Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

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Feeling Jealous, Stressed or Moody? Get over it! Or You Might be at Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

1.26.15

A recent study from Sweden published in the scientific journal, Neurology, provides evidence of a link between certain personality traits and risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists followed 800 middle-aged women for about 40 years and measured their self-reported personality traits and stress levels. They found that a perfect storm of anxiety, jealous tendencies, moodiness and prolonged stress appears to be associated with doubling the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

What’s the connection? Remember how anxiety and stress affect our thinking? The researchers in this study suggest that our personality, thoughts and behaviors dictate our lifestyle choices and how we manage stress. Anxiety and stress affect the hippocampus, that important little structure in our brains that’s responsible for memory, and also happens to be an early target of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

How do you change your personality or  stress level?   You can work with a psychologist to help you better understand your personality, how it affects your health, and to develop stronger coping strategies. You can also check out these stress management tips!

Anxiety

Stress Reduction

Stress Reduction Tip #1

 

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease:

USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Video: What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

 

Stress Reduction Tip #2: Breathing

10.25.13

Who knew that something so simple could reduce stress?!

 

Yes, we are talking about breathing. Let’s face it, many of us Menopaused Minds are so frazzled because we’re often carrying a lot of stress around with us. Not only is stress unpleasant, but it can really take a toll on our bodies and minds. In fact, recent research has found that high levels of stress in middle age can increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. From the ordinary daily stressors (managing your hectic schedule, refereeing kid’s fights, work demands, etc.) to life’s whoppers (aging parents, divorce, unemployment, etc.), being stressed has become the new normal for so many of us. The great news is that we are doing something every day, every minute, without even thinking, that can help moderate your body’s response to life’s challenges.

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Breathing has been scientifically proven to be an effective stress reducer. But not just any breathing, we’re talking about deep breathing. Why is that? Our bodies’ stress responses are hardwired physiological reactions that served to protect us back in the early days of humans. Stress is what told us that we were in danger–usually in danger of not having enough food or the danger in becoming something else’s food. The body has two opposing systems that regulate our basic bodily functions (like breathing, organ function, etc.): sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When we’re in danger, the sympathetic nervous systems kicks in and we go into fight/flight/freeze mode to survive. Our hearts race, certain “non-essential” organ systems shut down  and blood rushes to our muscles in preparation to run away. Once the danger is no longer a threat, our parasympathetic system starts up and basically calms the body down, slows our heart rate, cues the shutdown systems to go back online, etc.

 

The fight/flight/freeze mode was okay when it was short lived – when we needed it because we were being chased by a lion. The problem is that now our stress tends to be more chronic. So, we end up being stuck with our sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. Our body gets tired and glitchy. We get sick more, our energy drops, we’re more irritable, and we even have a harder time losing weight, either from eating more to cope with stress or due to the body holding onto fat b/c of the perceived threat to survival!

 

So, how is breathing going to help? When we engage in deep, slow breathing, we actually cue our parasympathetic system that we’re not in life threatening danger and we can chill out.  Your breathing is strongly tied to our heart rate. Ever notice how when you get worked up about something, either fear or anger, your heart rate picks up, and your breathing becomes faster. So, deep breathing helps slow down the heart, muscle tension eases, pain can even decrease, blood pressure goes down, and mental alertness increases, and even the pH of our blood changes. The amazing thing about all of this is that you can get results even with doing as little as 3 or 5 minutes of deep breathing!

 

Want to try it?

Here’s a very basic example of a 3 minute breathing practice :

(adapted from Breathing, Stretching, Relaxing Program, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System–yes, veterans are doing this and they love it!)

 

Sit upright and gently maintain a natural spine alignment with your hands resting comfortably on your lap.

 

Either close your eyes or gaze at something on the wall or floor.

 

Breathe normally and just notice your breath. Notice how the air feels sweeping into and out of your nose. Notice how your body moves with each breath. Notice the pace of your breath, the length of each inhale and exhale. Your mind might wander. If it does, just bring your attention back to your breath.

 

Start to breath more deeply, from deep down in your abdomen. Count your inhale and exhale length and try to get them to match. Once they’re in sync, try breathing this way three times.

 

The key to stimulating that parasympathic response is to spend some time breathing out longer than you breath in. For example, you can practice by counting your breath rate, say 1, 2, 3, 4 in, and 1, 2, 3, 4 out, a few times. Then do 1, 2, 3, 4, in, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 out, a few times. You can work your way up to a count of 8 out and then back down to 4.

