Thursday, November 6, 2008


We hear a lot about change these days. Changes in politics and changes in the economy are suddenly upon us. Some of these changes are likely to bring on even more change in the coming months as their effects spread down to families and individuals. And although change is sometimes a good thing, change is almost always experienced as stress.

In the 1970's, a list of common stressors was developed to help measure the relationship between stress and illness.

Change can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, sleep problems, substance abuse and over time is associated with a great number of other health related problems. The stress of change also often leads to people returning to old, unhealthy habits or behaviors as they struggle to cope. Denial, procrastination, anger, blaming or just shutting down are some common ways people try to deal with change but as you can probably guess, these typically only make things worse.

If you are struggling with change, that's great! Change is a fact of life and the struggle only shows you're human. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the change it may be time to talk to someone about healthier ways of adapting to the change. Eventually you can learn to not only cope better with change but to actually get excited about the possibility of change in your life!

Healthy living to you! Dr. B.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Election Stress

Many of my patients are reporting an increase in the symptoms of anxiety as election day nears. In the "old, old days" entire towns would have to gather around the town crier to hear the news about who had been elected...sometimes getting the word only days or even weeks after the elections had been held.

These days its more likely you're simultaneously listening to the television and scanning the dozens of major blog sites focusing on the election, frantically trying to predict what your favorite candidate's electoral college tally is based on the latest polling results from MSNBC.

While the outcome of this election is certainly important, some folks just don't know when to stop and begin to develop symptoms of what could be called "election hysteria". If you notice yourself checking the news or blogs first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to sleep, increased restlessness, lack of appetite or increased junk food binges, decreased patience, increased frustration, and a tendency to move all conversations into a discussion about the election, you may be letting this get out of hand.

To better cope with all of this uncertainty try limiting yourself to only a few websites visits or a few minutes a day of listening to the news. Get outside and enjoy a walk in the woods or go to a movie. Make an effort not to talk about the election. Just exercise a little personal discipline and focus on something else.

Extreme anxiety about the outcome of an election is similar to any other type of anxiety in that it often involves a belief that the world is a dangerous place and you lack the resources to cope. The best way to cope is usually by replacing impotent worry with action. Don't be just a passive observer of the political scene, get involved in local political or community organizations and turn concern into action.

After all, no matter how the election turns out, someone is likely to be disappointed and getting and staying active in something you believe in is also a great way to help protect against the next thing that often happens to people after an election is over...the post-election blues, even if your candidate is the winner. Healthy living! Dr. B.

The Changing Seasons and Feeling SAD

It's Fall again, the leaves are changing, the days are getting shorter and we're getting close to turning back our clocks. This has been the longest period of Daylight Saving Time in history, and its been something of a blessing to have a few extra weeks of lengthened daylight time in which to move around. But when the change over to regular time happens this weekend many people will start to notice an old familiar feeling returning...depression. Mood swings are sometimes linked to changes in the season and the depression that often starts this time of year even has its own name...Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The symptoms of SAD are very similar to other types of depression:

1. Feeling sad or depressed
2. Lack of energy
3. Feeling more tired or less well-rested than normal
4. Weight gain (often accompanied with cravings for sweets or other carbohydrates)

People living in more Northerly latitudes of the country seem to suffer somewhat more as do some ethnic groups. Younger persons and women also seem to be at a greater risk of developing SAD.

The good news is that SAD is treatable. A combination of psychotherapy and light therapy and in severe cases possibly antidepressant medication can be very effective at reducing the symptoms of SAD.

So don't feel you "just have to live with" your Fall/Winter blues, you may be suffering from SAD and there's something that can be done about it besides just waiting to feel better again in the Spring!