Inflammation Cytokine Production And Mental Health
In addition to its effects on physical health, prolonged proinflammatory cytokine production may also adversely affect mental health in vulnerable individuals. During times of illness , proinflammatory cytokines feed back to the CNS and produce symptoms of fatigue, malaise, diminished appetite, and listlessness, which are symptoms usually associated with depression. It was once thought that these symptoms were directly caused by infectious pathogens, but more recently, it has become clear that proinflammatory cytokines are both sufficient and necessary to generate sickness behavior .
Sickness behavior has been suggested to be a highly organized strategy that mammals use to combat infection . Symptoms of illness, as previously thought, are not inconsequential or even maladaptive. On the contrary, sickness behavior is thought to promote resistance and facilitate recovery. For example, an overall decrease in activity allows the sick individual to preserve energy resources that can be redirected toward enhancing immune activity. Similarly, limiting exploration, mating, and foraging further preserves energy resources and reduces the likelihood of risky encounters . Furthermore, decreasing food intake also decreases the level of iron in the blood, thereby decreasing bacterial replication. Thus, for a limited period, sickness behavior may be looked upon as an adaptive response to the stress of illness.
When To See A Doctor
Do not try to deal with chronic stress alone. If self-help strategies are not working, a doctor can provide support and advice about treatment options. They can also refer a person to a more specialized healthcare provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Anyone feeling overwhelmed by stress should see a doctor as soon as possible, especially if they are having suicidal thoughts or using drugs or alcohol to cope.
Behavioral Interventions In Chronic Disease
Patients dealing with chronic, life-threatening diseases must often confront daily stressors that can threaten to undermine even the most resilient coping strategies and overwhelm the most abundant interpersonal resources. Psychosocial interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral stress management , have a positive effect on the quality of life of patients with chronic disease . Such interventions decrease perceived stress and negative mood , improve perceived social support, facilitate problem-focused coping, and change cognitive appraisals, as well as decrease SNS arousal and the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Psychosocial interventions also appear to help chronic pain patients reduce their distress and perceived pain as well as increase their physical activity and ability to return to work . These psychosocial interventions can also decrease patients overuse of medications and utilization of the health care system. There is also some evidence that psychosocial interventions may have a favorable influence on disease progression .
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Build A Support Network
While relationships can sometimes be a source of prolonged stress, having supportive people in your life to lean on also acts as an important buffer against acute and chronic stress. Research has found that social support is critical for both physical and mental health.
Not only does support help people become more resilient, but it also helps protect people from developing mental disorders related to stress and trauma. For example, one study found that social support helped reduce the effects of stress on symptoms of depression.
Finding support doesn’t mean you need to have an enormous network. The American Psychological Association suggests that having a handful of friends and family members can provide the emotional support you need to better manage your stress.
How To Overcome Work Anxiety
Work anxiety is never just work anxiety. It often bleeds into your home and personal life, and if it continues without management for too long, you may also develop anxiety that often lasts long after you leave your job.
While all of these characteristics might not apply to you, the information should still provide you with tips of how to properly manage your anxiety at work. For the purpose of this article, we will make a few assumptions, which include the following:
- You are currently at a job you cannot leave, because you have not obtained a new job or you need to stay for family reasons.
- You are employed for a company that utilizes cubicles or offices. Despite not fitting the mold exactly, retail, restaurant, and work-from-home jobs should still relate and be relevant based on the suggestions below but how you integrate them may change.
- You are good at your career. Having high career aspirations is still a very important aspect of overcoming anxiety. If you fail to even try to succeed at work, it can impact your anxiety negatively.
- You are not anxious about finances this kind of work anxiety is related to a different kind of anxiety in general. Financial anxiety can be overcome by changing priorities and properly budgeting. We understand that some of you are not paid what you are worth, which can incite anxiety. However, for the sake of this article, we will assume your finances are stable or not a cause of anxiousness.
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Stressors During Childhood And Adolescence And Their Psychological Sequelae
The most widely studied stressors in children and adolescents are exposure to violence, abuse , and divorce/marital conflict . also provide an excellent review of the psychological consequences of such stressors. Psychological effects of maltreatment/abuse include the dysregulation of affect, provocative behaviors, the avoidance of intimacy, and disturbances in attachment . Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have higher levels of both general distress and major psychological disturbances including personality disorders . Childhood abuse is also associated with negative views toward learning and poor school performance . Children of divorced parents have more reported antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression than their peers . Adult offspring of divorced parents report more current life stress, family conflict, and lack of friend support compared with those whose parents did not divorce . Exposure to nonresponsive environments has also been described as a stressor leading to learned helplessness .
Exposure to intense and chronic stressors during the developmental years has long-lasting neurobiological effects and puts one at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders, aggressive dyscontrol problems, hypo-immune dysfunction, medical morbidity, structural changes in the CNS, and early death .
All Anxiety Is Serious Anxiety
Although it is possible for some anxiety to be more severe for some than for others, in many ways all anxiety is considered severe because of its impact on various aspects of your life now and later on:
- Quality of Life – Your quality of life is always important. Going through life with anxiety may mean experiencing less happiness because of its ability to interfere with your focus, sense of adventure, peace of mind, self-esteem, your projection of yourself in the world, etc.
- Stress – Stress is different from anxiety in that it does not cause impairment of your ability to function in life. Nevertheless, long term stress can still result in deleterious effects on your organs, weakening your immune system, impairing memory, accelerating aging, etc.
Also, if left untreated, anxiety may only worsen. Whether you already suffer from severe anxiety or you experience daily anxiety that simply makes it more difficult to manage life, all anxiety is relevant and damaging.
