I am better for it. I practice analytical meditation every day, usually early in the morning. The first two minutes are still the hardest, as I create my thought bubble and let it float above me. After that, I reach what can best be described as a “flow” state, in which 20 to 30 minutes pass easily.
I am more convinced than ever that even the most ardent skeptics could find success with analytical meditation.”
 

Self-Isolation – Here’s the Best Way to Cope with Family Tensions

Togetherness, particularly if it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can create stress and unresolved, unrelieved tension.

The rosy pictures of family harmony isn’t always rosy.  As psychotherapists we were privy to the fact that being cooped up with family, whether in a family business or on-demand family functions, often brings out the worst in people and interpersonal relationships.  

Clients who had no family fantasized about what they were missing and clients with families fantasized about how to miss family gatherings.

Family Dynamics by Peggy

  • It is not helpful to ruminate on what was, what could be, ruminate over and over about the hurt, anger, injustice of it all.  Rumination leads to depression and/or anxiety.  
  • Address little annoyances quickly before they become chronic irritations that evolve into big problems.

One of the ways to talk about what is bothering you is to follow a simple script:

When you ____________________ Fill in with a SPECIFIC, identifiable, VISIBLE, concrete BEHAVIOR.  No generalizations or blame, like “you hurt me”.

I feel _________________________ Fill in with an emotion – angry, happy, sad, frustrated, mis-understood, devalued . . . etc.  Do NOT BLAME and say “I feel that YOU ________”

I want you to ________________  Fill in with a SPECIFIC, identifiable, concrete BEHAVIOR

Example:  When you walked away when I was talking.  (WALKED AWAY is a behavior)

I felt devalued.  I want you to stay, listen

   *     *     *

Here’s interesting research on replaying an argument in your mind can help. 

 ReIMAGINING Family Arguments

 in Detail Can Help

“Repeated studies have found that people prone to depression can get worse if they excessively dwell or ruminate on a stressful incident such as a quarrel or a loss. But experiments by Exeter University psychologists have found that when individuals practised running emotional incidents through their head, focusing on sensory details and recalling exactly what happened, how it happened, and even where it happened, it helped them respond constructively and stopped them becoming so upset about a future or past stressful experience.

“Psychologists at the University of Exeter have found that recalling (imagining, NOT vocalizing) the detail of shouting matches and disagreements, including exactly who said what to whom and how, may not be destructive and prolong the tension, but could help people keep incidents in perspective and stop the triggering of self-doubt and even depression.”

“After training to recall the details of an upsetting incident including the tone of a voice, the words used and how the event happened, people became more resilient and put the upsetting incident into context, stopping a downward spiral into low mood.”

“The same exercise of focusing on the sensory details of sad experiences and asking “How did it happen?” “How can I do something about it?” was also found to speed up recovery from doing badly on a test in undergraduates, and to improve interpersonal problem solving, such as finding a way to make up with your partner after an argument, in people who were currently or formerly depressed.”

“For people experiencing depression learning to focus on stressful incidents and to re-imagine them in full technicolour asking themselves ‘What is unique about this situation?’ ‘ How did it happen?’ – instead of ‘Why did it happen to me? had an a ‘significant’ impact on helping to alleviate mental ill health.”

Read the full article:

http://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-replay-arguments-5819/

I JUST ADDED THIS: Some of these tips are general, suggesting a mindset to cultivate. Others are more specific in advising you what to do in the moment.

