Chronic stress and its effects on the brain
I’m honored to be a longtime board member at the USC Davis School of Gerontology; the experience has been an ongoing education in the art of active aging. We get regular updates on research and developments, and I was intrigued to read a recent study on chronic stress and its effects on the brain.
We’ve known for years that chronic stress is linked to neurodegeneration (every bit as scary as it sounds), but now we know why. A USC study by Kelvin Davies revealed that stress — both physical and mental — can create over production of a protein (called RCAN1) in the brain that eventually leads to disease.
Replacing Stress with Energy
Whatever your greatest source of stress may be, one thing is clear: Eliminating stress and replacing it with energy is key to your physical and mental health.The issue of energy is a matter close to my heart, both professionally and personally. Professionally because the question, “How do I get more energy?” is on everyone’s mind. With my 60th birthday approaching, I get so much joy from having the energy to enjoy an active lifestyle. After 30 years in this business, my greatest pleasures in life are watching people transform their lives so they can go on hikes, walk and jog on the beach, dance, play tennis, travel, exercise, and live out their passions. While there’s no magic pill for this transformation, there are simple techniques that can take you from listless to energized and give you the ability to go out and play. It’s a lesson I learned at a young age.
When I was 17, living in Illinois, my Dad died of a heart attack. Two years later, as a college student in Hawaii, my Mom and Stepdad were killed in a plane crash. I was 19 years old, living in the chaos and confusion of the 1970s, completely alone. Needless to say, I felt confused and lost. I didn’t have the energy to go to class, or see my friends, or do much with my life in general.
But luckily, I did discover running. I started going on short jogs, and I noticed that, with practice and persistence, I felt significantly better afterward. This led to an interest in other forms of exercise, like strength training and yoga. Yoga was a life changer; it got me back on track and transformed my lifestyle. I was amazed at the result. My head was clear, I was focused, and I felt that spark of vitality. I discovered that what we do with our bodies affects our minds, our emotions, and our energy.
Want to see for yourself?
Try this quick, simple, restorative exercise below to let that positive, boundless energy back into your body. I call it the ‘Half Shoulderstand’:
Place a bolster lengthwise about a foot from a wall. To get into position, sit on the bolster with your left side toward the wall. Begin to lie back, and pivot your lower body toward the wall, extending your legs upward. Use your hands to provide support as you do this.
Lie down perpendicular to the wall, with your lower back and hips on the bolster and your legs extending up the wall, ankles together. Rest your palms on your belly, at your sides facing up, or on the floor over your head. In the shape of a diamond, with your elbows bent and fingertips touching. Hold this pose for two to ten minutes.
The biggest eye-opener for me is the stillness and peace that gentle, restorative exercises can provide. I discovered that yoga and other simple restorative exercises tone and strengthen the body, increase circulation and oxygen flow, energize you for the day and help unwind in the evening. They are the key to youthful vitality and boundless energy. I put this all together so that you can restore your energy and start transforming your lifestyle.
Try these exercises to help boost your energy:
Here’s to your health!