More on managing stress, avoiding depression and insights from a long-term study
Maintain or re-establish your normal routine
Familiar activities such as meals with family and friends, reading, watching TV,
playing with a pet and exercising are examples of routines that are conducive to
Work or fun activities can help take your mind off your problems. Hobbies, sports,
games, and volunteering are examples of ways you can stay active.
Seek professional help
If stress is overwhelming and unmanageable or leading to depression or anxiety, it
is probably time to seek help from a mental health professional such as a clinical
psychologist or psychiatrist. Mental health care providers offer three general types
of therapy: insight into your situation, support and advice about how to change your
situation or behavior, and medications.
Insights from a long-term study
The Harvard Mastery of Stress Study has followed the life course of a sample of
Harvard college undergraduates since 1948 and through age 80. One striking finding
was the importance of psychological support in childhood to health. After 35
years, the study subjects identified in midlife as suffering from illnesses such as
coronary artery disease, hypertension, duodenal ulcer, and alcoholism, gave their
parents significantly lower ratings on perceived parental caring.
Among study participants, twice as many (91%) who had diagnosed diseases in
midlife felt that they did not have a warm relationship with their mothers as compared
to the 45% of participants who felt they had a warm relationship. A similar
association was found for fathers. Only 25% of subjects who rated both their mothers
and fathers high in parental caring had diagnosed diseases in midlife. The study
concluded, “Since parents are usually the most meaningful source of social support
for much of early life, the perception of parental caring, and parental loving itself,
may have important regulatory and predictive effects on biological and psychological
health and illness.”
George Vaillant, the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study director, identified seven
major factors that predicted physical and psychological healthy aging. Education,
having a stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, getting some exercise,
maintaining a healthy weight, and employing mature adaptations (sometimes called
defenses) to life stresses.
In The Atlantic, Joshua Wolf Shenk summarized Vaillant’s research:46
Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in
their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called
“happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of
the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none
ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate
physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective
factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with
four or more factors. . . . Good sibling relationships seem especially
powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had
been close to a brother or sister when younger.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.