I do a column for the University on a weekly basis (it doesn’t pay anything either). I am asked to analyze health related news items and determine whether the “lamestream media” headlines are justified in the body of the actual article. What I have found is that for the most part the headlines are sensationalized, the articles are retreads of press releases sent out by the journals, and the scientist quoted in these press releases tend to exaggerate their findings. This was particularly apparent in the article I chose for this week. The headline screamed “Stress Causes Brain  Injury.”  The headline didn’t mention that the subjects were rats,  the stress was rat bondage and to find the injury they had to kill the little buggers (no doubt extra stressful).

The topic is extremely timely, however. Recently, there has been some very interesting human data appearing regarding constant psychological stress (such as exposure to racism) and illness. Unfortunately, these studies are limited because defining stress in the world we live in today is very difficult. Also, sacrificing victims of racism to look for brain lesions would be, well, racist.

I proclaimed the real take home message to this study is “more work is needed.” I really believe that stress reduction cannot hurt and is almost certainly a good thing for one’s health. This site has a nice tool to allow you to measure and monitor your stress level. Immediate reduction techniques mentioned include specific exercises, affirmations, and visualization. As I told the University employees, their plan might include eating right and exercising regularly, taking regular breaks, making to-do lists, being mindful on a daily basis, and using relaxation techniques daily. I have yet to receive feedback from the University President about how he will implement this.

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