 

Here are more resources on breathing exercises and guided practices:

UCLA Mindfulness Research Center
Dr. Weil Guided Breathing Exercises
6 Breathing Exercises to Relax  in 10 min or Less (TIME)

 

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Stress Reduction Tip #1: It’s the Thoughts (& Actions) That Count With Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

5.18.12

Our first stress reduction tip is brought to us by Daryaneh Badaly, a doctoral student, psychotherapist, and researcher at the University of Southern California (USC). She has worked in the Departments of Psychology and Neurology at USC, as well as at the Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital in Los Angeles, California.


Does this scenario sound familiar?

 

“Hi, Carrie. Were you able to finish Mr. McGuire’s report? The doctors need it for feedback.”

 

Oh my gosh! Was I supposed to be working on the McGuire report?!? I haven’t even finished with last week’s reports.

I’m too slow, I should be faster. I’ll bet that if I were younger I’d be sharper, quicker, and more able to focus. I don’t even know where I put the McGuire test results. Did I even test McGuire? I can’t even remember McGuire! If I say that I don’t remember testing McGuire, the doctor will just think I have finally lost it. He’ll stop referring patients to me and start complaining about me to the other doctors. And, then, gradually I’ll lose my practice.  Then, I’ll have to dip into the college fund to pay the mortgage. It’ll be my fault that the kids can’t go to college.  Argh!! I should have been putting more money in the college fund. I fail at being a mother.


“I don’t have those results. Are you sure that I tested McGuire?”

 

“Oh, you’re right. You don’t test him until next week.”

 

Carrie’s benign encounter with a co-worker stressed her out.  When her heart finally stopped racing, she felt exhausted and drained so (naturally) she dug out that bag of mini Snickers bars.

 

When watching someone else, it’s easy to see how anxiety is truly in the eye of the beholder. It’s not necessarily an event or a situation that causes anxiety, but rather our perception of the event – our thoughts and feelings that the event triggers.  Stress and anxiety are most often the product of us “should-ing” all over ourselves. Thinking that you should be working harder, doing better, or looking better can add up overtime resulting in high (and potentially fatal) levels of stress.  Of course, we need to learn to manage our stress. But how do we do it?  How do we turn off those worries when the hot flashes wake you up at 4am?

 

Through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you can learn tools and techniques to help you manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Although this can be done on your own, most people benefit from working with a therapist who can take an objective view of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If a therapist isn’t an option, chat it out with a friend (but keep in mind this won’t be totally objective). Many research studies have shown that CBT can effectively reduce stress, as well as anxiety, depression, and even menopause symptoms.

 

So, what’s CBT… really?


 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is one approach to stress reduction. It focuses on the interaction between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The great thing about CBT is that making a change in any one of these three areas can elicit changes in the others. For example, changing the way you think about a situation can change how your feel and behave in that situation or others like it. When Carrie began thinking that she’s a bad mother, she could stop herself and reevaluate this thought. Is this really true? Isn’t there proof that she’s not a terrible mother? This can make her feel less anxious or disappointed in herself. It could also lead her to figure out a different way to manage her time. Changing a behavior, like Carrie taking a walk instead of downing that chocolate, could lead to more positive emotions and feelings about herself, especially since exercise can help your mood improve. Then her thoughts become less negative, and so on.

 

CBT is a form of psychotherapy, BUT it’s not like psychoanalysis, which can take years involves digging around into negative childhood experiences. CBT is different…

 

It’s usually limited to 12 to 16 sessions.

 

It’s goal-oriented and problem-focused, and emphasizes learning a variety of new skills.

 

Sessions are structured, and homework assignments are given between sessions so skills can be practiced in real-world situations.

 

 

The CBT approach typically focuses on teaching you how to:

 

Identify troubling situations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In treatment, Carrie might be asked to log each time during the day during which she felt stressed, note where she was and what she was doing at the time, and record her thoughts. (You can use your handy spiral notebook for this!).

 

Manage your thoughts. Techniques such as “thought stopping” and “thought substitution” can help to keep negative thoughts from spiraling out-of-control.

 

Reevaluate the probability of a negative event actually happening. Carrie’s therapist might ask her to her to review the probability that doctors would stop referring patients to her.

 

Put things into perspective. Carrie’s therapist might also ask: “So what would happen if you had to cut back your practice?” Yes, this sounds scary but deep down, do you think you can survive this? Our bet is that the answer is yes.

 

Engage in relaxation techniques. For example, deep breathing exercises can dramatically diminish the physical side effects of stress (e.g., headaches and heart racing). Or, by taking a short walk after her encounter at work, Carrie might have been able to avoid those Snickers bars.

 

Reward yourself.


How do you find a therapist who offers CBT?