  1. Listen. Listening is the number one step in dealing with “unreasonable” people. Everyone wants to feel heard. No progress can take place until the other person feels acknowledged. While you’re listening, really focus on what the other person is saying, not what you want to say next.
  2. Stay calm. When a situation is emotionally charged, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Monitor your breathing. Try to take some slow, deep breaths.
  3. Don’t judgeYou don’t know what the other person is going through. Chances are, if a person is acting unreasonable, they are likely feeling some sort of vulnerability or fear.
  4. Reflect respect and dignity toward the other person. No matter how a person is treating you, showing contempt will not help productively resolve the situation.
  5. Look for the hidden need. What is this person really trying to gain? What is this person trying to avoid?
  6. Look for others around you who might be able to help. If you’re at work and there’s an irate customer, quickly scan to see if a colleague is close by.
  7. Don’t demand compliance. For example, telling someone who’s upset to be quiet and calm down will just make him or her irate. Instead, ask the person what they are upset about—and allow them to vent.
  8. Saying, “I understand,” usually makes things worse. Instead, say, “Tell me more so I can understand better.”
  9. Avoid smiling, as this may look like you are mocking the person. Similarly, humor can sometimes lighten the mood, but more often than not, it’s risky and it may backfire.
  10. Don’t act defensively. This is tough. You’re naturally not enjoying the other person saying nasty things or things that you know aren’t true. You’re going to want to defend yourself. But the other person is so emotionally revved up, it’s not going to help. Remember, this is not about you. Don’t take it personally. (I know, easier said than done.)
  11. Don’t return anger with anger. Raising your voice, pointing your finger, or speaking disrespectfully to the other person will add fuel to an already heated situation. Use a low, calm, even monotone voice. Don’t try to talk over the person. Wait until the person takes a breath and then speak.
  12. Don’t argue or try to convince the other person of anything.
  13. Keep extra space between you and the other person. Your instinct may be to try to calm the other person down by putting your arm on theirs, or some other similar gesture that may be appropriate in other contexts. But if someone is already upset, avoid touch, as it might be misinterpreted.
  14. Saying, “I’m sorry,” or, “I’m going to try to fix this,” can go a long way toward defusing many situations.
  15. Set limits and boundaries. While some of the above tips have encouraged listening and letting the angry person vent, you also have the right to be assertive and say, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”
  16. Trust your instincts. If your gut is saying, this is going downhill fast, be ready to do what you need to do to remain safe. Look for an exit strategy.
  17. One response does not fit all. You have to remain flexible. Although these guidelines have proven effective in de-escalating tough situations, every person is unique and may respond differently.
  18. Debrief. After the situation is over, talk to someone about what happened.
  19. Discharge your own stressYou had to put your natural reactions on hold for a while. Now is the time to discharge some of that pent up adrenaline. Go for a run. Take your dog for a walk. Don’t let the emotions stay stuck in your body.
  20. Give yourself credit for getting through an uncomfortable situation. It takes a lot of energy not to act like a jerk when someone else is behaving badly. Don’t skip this step!

Curious Coloring for Calming Down

Coloring books aren’t just for kids anymore.  Adults have discovered coloring provides a brief focus, away from the world within and the world around us. It’s a form of meditation:  Concentrated visual focus on color, patterns and repetitive motion are hallmarks of the meditative process.

We’ve picked out some Curious Critters that lend themselves for for quick & easy coloring. Embellish them, add patterns, squiggles and make them your own.

Click on the download at the bottom

Get out your crayons or colored pencils 

CREATE your own meditation.

(Don’t want to meditate?   Color with a child!)

 

Click here for your free coloring PDF

 

Scroll down for more posts in this series.

 

4 FREE Resources for Social Distancing & Isolation

Here are some fun, FREE resources for social distancing and self isolation-check them out!

Online University learning of all kinds of subjects

click here for  Coursera

Join Courserafor free and learn online. Courses from top universities like Yale, Michigan, Stanford, Imperial College-London, Tel Aviv University, Duke, Johns Hopkins, University of Cape Town, University of Tokyo etc. . . . and leading companies like Google and IBM.

I (Judy) have taken 2 of the courses and they were excellent.  Since I don’t need any more degrees or certifications I never did the papers or took the tests . . .  just watched the lectures and did the reading.  There is a large catalogue of classes from colleges and universities all over the WORLD.  Fabulous resource.

Online exercise classes – Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness, one of the nation’s largest chain gyms, is offering free online exercise classes 

The at-home workouts are streaming on the company’s Facebook page, open to anyone, including non-members.

Because I love all of you I (Peggy) sacrificed myself and tried two Planet Fitness on-line workouts.

The workouts were actually great!  The instructors made it easy to follow all the exercises, all of which could be modified to easier levels.  

To make sure all of you could do the routines I did the easier levels, even though I didn’t NEED to, of course . . .   

I am recovering from a sprained ankle and didn’t want to jump on my foot, so I was clever enough to figure out ways to keep both feet on the ground.   (I couldn’t think of other excuses to modify more exercises but carefully watched how they were done.)

Instructors do warm ups and cool downs. Have a chair handy and water.  You get 15 second rests in between the exercises.  

Another thing I liked is the instructor stopped exercising in order to continue talking.  That allowed me to stop early too so I could hear what he was saying without the distraction of exercising. . . The workouts are scheduled for 4pm PST. I was late but no one said anything. There are many workout videos on the Planet Fitness Facebook page so if you’re late I’m positive they’ll let you in the class.

