Stress and the Holidays

Stress and the Holidays– A successful businesswoman, who is herself a mother, is returning to her family’s home to have Christmas with her grandparents and her brother and wonders how she might improve the quality of that holiday experience. Her mother is someone who obsesses about all of the details involved in the holidays, she takes hours wrapping presents, and …

Exercise and Stress – How Exercise Prevents Depression

Exercise seems to reduce stress. But how does this work? And what about exercise effects on depression? An article in the New York Times summarizes a recent publication in the journal Cell which may explain how exercise prevents depression. A wealth of research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of depression. A very large study in Britain, for example, suggested that …

Accepting Uncertainty

We are often trapped more by what we think about how things should be, or “have to be,” than by the reality of the challenges we face.  This week I have been noticing how often the phrase “I can’t stand.XX” precedes a statement that is quite obviously not true.  Someone who has been living with the uncertainty of multiple sclerosis for …

Stress and Trauma as Risk Factors for Bipolar

I have long been interested in the relationship between traumatic experiences and bipolar disorder. A couple of years ago I gave a presentation at the University of California, San Francisco, Bipolar Disorder Clinic on the topic. I got interested in the issue because I noticed how many of the women in my clinic with bipolar disorder also had childhood PTSD. …

Befriending Stress

A colleague recommended this fantastic TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on the cardiovascular and social benefits of befriending stress (and potentially other negative emotions) as opposed to fearing these types of feelings. Kelly offers a fascinating perspective on oxytocin as a stress hormone that serves as a mechanism for resilience, helping people connect with others in times of challenge. Kelly …

Reduce Your Social Stress

Regular readers of this blog know that I really like the writings of Rick Hanson (he has a wonderful email list called “Just One Thing” and a new book that is an excellent resource for personal transformation called Hardwiring Happiness). For the last couple of months, however, his posts have seemed a bit repetitive. Just in time for the New …

Exercise or Inactivity Changes Your Brain’s Structure and Its Resilience to Stress

This past year has been a remarkable year in terms of new studies examining the effects of exercise on your brain. Everyone knows, of course, that exercise is good for you. But these studies together provide compelling evidence that exercise (and inactivity) profoundly change the structure and function of your brain. One set of studies has shown that exercise profoundly …

The Trap of Stress Disability

The other day I was asked to evaluate a fellow physician by his disability insurance company.  When I do disability assessments I take particular care, because what I say has big implications for the person I am evaluating, and I try very hard to do an extremely careful and thorough job of assessing the person’s situation. Three quarters of the …

Was James Bond a Lush?

Always in search of the latest cutting edge medical knowledge, we happened across a fascinating research article in the December 2013 British Medical Journal that asks the question – “Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol induced tremor?” Before going any further and looking at the research methods and conclusions, we have to warn readers that this may be …

Food, Mood and Cognition

We recently got a useful update on this topic from one of the clinicians who works with us at Gateway Psychiatric. She had attended a seminary of the same title from the Institute for Natural Resources. Inflammation can be associated with poor diet for example, high consumption of sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup and high saturated fat intake. Chronic …

Experience a Sense of Plenty

Nothing can seem more urgent, important, and real than the sense that there is not enough for us. Not enough love. Not enough food. The sense of scarcity may not even connect to any clear sense of what is missing. But that doesn’t take away its power. Regular readers of this blog know that we appreciate the insights of Rick …

Depression and Inflammation

Recently there has been increasing interest in the relationship between depression and chronic overactivity of the body’s biological defense system – inflammation. When we have an infection, or an injury, or almost any other kind of illness, the body activates a series of processes designed to respond to the threat. Unfortunately, the inflammation system, especially if it is turned on …

Child Abuse Update

Twenty years ago the National Research Council (NRC) issued a comprehensive report on child abuse. That report noted that child abuse was much more common than previously thought and called for urgent action. This past week the NRC and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released an update: New Directions in Child Abuse Research. The good news – physical and sexual …

Hormones and Food

In an earlier post we talked about some of the research on appetite. We reviewed some of the peptide hormones that regulate appetite and how the entire system that controls appetite is really designed to cope better with a time of scarcity than a time of plenty. Here I want to talk more specifically about the interplay between other hormone …