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4 lessons from anxious brain

Are you restless? concern? Overwhelming? Welcome to the summer of 2021.

To thousands of New York Times readers of all ages, How do they feel nowThe most common answers revealed complex emotions over the last 14 months: restless, anxious, overwhelmed, upset, tired, hopeful, optimistic, stressful, tired, excited. Did.

Some readers said they couldn’t express their feelings in one word.

“Boring, anxiety, hope — do you have the words at once?” Asked one reader.

Our survey was not a scientific survey — all respondents, 10-day fresh start challengeDelivered daily texts with tips for a healthy life. However, the answer is consistent with national survey data showing that many people still suffer from the mental distress of a pandemic life. Household pulse surveyAs of mid-May, nearly one-third (30.7%) of Americans experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number has fallen from a peak of about 42% in November, but is still surprisingly high. In 2019, about 11% of adults in the United States had similar symptoms. National Institute of Health and Statistics.

Dr. Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University and an associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, said that many of his patients felt overwhelmed and depressed. The emotions can be attributed to the general uncertainties created by the life of a pandemic. For the brain, uncertain emotions are like hungry stomachaches, he says. Stomach growls are a signal to the brain that food is needed, while anxiety is a signal to the brain that information is needed. The problem many people have today is the lack of information about their future lives.

“Information is the nutrition of our brain,” said Dr. Brewer, the author of the new book.Relieve Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycle of Worry and Fear and Heal Your Mind“But people feel anxious when unresolved uncertainties continue. They may feel overwhelmed because there is no solution. The brain cannot solve the problem. They feel tired, tired, tired. “

“Last year, there was a huge amount of uncertainty in so many different areas,” said Dr. Brewer.

Fortunately, uncertain times are also an opportunity to build personal growth and resilience. Studies show that turmoil, such as moving to a new town, divorcing, or experiencing a pandemic, is also an opportunity to break bad habits and start healthy new habits. Here are some strategies to help you deal with anxious, uncertain and hopeful summers.

Anxiety and stress are exacerbated by worrying about what you don’t understand. However, accepting that some answers are not available at this time allows us to build emotional muscles called “tolerance to pain.” People who are less tolerant of distress often go for unhealthy treatments, such as using drugs and spending extra time watching TV or games.

Dr. Brewer said it helps to tell himself that he accepts the current uncertainties. Tell yourself, “Change what you can do and accept what you can’t do.” Identify and name your emotions It can calm the stressed part of the brain.Multisensory movement Like breathing with five fingersYou can prevent negative thoughts from dominating by tracing the contours of your hands with your fingers while paying attention to your breathing.

“As a society, we don’t do the great job of teaching ourselves to be tolerant of pain,” said Dr. Brewer. “Just knowing that you can’t change anything, you can’t get information, and that information alone can calm you down. The most adaptive response is that uncertainty is acceptable. That is. “

A common cause of anxiety these days is that the slow pace of a pandemic life is quickly replaced by a more stressful routine than before. “I want to enjoy a slow pace,” said one reader. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ll be back to the previous level of overschedule.”

Katie Milkman, a professor at Wharton School and the author of the new book “How to change: the science of going from where you are to where you want to beAdvises people to look back over the last 14 months and identify the changes they want to keep.

“One of the things I find really interesting about pandemics is that I was forced to experiment in ways I wouldn’t normally do,” she said. “We were all forced to try Zoom or different types of workouts. One of the important things was to be aware of which experiment was good. We wanted to continue. What is that? “

Dr. Milkman realized that in his own life he was struggling with efforts to adjust the social calendar for an energetic five-year-old child. “We were trying to play date on a regular basis, but it was really disastrous,” said Dr. Milkman. “‘Maybe you don’t need that many match dates. It might be nice to go hiking with your family.” Everyone made their own discoveries through a forced experiment imposed by a pandemic. I think. “

To avoid reverting to old behaviors that you no longer want to maintain, ask yourself the following questions: Is there a new way to do this? I advise Dr. Brewer. He said the pandemic restrictions taught him to rethink his busy travel schedule. Prior to the pandemic, he traveled nationwide to attend conferences, but without leaving his family, Zoom. I learned that I can give lectures effectively using.

“If you see old behavior that is likely to go back in time, you need to be careful and pay attention,” said Dr. Brewer.

Many studies have shown that the stronger the social connection, the better it is in coping with anxiety and building resilience. During the Fresh Start Challenge, many readers said they were worried about returning to their old social skills.

“What’s normal now?” I sent a text message to one reader. “I’m looking forward to being with someone again, but I feel like I can’t have a casual conversation.”

During the Fresh Start Challenge, we ask our readers List of 36 questions Helps to start a social conversation. A question designed to help people clarify more about themselves is “Experimental generation of interpersonal intimacy“It’s led by Arthur Aron, a scientist at Stony Brook University, New York State University.

One reader shared asking her husband, “What kind of super power do you want?” She revealed that she didn’t know about him.

“My husband wanted to stop the time so that he could resume it when he was caught up,” she said. “This allows him to feel about time and a particular subject. I got a better understanding of how best to approach him. “

Dr. Aaron’s research questions became known as: 36 questions that lead to love, He points out that the purpose of the question is not to spur romance. In most cases, questions help strangers become friends, friends become intimate, and romantic partners feel more connected.

Recently, I’ve heard the voices of many readers blaming themselves for gaining weight and losing momentum during a pandemic lockdown. “I feel out of control and spoiling myself, especially when it comes to eating and drinking,” one reader told me. “As you gain weight, your movements become uncomfortable and your opinion about yourself diminishes. I will. “

It’s important to remember that most people struggled to balance the limits of their pandemic life. Blame yourself is counterproductive. Larger studies have shown that resting oneself and accepting one’s imperfections (a concept called self-compassion) increases the likelihood of taking care of oneself. Have a healthier life.

“One of the main things that self-compassion gives you is the ability to avoid being overwhelmed by the difficult emotions you are experiencing.” Kristin NeffHe is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a pioneer in many studies on self-compassion. “Please be a little gentle.”

Dr. Nef offers guided meditations and exercises on her website to learn self-compassion. Self-Compassion.orgOne of the easiest ways to start practicing self-compassion is to ask yourself the question, “What do you need now?”

“If you’re judging yourself, you’re hurting yourself,” said Dr. Neff.Intense self-sympathy: how women can use their tenderness to speak up, assert power, and prosper“What do you need to be healthy? Perhaps you don’t need to lose £ 5. Maybe you need more self-acceptance. Life enough to accept yourself. Can make a positive and healthy change to. “

credit…Natalie Leeds

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4 lessons from anxious brain

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