Finding a therapist can sometimes be tricky and may require some detective work on your part. A good place to start is asking for a referral from your primary care physician or specialist. This is probably the most common approach to therapist hunting, but keep in mind that your physician may just have a name of someone s/he met at a cocktail party, so there’s no quality guarantee here. Personal recommendations are probably better. Then there’s always your health insurance provider list, which will take some trial and error to find a good match for you, but it’s not impossible. Once you get a name, do some research. A simple Google search can get you a therapists training history. Once you make contact, ask about the therapist’s general therapeutic approach and if s/he does CBT. (We’ll have a post coming up with more tips on finding a therapist, so stay tuned!)

 

Read more about cognitive-behavioral therapy:


Online:

Mayo Clinic: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

These resources are designed to provide background on what cognitive-behavioral therapy is, whom the treatment might be helpful for, and what you might expect from therapy sessions.


In Print:

The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky


Both of these books can be used alone or in conjunction with psychotherapy. They provide clear instructions for identifying and tracking your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, changing the thoughts that contribute to problems, and taking action to improve daily living and relationships.


Memory Tip #3: Get Organized!

12.8.11
For over a decade our friend, Linda Wallace, has been designing interiors for Southern California homes. We invited Linda to provide some insight into how to organize your surroundings to maximize your menopaused memory, while also keeping things pretty.
–MM

Are you a basket case when you lose things?  Do you find yourself feeling scattered because, well, things are scattered? Women don’t have to be “of a certain age” to constantly feel forgetful.  Do you have young kids?  Stress in the workplace? Both? If you’d like some semblance of organization in your home without breaking the bank for an “organizer” – read on!


The simplest solution to this common scenario is to follow these key organizational rules:

 

Keep essentials visible. If you can see it, you’ll remember where you put it.

 

Keep essentials in the same place, every time. You won’t waste time and precious brain cells searching for your things.

 

Keep your essentials displayed attractively. You’ll be more likely to keep things in the same place if you like the way these places look.

 

Keeping things visible without leaving your home a total eyesore requires some design know-how. There are a lot of “get organized” and “great storage ideas” books out there, but they’re usually too long and pretty dry.  Put your feet up to read them and you’re out like a light!  Let’s face it, those books are for energetic, young brains. My tips are for women like me:  the “menopausally” challenged who need their clutter to be out in the open where they can find it – yet attractively displayed.   If that’s you, too, keep reading (but don’t put your feet up)!

 

Let’s get things out in the open and make them look pretty!


ORGANIZING THINGS THAT MOVE AROUND THE HOUSE


KEYS: Create drop-off locations at each main entry and exit to your home.  Why two?  Because, if you come in one way, the chances that you’ll walk all the way to the other entrance without setting the keys down somewhere along the way are pretty slim. Avoid misplaced keys by only keeping them in these two locations.  Use a decorative bowls or baskets on entry tables or near back door entrances. I prefer baskets or bowls over key hooks because my hands are usually full when I’m coming in the house.  It’s much easier to drop than hang.

 

GLASSES: Don’t even try to keep track of your readers.  It’s a waste of time.  Reading glasses have become quite affordable (you can buy them at the 99 Cent store!) making it easier to buy them in bulk.  I keep a pair in the following locations: television room, bedside table, laundry room (who can read those tags?!), kitchen, car, purse, outside patio, garage.

 

 

Bonus Tip (Greeting Cards): Off to a party, running late and no birthday card?   Think you bought one, but where did you put it?  Keep all greeting and thank you cards in an antique tin box or a lidded basket.  I make sure there’s a pen in there, too…and maybe another pair of reading glasses!  Remember, just like in decorating-group ‘like items’ together in one place.

 

 

ORGANIZING JEWELRY


RINGS: Place a small, porcelain dish in up to 3 locations (depending on your habits): by the kitchen sink, bathroom lavatory, and next to your bed.

 

PINS: Know that woman who always dons cool pins and you think, Why didn’t I think to wear a pin? Probably because it was buried in a drawer and you couldn’t see it.  Out of sight, out of mind! An inexpensive and fun way to avoid that is pinning them on a long ribbon and hanging it where you get dressed.  Tie the ribbon on a decorative hook or tack it right to the wall or a shelf.

 

 

 

 


BRACELETS & NECKLACES: I don’t think there is anything prettier than interesting bowls full of chunky jewelry set out on your vanity or dresser.  I use silver, porcelain or wicker containers.  As colorful as flowers, but much less maintenance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORGANIZING THE HOME OFFICE


BULLETIN BOARDS: Whether for appointments or invitations, they are a must! There are a jillion places to purchase nice ones.  I like Ballard Designs or Pottery Barn.  Or make a fabric-covered one yourself. (yeah, right).  And please – no dry erase boards.  They’re ugly and those pens stink.


