TIME health

Why The Toxic Treatment of Doctors Needs to Change

The harsh culture of medical training is taking a toll on young physicians

A co-author of this piece, Dr. Ralph Greco, from Stanford School of Medicine, was interviewed in our story about the mental health of American physicians, published in the Sept 7, 2015, issue of TIME magazine. His co-author, Rhoda Feldman, is the mother of the late Dr. Greg Feldman, one of Dr. Greco’s former residents.

Every year we lose as many as 400 promising, talented doctors, whose lives our society can ill afford to lose, to suicide. Almost five years ago, Greg Feldman was one of these physicians. He was 33 years old, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and had completed a 5-year residency in general surgery at Stanford. Then, four and a half months after beginning advanced training in vascular surgery in Chicago, he died by suicide. We lost him needlessly, and for that matter, so did all the patients he could have saved and all the young surgeons he could have trained.

MORE: Doctors On Life Support

What makes a man full of talent, full of empathy and full of love, a man with no history of depression or substance abuse, end his life? Is the culture of training programs to blame?

It is long overdue that the medical profession take a cold hard look in the mirror and acknowledge the brutal and often thankless road of medical training. It should surprise no one that a hierarchical program, where obedience and respect for those senior was mandatory, would breed abusive behavior. Stress and burnout are now deeply embedded in the medical profession.

In 2009, the American College of Surgeons surveyed its 20,000 plus members about this, and received almost 10,000 responses. Surgeons reported stress and burnout, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as suicidal ideation far higher than the general population. Moreover, a third of respondents said they would not recommend a career in medicine to their children. All of this should have been a wake up call for those of us in the profession, but again was mostly ignored.

Just as it has taken more than a decade to acknowledge that working more than 100 hours a week has deleterious consequences, it will take time and hard work to change the culture that drives young residents and those in fellowships to despair. The suicides of two more residents in major New York teaching hospitals must create a groundswell of support for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to require that every training program establish a curriculum to bring the lives of its residents and fellows into balance and to enforce zero tolerance for abuse, humiliation or ridicule of trainees.

The medical profession can be extremely proud of a stellar record of teaching residents how to take care of patients. Now it is time to teach them how to take care of themselves. The repercussions of yet another young life snuffed out, while doctors stood idly by, would be disastrous.

Rhoda Feldman is the mother of the late Greg Feldman and a retired educational consultant. Ralph S. Greco, MD, is Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Women in Male-Dominated Jobs Have More Stress

TIME.com stock health stress
Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

"Token" women at work have less healthy cortisol patterns

Women working in jobs dominated by men have high levels of interpersonal stress that could harm their health, shows a new study presented at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting.

Indiana University Bloomington researchers looked at daily stress hormone patterns from more than 440 women in a large U.S. survey who worked in jobs where at least 85% of the workforce were men. In academic terms, a woman is considered an “occupational token” when 15% of colleagues in her occupation are women. That definition included jobs like construction supervisors, engineers, painters and groundskeepers.

MORE: Here’s Why Work Email Puts You In A Nasty Mood

Prior evidence shows that women in male-dominated jobs often experience stressors like social isolation, sexual harassment and low levels of support in the workplace. The researchers thought that stressors like these could impact patterns of the stress hormone cortisol, which fluctuate throughout the day but take an irregular pattern in people exposed to high consistent levels of stress, the authors say. In the study, they found that the “token” women had less healthy cortisol profiles compared to women who worked in jobs with a more even gender split.

MORE: Why Failure Hits Girls So Hard

“Men in occupations with 85% or more men do not evidence the same dysregulated cortisol profiles that we see in women in the same occupations,” says study author Cate Taylor, an assistant professor of sociology and gender studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

Cortisol is also particularly sensitive to social stressors and not as much to physical stressors, the authors say, which adds to the evidence that at least some of the irregularity in cortisol profiles is linked to negative workplace social climates that women face.

TIME Heart Disease

Working Long Hours Could Increase Your Risk of Stroke and Heart Disease

The reasons might be connected to stress, physical inactivity, and higher alcohol consumption

Burning the candle at both ends might impress your boss, but you could be sacrificing your health in the process.

A study published in The Lancet on Wednesday finds a strong connection between people who work 55 or more hours per week and cardiovascular disease. Those who work such long hours were found to have a 33% increased risk of stroke and 13% greater chance of developing coronary heart disease compared to people who work the standard 35- to 40-hour work week.

Researchers from University College London reviewed 42 studies of hundreds of thousands of men and women from Europe, the U.S., and Australia for several years. Their results held even after controlling for demographic factors—age, sex, socioeconomic status—and health behaviors—like smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.

Working overtime in general, even if it’s not the 55 hour maximum the group studied, also affects health outcomes negatively. Working between 41 to 48 hours led to a 10% increased risk of stroke and upping work hours to between 49 and 54 hours a week caused a 27% increased risk of stroke.