Fun things to do from NASAfor kids and adults

https://www.space.com/free-nasa-space-projects-at-home-coronavirus.html

“NASA’s website has a plethora of opportunities for kids and adults alike to learn more about astronomy and spaceflight. Whether you want to be an astronaut, kill some time learning about the universe or help the agency work on future space exploration activities, there’s no lack of things to do.”

“So, if you’re looking for a little out-of-this-world escapewhile you’re stuck at home, There is a list of free space-themed activities from NASA to keep you occupied.”

Get out in the open -no charge at National Parks

The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees at all national parks that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to aid public social distancing.

“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” Bernhardt said in a news release Wednesday.
“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”
Scroll down to see more posts in this series.

 

Frankly Freddie – Social Distance from people not FOOD

For the Foodie
If you don’t know what a “foodie” is you are probably around the same age as Peggy & Judy. For all you “oldies” . . . “gastronome” and “epicure” define the same thing.  If you don’t know what gastronome and epicure mean it’s a person who enjoys food for pleasure.

  • Have a picnic on the floor (benefit-no ants, just dust).
  • Get takeout. Support independent restaurants which are hurting right now by eating their food. It’s reported that takeout service Grubhub will stop collecting commission of up to $100 million to support independent restaurants that use their service. (Just make sure you limit your contact with the delivery driver and wash your hands after unpacking the food.)
  • Have your own wine tasting of whatever bottles you have.  No wine?  Have a tea-tasting.
  • Make a new recipe, like dog biscuits.
  • Perfect grandma’s special recipe.
  • Make coffee, and study how many beans you use, which types, how hot the water is, how long it brews and whether any of that even makes a difference.
  • Read your cookbooks and find new culinary sites on the internet.
  • Make doggie biscuits – peanut butter should be the #1 ingredient
  • Watch “The Great British Baking Show,” and bake something with the ingredients you have on hand
  • Organize your spice rack alphabetically.
  • Make a cocktail or mocktail  (if you don’t know what a mocktail is you’re over the age of 21) Don’t forget the garnish.
  • Cook something special – make a double recipe and give half to an elderly neighbor and the other half to your dog.

Scroll down to see other posts in this series.

Frankly Freddie – Social Distancing Naturally in Nature

Dear Freddie Fans,

Because I’m not allowed to go anywhere without a leash I KNOW how to cope. This week I will share what you humans can do.  Since I’m Editor-in-Canine-Chief for several blogs I have a trove of posts to share with you.  Here’s today’s bit of my wisdom. 

Get out of the house. Just remember to keep 6 feet of distance from other people,  Find an area where you won’t encounter crowds.

  • Garden!
  • Pot a plant.
  • Repot house plants.
  • Weed, mulch, rake & mow.
  • Start birdwatching. Coronavirus hasn’t bothered birds. Download a birdwatching map. Sit in your backyard or near a window.
  • Take a brisk walk  You can still exercise – It helps your immune system be strong.*
  • Go on a stroll.  Sniff around and clear your mind.
  • Sit outside & breathe fresh air. Notice things about the world around you that you didn’t see before.
  • Bike ride.
  • Meditate, journal, draw in your yard or patio.

Resting after munching the lawn, bird watching, walking and sniffing.

*Exercise which increases immunity and reduces the stress response . . . even if it’s marching in place for 5 minutes without a leash.

Take a 10 minute walk outside – 5 minutes out and 5 minutes back.  The colors of nature are also calming to the brain.

 

Frankly Freddie – How to be a Good Sport While Social Distancing

Sports fans are going bonkers since all the games are canceled or have no spectators.  Don’t go bonkers, it’s not becoming, unless you are in a parking lot, eating hot dogs and drinking beer from the back of your pick-up truck.  Do these things instead:

  • Become an expert. Readup on your sport so that when your team starts playing again, you’ll have even greater insight into the game.
  • Show your team some love. Tweet them a positive message or send them a photo of you wearing team gear in solidarity.
  • Even better, support a charity that your favorite player loves. 
  • PLAY FETCH.

  • Practice painting your face in the colors of your favorite team.  Keep your “art work” above the neck. Bare chests make you look like an “animal”.
  • Revisit an old game. You know the one – The game that made you fall in love with the sport.  If you have a subscription to a sport-specific streaming service, check if they have your favorite game. YouTube has clips of  large collection of games.
  • Play Keep-Away or Dodge Ball.  No yard?  Use balloons.
  • Watch sports documentaries about games of the past and present.
  • Donate all your clothes that aren’t in the colors of your favorite team.
  • Pretend you’re an athlete and do calisthentics (If you don’t know what calisthenitics are do jumping jacks).
  • PLAY FETCH.
  • Go Bonkers!

