Overcome your fear factor

Fear and worry got you down? Here’s how to calm these feelings.

Have you grown more worried and fearful about life over the years? You aren’t alone. Research has shown that feelings of fear, general anxiety, and nervousness tend to rise with age.

These negative feelings can manifest in many ways. You could be more concerned about your financial future, the risk of a new or returning health problem or injury, or as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown, changes in world events.

“People become more fearful about daily life because they worry a setback will come at any time, and it’s something they can’t control,” says Dr. Ipsit Vahia, medical director of Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.

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Where stress lives

Yale researchers have found a neural home of the feeling of stress people experience, an insight that may help people deal with the debilitating sense of fear and anxiety that stress can evoke, Yale researchers report May 27 in the journal Nature Communications.

Brain scans of people exposed to highly stressful and troubling images — such as a snarling dog, mutilated faces or filthy toilets — reveal a network of neural connections emanating throughout the brain from the hippocampus, an area of the brain that helps regulate motivation, emotion and memory.

The brain networks that support the physiological response to stress have been well studied in animals. Activation of brain areas such as the hypothalamus triggers production of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids in the face of stress and threats. But the source of the subjective experience of stress experienced by people during the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, has been more difficult to pinpoint.

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Why Men Need Mind-Body Medicine Now More Than Ever

 

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I’m Dr Gregory Scott Brown, director of the Center for Green Psychiatry and affiliate faculty at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, reporting for Medscape on the importance of mind-body medicine for men.

Mind-body medicine focuses on how interactions within the mind, including thoughts, feelings, and emotions, relate to physical health and well-being. A mind-body practice could include guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, acupuncture, meditation, or yoga.

Let’s face it: Men are lukewarm when it comes to incorporating a mind-body practice into their own life. Many would rather go for 18 holes of golf, a pick-up game of basketball, or go spend time in the gym instead. Evidence, in fact, supports the idea that men are less likely to develop a meditation practice.

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To stay positive, live in the moment — but plan ahead

A recent study finds that people who balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods.

A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that people who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

Specifically, the researchers looked at two factors that are thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

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Meditation in schools can markedly improve the lives of students

At first glance, Quiet Time – a stress reduction strategy used in several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as in scattered schools around the Bay Area – looks like something out of the om-chanting 1960s. Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can’t sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. I’ve spent lots of time in urban schools and have never seen anything like it.

This practice – meditation rebranded – deserves serious attention from parents and policymakers. An impressive array of studies shows that integrating meditation into a school’s daily routine can markedly improve the lives of students. If San Francisco schools Superintendent Richard Carranza has his way, Quiet Time could well spread citywide.

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