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Tip : Distinguish Between Solvable And Unsolvable Worries
Research shows that while youre worrying, you temporarily feel less anxious. Running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like youre getting something accomplished. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things.
Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, youre no more prepared to deal with them should they actually happen.
Quick Ways To Cope With Anxiety
If your anxiety is sporadic and getting in the way of your focus or tasks, there are some quick natural remedies that could help you take control of the situation.
If your anxiety is focused around a situation, such as being worried about an upcoming event, you may notice the symptoms are short-lived and usually subside after the anticipated event takes place.
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How Much Worrying Is Too Much
Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life. Its natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But normal worry becomes excessive when its persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about what ifs and worst-case scenarios, you cant get anxious thoughts out of your head, and it interferes with your daily life.
Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder , a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.
If youre plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.
The Effects Of Chronic Stress
Your nervous system isnt very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If youre super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if youre facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off.
If you tend to get stressed out frequently, like many of us in todays demanding world, your body may exist in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
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Assessing Your Chronic Anxiety And Addressing The Symptoms
Chronic anxiety is generally not something that goes away on its own. Anxiety can change your brain. It alters thought patterns and makes you more prone to negative thinking, catastrophic thinking, over-sensitivity to health and physical sensations, and more. The longer you live with anxiety, the more anxiety may consume your thoughts.
That’s why it’s so hard to cure without some type of strategy and considerable commitment. You can’t wish anxiety away, and those that depend on some type of “quick fix” are likely going to be sorely disappointed. You CAN effectively treat anxiety, but you need to make sure that you’re at a point in your life where you’re willing to make life changes to ensure your anxiety doesn’t come back.
There are a lot of strategies people use to combat anxiety. The more common include:
There are several “alternative” therapies and anxiety reduction techniques as well. Some work better than others, and some people find that they have more success with one than others will. For example, hypnosis has been known to work, but it tends to work poorly for those that don’t believe in it.
For any treatment to work, it needs to be based on your symptoms, and it needs to involve proven strategies that will help you cope with anxiety over the remainder of your life – not simply dull it away and prevent you from learning to cope on your own.
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Understand Differences In How Anxiety Manifests
Because of evolution, were wired to respond to fear by either fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate. For instance, my spouse tends to freeze and will bury her head in the sand rather than deal with things that make her feel stressed and panicky. I tend more toward fighting, and will become irritable, excessively perfectionistic, or dogmatic if I feel stressed.
When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, its easier to understand someone who is feeling scared and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them. By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.
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A Simple Way To Combat Chronic Stress
For most leaders today, frequent stress is inevitable. But with awareness and a little skill, its negative impacts are not.
Intense negative experiences of stress are all too common. Consider Stefano, coauthor of this article. In 1998, Stefano began a career abroad while simultaneously completing an MBA. He worked and studied 14 hours a day, seven days a week, fueled by a constant flow of stress hormones. By the end of that year, he suffered from fatigue, headaches, impatience, and irritability, yet he ignored his symptoms and kept going. Soon those symptoms escalated into full-blown burnout: dizziness, heart palpitations, inability to concentrate, panic attacks, apathy, insomnia, and depression. He eventually decided that he needed to take a full six months to rebuild his mental and physical well-being before he could return to work.
Chronic stress impacts people in different ways. In a recent global survey we conducted of 740 leaders, 84% reported experiencing stress on a regular basis . As you might expect, more than half of the 84% said stress had a negative impact on their effectiveness, interactions, or business results. However, the remaining leaders around 45% told a different story. In their experience, stress either had no impact on their leadership or had a positive effect. More than 25% said stress actually improved their effectiveness.
Allow The Emotions But Not The Spiral
Understandable feelings of frustration, such as about making a mistake or not getting a job, can often escalate to a sense of: Im useless, Nobodys ever going to want to hire me. Deal with the emotion without then having the second hit of self-criticism, says Gilbert.
The three to become familiar with are anger, anxiety and grief. Some stress may result from permanent life changes, says Gilbert: If you learn to deal with the big three, it helps you to come to terms with them.
Likewise, emotional avoidance is an established risk factor for poor mental health.
A recent UK-wide study of health and social care workers, exploring the toll of working through the pandemic, found that those who had positive coping strategies had higher levels of mental wellbeing, a better quality of working life and lower rates of burnout. There was an especially strong association for active coping: applying your available internal resources to controlling a stressor.
Those who reached for negative coping strategies had poorer outcomes, says Paula McFadden, the studys principal investigator and a senior lecturer in social work at Ulster University. Things like venting can be therapeutic for people but if its ongoing, it also contributes to wellbeing decline.
The study also revealed an association between burnout and self-blame: Thats an unusual one in a pandemic, with it being out of our control.
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How People Get Tricked
People’s natural instincts to protect themselves are what lead them to get tricked. See if you recognize your responses in these examples below.
A person with Panic Disorder gets tricked into holding her breath and fleeing the store , rather than shifting to Belly Breathing. and staying there until the feelings pass.
A person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder gets tricked into trying to stop the unwanted “what if?” thoughts, rather than accepting them and taking care of present business as thoughts come and go.
A person with Social Phobia gets tricked into avoiding the party, or hiding in the corner if he attends, rather than say hello to a stranger and see what happens.
A person with OCD gets tricked into repeatedly washing his hands, or returning home to check the stove, rather than accepting the intrusive thoughts of contamination and fire and returning his energies to the present activities at hand.
A person with a dog phobia gets tricked into avoiding the feelings by avoiding all dogs, rather than spending time with a dog until the feelings pass.
Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse
When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.
Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.
But what can you do to help anxious people?
While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.
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