 

Things to do when Virus Fears Overwhelm you – Hand-washing and Social distancing for your Brain

The constant flood of precautions and warnings, whether it’s from the medical authorities or recirculated, dubiously-sourced information on social media, can take a toll on our mental health.
The uncertainty of what a pandemic portends for our future, the drastic changes it means for the present can be unnerving.

It’s ok, it’s normal, to feel anxious and stressed when everything familiar has seemingly come to a halt in the entire world and when experts, whom we normally turn to, have no answers, no treatments and are impacted in the same way we are.  We feel helpless and our fears are heightened when we can’t see or predict where the threat may strike.  

Yes, it’s a serious situation, and deserves your vigilance and attention.   However, there is a happy medium between ignoring the biggest story in the world, and panic. Here are some tips. 

Social Distancing for your Brain

Pare down your sources of information

  • Continually tell yourself it’s ok not knowing every little thing because there will always be an update a click away.
  • Don’t carry your phone around so you’re not tempted to check it.  
  • Leave your phone on a charging station, put it in “airplane mode”or turn off notifications.
  • Limit time on social media.  Your friends and acquaintances filter what they share through their own fears and lenses.
  • Unfriend those who are conspiracy theorists.
  • Install social media apps or tools that limit access to content, or limit aimless scrolling.
  • Schedule a set time, and no more, to get updates from reliable news or health organizations.

Hand-Washing for your Brain.

Don’t Chastise Yourself for Worrying

“You are allowed to worry or feel bad. When discussing how to talk to children about the coronavirus, health experts say people should acknowledge a child’s fear and let them know their feelings are valid.”

“Surely, you can afford yourself the same compassion. The key is to work toward understanding and contextualizing your fears so they don’t keep you from living your healthiest life.”

Name your Fears

A virus can’t be seen by the naked eye.  It’s threat is abstract.  Writing things down makes the worries concrete and stops your brain from going over and over the worries.  Here’s what to write to reassure your brain that you’ll remember everything it’s been reminding you of.  You may do all steps at once or over several days.

1. List what specific threats worry you.Do you think you will catch the coronavirus and die?  (The fear of death taps into one of our core existential fears.) Someone you love falls ill?  Would you need treatment?  What would happen if self quarantine was necessary?  Not able to work?  No access to support or childcare?  

Keep writing small fears, big fears, rational and irrational, until you can’t think of anything else.

2.  Mark the ones that are REALISTIC.  Consider your personal risk and how likely it is that you will actually come in contact with the virus, lose work, etc.

3.  Write down what you are in CONTROL of  – what you are currently doing and what you might consider doing.  

4.  Make a plan – Brainstorm options and write them down even if they seem out-of-reach or impractical.   Being prepared for your fears will help keep them in scale.

5. Review and add, delete, rearrange, update all the steps frequently to keep your brain in the know.

Think Outside Yourself

Since action can allay our anxieties, also consider what you can do to help others who may be more affected by the outbreak than you. Service workers, medical workers, hourly workers and people in the restaurant or entertainment industries may have their livelihoods paralyzed or have to put themselves in disproportionate danger.

Talk to your brain: “Most of the precautions put in place to help stall the spread of the virus aren’t just for me. They’re intended to keep entire communities and vulnerable people safe.”

There are ways to reach out that don’t demand a lot of time or energy.  Examples:  Double the recipe you are making and give half to a neighbor, donate money, (if you have the means) to a reputable charity, write a letter or a note to someone in quarantine, e-mail friends who are isolated . . .  

Seek Support Wisely

Talking to friends about the latest news, outbreak cluster or your family’s contingency plans is a good idea so you don’t feel alone.  However, if you are overwhelmed, don’t seek out someone who also is overwhelmed.  Find someone who does not support or inflame you on your anxiety and can provide some advice.  Always consider professional help which can be short-term. Most psychotherapists and doctors are offering phone sessions.  There are community agencies or religious clergy that are free or low fee.

Enforce or Create Healthy HABITS

Pay attention to your daily basic needs- healthy practices that affect your wellbeing. 

If you haven’t practiced self-care, NOW is the time to create healthy habits that will last after this crisis is over.

