Skip to content

Health & Balance

Spring Break Makeover for the Mind

With the new season comes new opportunity to do some mental spring cleaning
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

What good is spring fever if you are too hassled to even notice the fragrant air or heed the call of the outdoors? With the new season comes new opportunity to do some mental spring cleaning.

The de-stressing habits you learn this spring will be with you the rest of your life -- and it may be a markedly longer one thanks to your new spring mindset. Stress can be life threatening.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

WebMD Checkup: Joan Didion

Your best-selling book The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles your grief following the loss of your husband, John. What surprised you most about grieving? I did not expect the degree of derangement-both physiological and mental. An example of the latter: Two weeks after John died, when I filled out a hospital form for the autopsy report, I gave not my own address but that of an apartment in which we had lived for the first four or five months of our marriage, in 1964. Is there...

Read the WebMD Checkup: Joan Didion article > >

Michael Irwin, MD, director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, tells WebMD that scientists now know that being wound too tight can lead to behaviors such as eating too much, losing sleep, and drinking to excess. If left untreated these stressors can cause depression.

"Depression mainly affects the immune system and how our brains work," explains Irwin. "Five years ago, we would not even have seen cardiovascular disease as related to the immune system, but we know now that strokes and heart attacks can result from inflammation. People who are depressed have two-thirds more chance of having a heart attack or stroke.

"And it doesn't end there," he continues. "Stress affects such diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, too. Depression is a common pathway to a number of diseases."

"I think we are in an epidemic of exhaustion and stress," Judith Orloff, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA, tells WebMD. "This leads to a joyless, tense life."

Some people, Irwin notes, do fine with stress. "They learn how to cool down and not let it lead to depression."

But how?

You may think that jumping a foot in the air when the phone rings or yelling at the kids is normal behavior, but these reactions are the result of chemicals coursing through our systems.

The key is to recognize this and try to build new patterns. Let spring be the starting point -- a new beginning, nice weather, a chance to exercise and contemplate life.

But where to start? Inside your own head! Negative thoughts, Orloff says, are a major stressor, and we (not the kids, boss, bank balance, or the nightly news) are stressing ourselves.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
jet plane landing at sunset
Slideshow
poinsettias
Quiz
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz