How to activate your own Placebo to reduce Stress & Anxiety

In uncertain times we all need help to calm our fears so that our bodies are not flooded with stress hormones & neurochemicals.  

A placebo is NOT imaginary but creates biological changes in the brain that actually ease our symptoms and are very similar to the biological changes when we take drugs.

There are many DOCUMENTED placebo effects, depending on what we think a treatment is going to do for us. Examples:

  • Fake painkillerscause the release of natural painkillers in the brain called endorphinsand work through the same biochemical pathway that an opiod painkiller would work through.
  • A Parkinson’s patient takes a placebo they think is their Parkinson’s drug, they get a flood ofdopaminein the brain, which is exactly what you would see with the real drug.
  • Altitude sickness – someone at altitude inhales fake oxygen, there’s a reduction in prostaglandinswhich actually work to dilate blood vessels that cause many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Some explanations for the placebo effect 

Stress and anxiety— if we feel that we are in danger or under threat, the brain raises its sensitivity to symptoms like pain. Whereas, if we feel safe and cared for and things are going to get better soon, we relax and are not so alert to symptoms.

Physiological mechanisms like conditioning*   We can all be conditioned to have physiological responses to a stimulus, even immune responses. For example, take a pill that suppresses your immune system and on another occasion take a similar looking placebo pill, with no active drug, your body will mimic same immune response. Astonishingly, it doesn’t even matter if you know it’s a placebo.

Stress can rewire the brain — and create more stress

Like a muscle, the more you exercise any part the stronger it gets.

Brains are shaped by our thoughts and behaviors. Research shows your brain structure, neurochemical and electrical activity responds to and reflects how you think throughout your life.   For example: If you play a musical instrument, speak a second language, train for athletics for eight hours a day – the parts of your brain responsible for performing those activities gets more active and larger. 

If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day parts of the brain involved in the stress response get larger and other parts of the brain actually deteriorate.  Consequently, the very brain circuits we need to counter stress no longer work as well as they should.  

It’s not as simple as saying, “I’m going to change how I think now. I’m not feeling stressed.” It takes a long time to change your brain. 

In the middle of your face – your personal placebo “pill”

When stressed, the brain influences your body AND the body influences your brain.  The stress response speeds up your breathing to pump more oxygen when your brain perceives danger, either real or imaginary.  If you deliberately speed up your breathing when not stressed you’ll start to feel more aroused and on edge.  The opposite is true: Slow your breathing down, forcing your body into a more relaxed state.  Your brain responds with more calming thoughts and feelings.

Condition your own calming response using your breath . . . salivating optional.

Click below to read two ways to slow your breathing down:

Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity

Control your Anxiety: Easy, Fast, Effective and Square

* Ivan Pavlov, a physiologist, conditioned dogs so that whenever he gave them food he made a noise, like ring a bell.  Eventually the dogs associated the bell with their food and they would salivatejust to the sound of the bell.

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/

A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant, PhD. in genetics and medical microbiology

How to reduce fear & anxiety in 30 seconds

Affect labeling—the act of naming one’s emotional state—helps blunt the immediate impact of negative feelings and begin the process of reducing stress.

Ina small study* of 30 subjects, researchers conducted a series of brain-imaging experiments in which participants were shown frightening faces and asked to choose a word that described the emotion on display. Labeling the fear-inducing object appeared to:

  • Reduce activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain in which the fight or flight reflex originates.
  • Increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which is associated with vigilance and symbolic processing.
  • The brain’s perception of the images shifted from objects of fear to subjects of scrutiny.
  • Experientially, the fact that there is a name for what you’re going through means that other people have experienced it as well, which makes an overwhelming emotion feel less isolating.

How to “Affect label” 

30 seconds . . . as long as you don’t count the 15 minutes of moving.

*The University of California, Los Angeles. Study led by psychology professor Matthew Lieberman,

https://qz.com/989060/reduce-stress-and-anxiety-with-a-pen-and-this-simple-neuroscience-backed-trick/

Decrease your Anxiety & Stress Increasing Immunity

Diaphragmatic breathing is the best known and one of the most powerful breath exercises to reduce the stress response, get oxygen flowing to your brain and in your body.

If you’re constantly and chronically stressed out, sleep-deprived, malnourished, or dehydrated over time your immune function will weaken.

Longer, deeper breaths into your abdomen, slows your heart rate and activates the calming, parasympathetic nervous system. 

Inhale . . . . . . . . . . . Exhale. . . . . . .  by Judy

The most basic type of diaphragmatic breathing is done by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth.  However, exhaling through your nose allows you to do this in public places.

Here’s how:

  • Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.

  • Relax your shoulders.

  • To feel your diaphragm move as you breathe place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs on your stomach.

  • Take a slow, full breath in through your nose for about two seconds. Experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.

