Category Archives: Mental Health

Stanford Medicine: Mood Disorders Across the Lifespan

Dr. Katherine Williams, Director of Stanford’s Women’s Wellness Clinic, addresses Women’s Health Forum attendees on mood disorders in women.

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Stress and movement

Stress can be indicated when a person becomes stuck/frozen or stopped in a bodily movement that can be described as either gestural, ( movements isolated to parts or part of the body) or postural ( movements carried constantly through the whole body). When  there is a continuous flow of movement from gesture to posture and vice versa than the person is considered moving in balance and not not indicated to be in stress. one example of this is something that has come up in the last 20 years of leading stress reduction exercises with groups. I ask the participants how they know they are stressed out and the top answers are:

I notice I am gripping the steering wheel- I notice I am making a fist- I am clenching my teeth-I am clenching my butt.

Each one of these actions is a frozen gesture and they generally use the most “force”, muscle, blood flow of any other component of the body while they are active.  Think about it, if you clench your fist the blood flow increases due to the sudden contraction of the muscles, a part of your attention is brought to the area because its being engaged, the rest of the body begins to respond to the clenched fist starting with the arm, shoulders, spine, abdominal muscles and so on ad so on. Suddenly your attention increases to the area dramatically and you realize; “oh I’m clenching my fist….”

The first step to releasing this body stress is the breath. When stressed we tend to hold our breath and/or it becomes shallow breathing. Taking a big breath in and a big breath out begins to increase the oxygen to the brain (and the rest if the body). That big breath also automatically signals to the body on a primal level that the stressor is less and the body begins to relax its muscular contractions. Also when we consciously are taking in a big breath we are exerting voluntary control over our bodies which is the opposite of the stress response which is a involuntary response. This voluntary and controlled breath also signals to the brain on a primal level that the stressor is lessen, resulting in the muscles lessening their contradiction.

Of course simply breathing does not seem like much of an answer for someone who experiences chronic stress/anxiety. But it is one more tool that one can use. Like mindfulness, visualizations, and other techniques, breathing is something that needs to be practiced and the more you practice the more effective it becomes.

Road Blocks to Communication

We all have, at one time or another, blocked, screwed up, and/or made more difficult in some way communication between yourself and ….partners, parents, children, siblings, bosses, teachers, therapists, clients …basically everyone. Knowing something about yourself, what your triggers and hot buttons are can help to not only smooth communication but to help you express what you feel and think. Listed below are some communication road blocks as well as common statements that are often said.
When have you said these? What was going on before the comments and with whom were you talking with? What might be an alternative statement(s).

Evaluate:
You should You’re wrong You should know that

Unsolicited Advice:
It would be best for you to Why don’ t you

Diagnosing:
You’re getting defensive

Commanding:
You had better You have to

Lecturing:
Don’t you realize

Devaluation Response:
It’s not so bad

Topping:
That’s nothing compared to

Condescending:
I figured you’d do that!  I should’ve expected that from you!

Al l or Nothing:
You always do that! Yes you do! You’ re never

Prying: Puts other on the spot/defemsive and is intrusive