 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITING IMPLEMENTS & MISCELLANEOUS SUPPLIES: Display pens, pencils, and other office tools in a collection of decorative vases or those ceramic pieces your kid made in the first grade that you just can’t throw away.  It’s better than digging through drawers.


 

 

MAGAZINES: Yes, that pile of magazines by your bed that you haven’t had time to read?  Please put those in a nice, big basket.  Attractive and you won’t slip on them getting out of bed at night.  Much cheaper than a new hip.



Bonus Tip (Magazine/Catalog Clippings): Use magazine holders to store catalogs you may “need” in the future; pages you tear out of magazines, take-out menus, travel brochures – hide anything in these you’ll never take the time to file.  They look tidy and attractive on shelves. Magazine holders can be grossly overpriced, so I get mine at IKEA.


 

 

 

ORGANIZING THE KITCHEN


“HOUSEHOLD” DRAWER: OK,  I lied.  Some things should be out of sight.  Growing up we called it the “junk drawer”.   Small household tools, tape – you know the stuff.  Buy cheap drawer dividers and throw it all in there!  At least it’s in one place and make sure to keep it all there!


COUNTER TOP CLUTTER: Out in the open on the counter is fine, but only if they look nice.  Maybe it’s a designer thing, but containers do help the cluttered house/cluttered mind syndrome.  Put those unsightly vitamin bottles in a fun basket so you remember to take them but don’t constantly knock them over.  Fill a vintage flowerpot with those “grab & go” snack bars that are keeping you so thin.



 

 

ORGANIZING BEFORE LIGHTS OUT


Already in bed and don’t feel like getting up?  By your bed, in yet another pretty box, basket or tray, keep your reading glasses, lip balm, hand lotion, pen and a small notepad for the “to do list” you fret over in the middle of the night when you are undoubtedly wide awake!


 

SO… now that your home is beautifully contained and clutter free, you have time to search for the answers to life, not your car keys.  Happy organizing!


–Linda Wallace, Divine Finds Interiors

Memory Tip #2 Keep a Log of the Day

11.25.11

If you’re mind is gone, than you’ll need to find a substitute…and we’ve got one just for you!


Step 1: Get yourself a spiral bound notebook. Try to find one that fits in your bag or purse. (See below for suggestions)


Step 2: Open the first page of the notebook and write down today’s date.


Step 3: Log everything that happens. Note every phone call, every meeting, every conversation, every thought. Don’t answer the phone without a pen and your notebook in hand. Don’t grab for a sticky or a random piece of paper, you’ll just end up losing these. Write everything in your notebook even if it’s just a scribble.


Step 4: At the end of the day review your notes:

a) Put events on your calendar with address and directions

b) Add contacts to your iphone

c) Turn to a fresh page, put the next day’s date at the top and create a “To Do”  list

 

Sample Log of the Day:

 

Finding the Right Notebook:

You’ll be using this notebook everyday so it helps to choose one that will withstand some wear & tear and one that you enjoy using, be it because of the paper quality, utility features (e.g. pockets), or simply because it’s pretty. Here are some suggestions:


 

Project Planner: This is a notebook with your typical lined pages, but with added sections for lists.

Cambridge Project Planner Notebook, $9.99, Staples.

 

 

Pretty Notebooks: If you like looking at something, chances are you’ll use it more than if you don’t. There are so many pretty notebooks available these days, there’s no need to settle for those boring notebooks from elementary school are a thing of the past.


Jonathan Adler Notebooks with Pockets, $9.99, Barnes & Noble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vera Bradley Notebooks with Pockets, $10-16.

 

 

 

 

For a fun twist on an old classic, these notebooks are made from vintage books, including novels, text books, and children’s books. Ex Libris Anonymous, $14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notebooks with Pen Holders: Don’t waste time searching through your black hole of a bag for a pen. Get a notebook with a pen already attached. Or you can buy pockets and pen holders for the notebooks you already own. Page Pockets & Pen Loop, $3.99-4.99, The Container Store.

 

 


We Are Women, Hear Us Celebrate: International Women’s Day March 8th

3.8.11

It’s International Women’s Day!  Every year on March 8th, the UN celebrates women around the world with events to honor their economic, political and social achievements. This is actually the 100th year the world has celebrated women on this day! This year’s theme: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women. Cheers to that!


Events are happening all over the world throughout March, including 258 in the US! Check out the official site for event details, the holiday’s history, and ways you can get involved.