(your hand below your ribs moves in and out with each breath).

  • Press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds through your nose (or mouth) and tighten your diaphragm

(just like squeezing a lemon to get all the juice out)

  • The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible throughout.

Repeat these steps several times for best results.

It may take you a bit of effort at first to do this cuz it ain’t the usual way you breathe.

With continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing becomes easier, Easier, EASIER.

After you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing  . . . without using your hand.  

 

 

 

Control your Stress & Anxiety: 6 Ways to Meditate for People Who Can’t “Meditate”

Yay. Sure. 100%.  When I meditate it’s 50%-50% at best.  My monkey mind swings from trees with great abandon, my thoughts rambling, rumbling and wildly roaming.

So!  Why meditate?

Meditation has been rigorously scientifically studied and it’s shown to literally change the brain.  A regular meditation practice helps significantly with depression and anxiety, meditation has been shown to help with anti-aging, fighting infections, contributing to a sense of control and combating feelings of loneliness.

Nearly anything can be turned into a meditative practice as long as you focus on leaving your “head” and experience the world through your senses.(Sorry – Television, video games and reading don’t count as meditation because they simply replace our own thoughts with more stimulating ones.)

When the stress, thinking of “doing nothing” for 20 minutes, negates  benefits here’s 6 alternative forms of meditation:

(I’ve tried five of them- and they work.  You can guess which one I’ve ignored)

1.  Take a Musical Bath

Like a warm bath, sink into the melodies, soak in the harmonies, bath your body in the rhythms and Immerse yourself in sound.  It is a powerful and enjoyable form of meditation.
Get an album you’ve wanted to listen to for some time and listen to it… reallylisten, with no interruptions.

2. Dance When NO ONE Watches

Dancing is the natural progression from listening to music.  Many of us have had the horrible feeling of dancing while being stuck in self-conscious over thinking and paranoid about how we look.

Meditative dance is ignoring everything that is going on outside our own body and becoming one with the music.  Flay your arms, sway your hips, roll your eyes –  Let go of protecting your self image, have fun and even be silly. 

3. Draw with your eyes

Drawing is less about talent and more about learning to see.  Thinking actually can get in the way so that’s why this exercise is meditative.

(Don’t worry about what it’s going to look like, it’s the meditative process that counts not the Museum of Modern Art.)

By drawing without looking you use your sight perception to get out of your head- what you THINK it should look like – and be in the moment.

  1. Choose what to draw — a cup, your foot, a chair, it doesn’t matter.
  2. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes.
  3. Arrange yourself so you can see the object you will be drawing without seeing the paper.  Put your pencil through a paper plate so you can’t see your paper.
  4. Focus your eyes on some part of the object and coordinate your eye moving around the outline (contours) of the object with moving your pencil to record what your eyes observe.
  5. Without looking at your hand, your paper or your pencil focus only on the shape of an object.

    Do not look down at the paper as you SLOWLY move the pencil,  concentrating on the lines, and contours of the object as you let your pencil “flow” in time with your eyes.

  6. Continue observing and recording until the timer rings

Just like any meditation practice, this exercise can be difficult at first but will become easier as you learn to shift your thinking from an analytical, labeling mode to one that is more intuitive, MEDITATIVE.

4. Yoga

Not only is yoga incredible for flexibility, balance and strength, it’s also one of the oldest forms of meditation. You combining various movements with coordinated breathing to help focus on your inner body.

Watch yoga videos on YouYube, there’s hundreds to choose from – and practice them a few times a week.

Don’t get caught up with all the bells and whistles, yoga is about feeling connected to the earth and your inner body.  (The last time I checked your feet were already touching ground.)

5. Meditative Munching

Take advantage of one of the necessities of life – food – and the fact you do it every day . . . several times a day.  

Remember, the power of meditation comes with practicing full focus.  When your mind strays return to taste, texture, temperature.   Eating in front of the TV, in the car or standing over the sink only encourages the monkeys to leap around.

Eat slowly, savor each bite – focus on the textures, flavors, aromas and the temperature. (And while you’re chewing, feel grateful for each bite of nourishment.)

6. Restore with Chores

(We’ve gone from what I consider the most enjoyable – eating – to the least)

Chores can be meditative WHEN you focus solely on what your are doing.  Your monkey mind will try and take over to keep you entertained and stimulated.

Just as in all meditative practices keep refocusing your monkey mind on the task at hand: Washing dishes – focus on the temperature of water, seeing the pot become cleaner and cleaner;  Mowing the lawn – examine the cutting patterns, inhale the aroma of cut grass; Making the bed – notice the feel, color, wrinkles of sheets, the tension of folds, your hand motion . . .

(Personally, I’d rather monkey around.)

jw

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/6-alternative-forms-meditation-for-people-who-hate-doing-nothing.html