  • Get adequate sleep
  • Have proper nutrition
  • Go outside as much a possible
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Practicing mindfulness, prayer, meditation, yoga or other forms of self care can also help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into worry and fear. 

Remember!  Fear and Anxiety is . . .

. . . overestimating the likelihood of something bad happening, and  underestimating our capacity to deal with it. 

Source: CNN.com

Frankly Freddie – Social Distancing for the Cultured

Dear Freddie Fans,

Because I’m not allowed to go anywhere without a leash I KNOW how to cope. This week I will share what you humans can do.  Since I’m Editor-in-Canine-Chief for several blogs I have a trove of posts to share with you.  

CULTURED: characterized by refined taste and manners and good education.
cultivated, artistic, enlightened, civilized, educated, well read, well informed, discerning, discriminating, 

sophisticated, urbane, intellectual, scholarly, erudite

If you are lacking in any of these here’s what you can do:

  • Download e-books and audiobooks and READ.
  • Create a virtual book club and video call each other to discuss.
  • Take a virtual museum tour. Many museums offer audio tours on your smart phone. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum are two that host online tours.
  • Explore overseas? Google Arts & Culture has a collection of virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums, from Paris to New Delhi.
  • Become a film critic.  Write a  review of the latest. Catch up recent Oscar winners and snubbed gems and share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. To exchange recommendations with your fellow cinephiles, join a site like Letterboxd, a social networking service for film geeks.
  • Learn a language — or just the basics. Learning a few phrases in another tongue will make you feel smart. 
  • Bolster your vocabulary. Remember when reading the dictionary was a form of punishment? No longer. Flip through a thesaurus or take online quizzes to test your vocabulary.

What “cultured” will look like after you do what I’ve told you.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/us/what-to-do-this-weekend-coronavirus-trnd/index.html

Frankly Freddie, How to Social Distance and Be Social

Dear Freddie Fans,

Because I’m not allowed to go anywhere without a leash I KNOW how to cope. This week I will share what you humans can do.  Since I’m Editor-in-Canine-Chief for several blogs I have a trove of posts to share with you.  Each day I’ll share a bit of my wisdom. 

Here’s my first recommendations for HUMANS

Ya Gotta Take Care of your Mental Health.  

  • Connect with family, friends.  If you can’t get a scratch behind their ears you will have to settle for the phone, internet or writing a note or letter.
  • Meditate, pray.
  • Take a nap.  One of my favorites.
  • Video chat.
  • Share funny messages on social media. Do NOT share conspiracy theories – leave theories to bonifide scientists.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Take another bath.
  • Go outside, get some fresh air and sunshine .

Keep your paws busy:

  • Tackle a puzzle.
  • Make art. Download my human’s free coloring pages.Click here for the PDF
  • Humans like to knit, sew, paint.
  • Do all the stuff I’ve watched humans put off – taxes, clean closets.
  • Play board games. Chess and checkers seem to be fun for humans .. . go figure.
  • Fix something around the house.
  • Rearrange the furniture.
  • Give yourself a manicure.
  • Pet your pet.
  • Brush your pet.
  • Feed your pet.
  • Give your pet treats

Tell me what you do to keep your paws busy!

See ya tomorrow.

click here for: “How to Cope in Uncertain Times” on Max your Mind 

How to activate your own Placebo to reduce Stress & Anxiety

In uncertain times we all need help to calm our fears so that our bodies are not flooded with stress hormones & neurochemicals.  

A placebo is NOT imaginary but creates biological changes in the brain that actually ease our symptoms and are very similar to the biological changes when we take drugs.

There are many DOCUMENTED placebo effects, depending on what we think a treatment is going to do for us.  Examples:

  • Fake painkillers cause the release of natural painkillers in the brain called endorphins and work through the same biochemical pathway that an opiod painkiller would work through.
  • A Parkinson’s patient takes a placebo they think is their Parkinson’s drug, they get a flood of dopamine in the brain, which is exactly what you would see with the real drug.
  • Altitude sickness – someone at altitude inhales fake oxygen, there’s a reduction in prostaglandins which actually work to dilate blood vessels that cause many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Some explanations for the placebo effect 

Stress and anxiety — if we feel that we are in danger or under threat, the brain raises its sensitivity to symptoms like pain. Whereas, if we feel safe and cared for and things are going to get better soon, we relax and are not so alert to symptoms.

