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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Too smart for our own good? How we perpetuate stress and how to change!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 26th 2008

man pulling out his hairAnyone who turned on the news this morning was bombarded with headline after headline screaming of a doomed financial crisis. As a Psychologist and stress management consultant and someone who is aware that our News corporations are also a business vying for your attention, I say, listen to the news, but I caution you to take these headlines in small bites rather than getting drawn in for too long at a time.

Let me dig a bit into how we have potentially become too smart for our own good. Robert Sapolsky out of Stanford University wrote a book a while back called Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He explains that a stress response is normal in allowing us to get out of dangerous situations. For example, a zebra may sense danger, the stress response occurs allowing for blood flow to race to the muscles for action, and the zebra fights or flees. When the danger has passed, the stress immediately goes away, it does not last. This is not so in humans, we have the gift of a beautiful imagination and therefore can perpetuate and amplify this danger in our mind so it sticks around much longer. 

As humans, we get stressed when we feel like:

  • We have no control over what's happening

  • We are not getting any predictive information

  • We have no outlets for frustration

  • We interpret things getting worse

  • We lack adequate social support

In the current financial crisis of this country, we may be feeling many of these things, so our stress may be amplified. The good news is if our minds are so powerful that we can perpetuate our own stress, with the right tools and education, they are powerful enough to be able to put it in perspective and reduce our stress.

So, what can we do?

  • Thoughtful reflection on control - Take time, make a list if you desire to get clear on what you can control and what you can't control . While we may not be able to control how the government manages this financial crisis, there are things in life we do have control over, so begin to hone your attention on those things and be aware when you are trying to control the things you cannot.

  • Implement a stress-reducing activity - No one activity is best for everybody. Find out what works for you. Things that have worked for others in the past have been a regular exercise practice, learning meditation, thoughtful reflection, and making sure even as an adult you get to go out and play regularly. The key here is to make this practice a regular practice, that is when you realize the benefits.  

  • Make social connections - having social support is very important to stress levels. Be sure to connect with people on the phone, in person, or even online.

As always, share what is stress-reducing for you during this time, or feel free to comment on this article in general. You have wisdom in you on this topic and sharing it may help others as well.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Good point - - Nov 7th 2008

    Totally agree with you on being too smart for our own good. There's some things I wish I wouldn't know that make my life just that much more stressful. Good tips on controlling the stress. Anything that keeps your mind off of the subject helps you take rest, while social support will help you get another fresh perspective on the subject, whatever it may be.

    Nice Article - - Sep 29th 2008
    Well written. Though I knew everything that was said...

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