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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Stress

In Elemental. More on Medium.

You aren’t lazy. You are suffering the aftershocks of pandemic stress.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

There’s a kind of pleasant fatigue that comes from a day of physical activity — hiking, biking, swimming, running. But this? This isn’t it. You feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed. The heaviness of your limbs is only second to a heaviness of mind, a feeling of alienation, of isolation. You might say you are tired, but in truth, you feel utterly drained; everything is an effort, a drag.

Usually, this cluster of symptoms would be diagnosed as burnout, and a regimen of self-care recommended: take some time off, stay home for a few days, do something nice for…


The Nuance

‘Respiratory discipline’ can activate your most potent anti-stress system

Photo: Lorenzo Fattò Offidani/Unsplash

Your body reacts to stress in a number of well-mapped ways. Heart rate and blood pressure speed up, muscles tense, digestion slows, and breathing becomes clipped and rapid.

All of this happens because your brain has registered the presence of some sort of threat. Whether physical or psychological, this threat triggers a trickle (or a gush) of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and other stress-related hormones. These chemical messengers shift the activity of your nervous and immune systems in ways that are meant to help you either flee from danger or weather some kind of ordeal or confrontation.

None of this tends to…


Why does tea calm our nerves?

Photo: Loverna Journey/Unsplash

You’ve had a terrible day. The car wouldn’t start and you walked to the bus stop in pouring rain; you spilled coffee on your trousers; your boss was a pain; your deadline is late. You’ve finally dragged yourself home, damp and deflated, and all you want is a cup of tea to calm your nerves and soothe the day away. It works! But — why does it?

We have been using tea of one kind or another for thousands of years, but green (and black) tea originate in China. Tea has been found in tombs dating as far back as…


It’s time to work less; your life may depend on it

Photo: Marten Bjork/Unsplash

Work too much? Need an excuse to put in fewer hours? Feel free to wave this new study under the nose of your boss: Working too many hours causes physical and mental stress that killed 745,194 people before their time in a single year around the globe, due to heart disease and strokes.

The analysis, the first analysis of its kind, was done by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization and was published May 17 in the journal Environment International. …


A therapist explains how to distinguish between the two

Person in a dark background with a cobalt blue light on their face, looking despondently at the camera.
Person in a dark background with a cobalt blue light on their face, looking despondently at the camera.
Image: Kyle Cleveland/Unsplash

I was eight years old when the wrecking ball of doom came a-swinging. One minute I was riding my Huffy Sweet Thunder down the road, speed lifting my pigtails, adrenaline twisting the handlebars as I launched off the curb, bravado daring me to let go, as if to say, “Hell ya, I’m omnipotent.” And the next moment, invincibility took a digger. I landed with a face full of dirt and a mouthful of blood, heart on fire, trembling like a newborn in the cold, drenched as if I had just gone swimming. …


The connection between mind, body, posture, and stress

Image: Alexander Jawfox/Unsplash

If you’ve ever endured a nerve-racking situation followed by a throbbing noggin, it wouldn’t seem far-fetched to connect one with the other. Nearly one in four adults reports experiencing multiple headaches every year in the United States. The World Health Organization estimates 50% of all adults have at least one headache annually. Though there are over 150 types of headaches, tension headaches are the most common and often triggered by stress. Yet while doctors might agree the two can be linked, they still don’t understand exactly how.

Brian Cole, MD, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush…


Pandemic Reflections

There are several things I don’t want to let go of

Photo: Andy Andrews/Getty Images

I feel scared about the pandemic ending. That feels wrong to write, in light of all the loss, pain, and misery people have endured over the past year. My family and I are extremely lucky, fortunate, and privileged: Our kids go to school part-time, my parents and in-laws are vaccinated, and the husband and I can easily work from home. I’m in an industry that doesn’t qualify as “essential.”

My last professional outing was exactly a year ago: the Hot Pod Summit, where my fellow podcasters and I nervously giggled as we greeted each other with elbow bumps and then…


Your brain responds to stress differently when you’re by yourself

Credit: Justin Paget / Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

This week’s issue is a preview from a series of stories I’m working on called “Your Poor Pandemic Brain” to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. going into lockdown and what it’s done to our mental health. …


Understanding sympathetic dominance

A sign with the text “Racism is a pandemic”
A sign with the text “Racism is a pandemic”
Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash

My hands trembled at the steering wheel. Going 20 miles per hour over the national speed limit in my patched-up Renault Megane (a French car, for those not familiar) and pushing it to its structural and engineering limits, I struggled to compose myself on the drive back home from the North of England.

“Too urban? I sounded too urban?” The words kept replaying over and over again in my overwrought mind. “What could that even mean?” I mumbled the question to myself, but I knew exactly what it meant.

I’ll be the first to openly admit I’m not the most…


“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. “Everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer,’” sings Andy Williams in his 1963 holiday tune. But this holiday season, it might take a little more than a nostalgic song to get into the holiday spirit. For some people, that might be a mug of eggnog or a glass or two of wine. There’s a widespread assumption that alcohol cheers you up and reduces stress. And while it’s true that alcohol is an anesthetic and can blunt the brain and body’s response…

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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