Physiological mechanisms like conditioning*   We can all be conditioned to have physiological responses to a stimulus, even immune responses. For example, take a pill that suppresses your immune system and on another occasion take a similar looking placebo pill, with no active drug, your body will mimic same immune response. Astonishingly, it doesn’t even matter if you know it’s a placebo.

Stress can rewire the brain — and create more stress

Like a muscle, the more you exercise any part the stronger it gets.

Brains are shaped by our thoughts and behaviors. Research shows your brain structure, neurochemical and electrical activity responds to and reflects how you think throughout your life.   For example: If you play a musical instrument, speak a second language, train for athletics for eight hours a day – the parts of your brain responsible for performing those activities gets more active and larger. 

If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day parts of the brain involved in the stress response get larger and other parts of the brain actually deteriorate.  Consequently, the very brain circuits we need to counter stress no longer work as well as they should.  

It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to change how I think now. I’m not feeling stressed.”  It takes a long time to change your brain. 

In the middle of your face – your personal placebo “pill” 

When stressed, the brain influences your body AND the body influences your brain.  The stress response speeds up your breathing to pump more oxygen when your brain perceives danger, either real or imaginary.  If you deliberately speed up your breathing when not stressed you’ll start to feel more aroused and on edge.  The opposite is true: Slow your breathing down, forcing your body into a more relaxed state.  Your brain responds with more calming thoughts and feelings.

Condition your own calming response using your breath . . . salivating optional.

Click below to read two ways to slow your breathing down:

Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity

Control your Anxiety: Easy, Fast, Effective and Square

* Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist, conditioned dogs so that whenever he gave them food he made a noise, like ring a bell.  Eventually the dogs associated the bell with their food and they would salivate just to the sound of the bell.

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/

A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant, PhD. in genetics and medical microbiology

How to reduce fear & anxiety in 30 seconds

Affect labeling—the act of naming one’s emotional state—helps blunt the immediate impact of negative feelings and begin the process of reducing stress.

In a small study* of 30 subjects, researchers conducted a series of brain-imaging experiments in which participants were shown frightening faces and asked to choose a word that described the emotion on display. Labeling the fear-inducing object appeared to:

  • Reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain in which the fight or flight reflex originates
  • Increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with vigilance and symbolic processing.
  • The brain’s perception of the images shifted from objects of fear to subjects of scrutiny.
  • Experientially, the fact that there is a name for what you’re going through means that other people have experienced it as well, which makes an overwhelming emotion feel less isolating.

How to “Affect label” 

30 seconds . . . as long as you don’t count the 15 minutes of moving.

*The University of California, Los Angeles. Study led by psychology professor Matthew Lieberman,

https://qz.com/989060/reduce-stress-and-anxiety-with-a-pen-and-this-simple-neuroscience-backed-trick/

For more in this series, scroll down.

For tips on social distancing, click here for Curious to the Max

 

How to Empty your Brain to Reduce Stress & Control Anxiety – Write On!

Non-stop writing, stream of consciousness, free writing . . . it doesn’t matter what you call it – it can change your brain, change your day.

I’m not being overly dramatic as there is a body of research which shows that

simply putting pen to paper changes your brain to reduce anxiety & stress.

Write on! by Peggy

Easy Peasy Writing How-to

Choose a focus – a situation, feeling, thought and create a “topic Sentence”

If you can’t think of a specific begin with

 “When I ____________”,  Right this moment I am thinking . . . ” ,   “I am feeling . . .”,  

“I can’t think of anything to write because . . . “

It can be anything in the past, the present or the future.

  • Use a pen that writes smoothly and comfortable to your hand.  

Don’t use a keyboard since the act of writing with your hand is important.  Your small muscle movement is expressive (much like artistic expression, your handwriting is unique to you).  It doesn’t matter if it’s legible or beautiful as your hand movement registers with your brain in ways that tapping out letters on a keyboard do not.

  • Set a timer for approximately 20 minutes. It takes that long for your unconscious brain to push through your logical thinking processes.
  • Use a journal, a piece of paper, a brown bag- it doesn’t matter.
  • Start with your “topic sentence”,thought, feeling . . . just start. 
  • Write continuously for 20 minutes, never letting the pen stop. If your mind goes blank simply makes loop-d-loops with the pen until you have words to put down. Write quickly, spontaneously, intuitively.  It doesn’t matter what you write just put down on paper where your mind takes you.
  • Do not be concerned about spelling, punctuation or grammar.
  • Do not be concerned if it doesn’t make sense.

Read  research: How Writing About Past Failures May Help You Succeed In The Present

 click here