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BUExperts117 karma

Thank you for your question. In a nutshell, higher levels of optimism have been linked to lower risks of poor physical health outcomes, such as developing heart disease and dying from chronic diseases; higher optimism levels have also been linked to more favorable physical health outcomes, such as living longer and staying healthy in old age (defined as not having memory complaints, chronic disease, major physical limitations, and living beyond age 65).

Psychologically, more optimistic people tend to have better emotional well-being (that is, higher levels of positive emotions and lower levels of negative emotions), even when faced with stressful situations like a major medical diagnosis. When dealing with stressors, more optimistic people tend to think of the situation as challenging rather than threatening, and they are less likely to feel helpless or hopeless.

One caveat is that scientists can not yet definitively say optimism *causes* good health because most of the data have come from observational studies - that is, scientists compared more versus less optimistic people on their health outcomes. A rigorous scientific approach will involve, for example, using randomized clinical trials to test the causal effect of increasing optimism levels on health in the long run.

BUExperts69 karma

Thank you for your question! One way we can evaluate a stress response is to consider whether it is helpful in dealing with the stressor on hand and what other costs or consequences it may bring about. For example, if I deal with an upcoming deadline by working overtime several days straight, that may help me meet the deadline (i.e., resolving the stressor); however, I may get sick from not eating and sleeping well, or miss out on family or social obligations (i.e., other costs and consequences).

Another consideration is what's helpful in the short-term may not be so in the long-term. For example, some stressful situations (e.g., death of a loved one) can be emotionally overwhelming. Ignoring or setting aside these emotions at the moment may help us focus mentally to deal with the challenges on hand; however, denying or suppressing strong negative feelings is not good for us mentally nor physically in the long run.

It is generally helpful to weigh the situation from different perspectives and determine what's effective for you.

BUExperts53 karma

I am sorry to hear that. Without knowing more about what caused his anxiety, it's a bit challenging to make suggestions. Cognitive behavioral therapy does have strong empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness in addressing anxiety, so that seems like a reasonable approach. Being present, empathetic, and supportive is always helpful. He may be aware of his own change from being the life of the party to being much more withdrawn, and be sensitive to how others may be perceiving him as well - it's wonderful that you care so much for him, and reassuring him of your support (regardless of whether he is the life of the party or not) may be helpful, too. Best wishes to you and your family member.

BUExperts46 karma

Yes, most certainly, but this also depends on the type of stress response. For example, our behaviors to stressful situations (e.g., over-eating when feeling stressed) is something that can be modified over time. Other responses (e.g., a startle response when hearing an unexpected, loud sound) are more ingrained and automatic. Does that help?

BUExperts36 karma

I love that you have this wonderful insight into an unhelpful pattern and are talking about it (sometimes it can take years for people to spot this or to even acknowledge unhelpful patterns)! What you are describing sounds like rumination to me - playing the same scenario over & over in your head, perhaps sometimes thinking about the many ways that they're "wrong", and the many more ways things can still go wrong going forward - quite maddening, isn't it?

Sometimes when we are ruminating (one of my patients called it "spinning" when she caught herself doing it) - we may generate thoughts that we later realize don't make a lot of sense. Can you write down some of those thoughts and "check" them later? Over time, you may catch yourself falling into rumination again, but you may become more skillful about reminding yourself that the thoughts you have during these moments tend to be inaccurate and unproductive, and you may feel more capable of / motivated to end the rumination. Is there something that can help "yank" you out of a ruminative state? For some people, it may mean doing something very different at the moment - dunking your face in icy water, going outside for a run (or running up & down a staircase), writing a post-it note that you can look at when you fall into rumination, listening to upbeat music, or talking to a supportive person. Sending good thoughts your way!