The authors aren’t sure exactly what the link is, but noted a few potential causes. For one, working long hours tends to be correlated with risky health behaviors, like drinking more alcohol or sitting for hours at a time. Those behaviors, combined with the stress associated with working overtime, could be a perfect recipe for a stroke or cardiovascular strain.

Read next: Want a Four-Day Workweek? Here’s How to Make it Happen

Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Graphic Shows What Stress Does to Your Body

Americans need to relax.

Over 40% of people in the U.S. say they are not doing enough to manage their stress, and the consequences of that could lead to all sorts of health-related problems. A recent study published in the journal Neuron showed people who are stressed have more difficulty with self-control and are more likely to choose to eat unhealthy food. If you’re like many Americans, you often be stressed about work and money, but there are good reasons to take time out of your day to relax. Here’s some examples of how stress affects your entire body.

Heather Jones

Read next: How To Calm Your Monkey Mind and Get Things Done

Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Here’s Why Email Puts You in a Nasty Mood

Four hands using smart phones
James Boast / Getty Images—Ikon Images Work has become a 24/7 job, thanks to technology.

A combination of anxiety for work during non-work hours and emails make for stressed out workers.

Your alarm goes off, you roll over, grab your phone, and flicker your eyes open. You squint in the glow of the blue and it begins: You’re scrolling through notifications, emails, texts.

It’s already been shown that emailing after business hours can be psychologically damaging, but new research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology confirms what you probably know in your gut to be true: workers who are expected to be available even when they aren’t at work experience an elevated stress response.

Psychologists from the University of Hamburg asked 132 people from 13 workplaces to complete a daily survey over a period of eight days—four on which they were expected to be available for work, four on which they were not. They were all surveyed, and half the participants also provided saliva samples that were measured for cortisol. (Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stressful situations.)

The results showed that during times when a person was expected to be reachable, people had elevated cortisol levels and reported being stressed. While that might be expected, what is interesting is that when a person is not required to be physically available at the office, there’s still a significant uptick in cortisol.

The culprit? A combination of your smartphone and a culture that increasingly blurs the lines between work and leisure. In today’s workforce, “job contacts and work availability outside regular business hours are associated with impaired wellbeing,” the authors write.

So why do we do it?

Americans are famously workaholics. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, American workers log about 1,788 hours of work per year, above the next longest-working group, the Japanese, at 1,735. Many Europeans work far less. The French clock in 1,489 hours while the Germans work 1,388 per year.

This isn’t the future the economist John Maynard Keynes imagined for us. He prophesied that we’d attain a level of industrialization that would make leisure more valuable, to the point where humans would work only 15 hours per week. Instead, our idea of relaxation is keeping an eye on the TV while watching multiple feeds on our smartphone including, yes, email.

Marcus Butts, a professor at the University of Texas, Arlington, and his colleague, Wendy Boswell from Texas A & M University, released a study in June focusing on the emotional effect of emails received during non-work hours on Monday through Friday.

“We looked at the tone of the email and the time it took you to respond to the email,” says Butts. “When it comes to emails that are negative in tone, it makes you angry. Being angry takes a lot of focus and our resources and it keeps us from being engaged with other things.” In other words, an email—particularly a negative one—has the power to destroy your evening.

But there are two types of people in the world, Butts noted. There are segmentors, who keep their work and nonwork lives separate. They don’t answer emails after hours. And then there are integrators, people who mesh their work and personal lives by combining their work lives with their social lives and tend to answer emails at all hours. It’s the integrators who get more stressed when an email pops up.

Regardless, the anxiety of email is “not good,” Butts says. “Email doesn’t let you pay attention or engage in non-work life.”

 

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How to Stop Work Stress From Turning Into Burnout

woman-stressed-work-desk
Getty Images

Start by getting yourself moving

Have you ever been so emotionally exhausted at work that the mere thought of typing up one more report or sending one more e-mail makes you want to scream? Yes, we’ve all been there every now and again. But if that “can’t go on” feeling becomes more of an everyday thing, that’s probably work burnout—a chronic state of job stress that can tank your performance at work as well as your emotional wellbeing.

According to the latest Gallup survey on the topic, full-time American workers are at their posts 47 hours a week, on average, with 18 percent of respondents saying they work at least 60 hours per week. Many of us are under a lot of pressure, in other words.

But burnout, which is defined by the feeling that you can’t cope with your workload and the frustration that comes with that, doesn’t have to be just something you put up with. (Or quit your job overbecause who can do that?) A recent Australian study found that it might be avoidable or reversible with exercise (which definitely explains why going for a run or taking a CrossFit class feels so darn good after a terrible day at the office.)

In the study, inactive men and women either participated in a four-week cardio or weight-training exercise plan (with a minimum of three 30 min sessions per week), or continued to not work out, like normal.

Before and after those four weeks, researchers used three different tests, including the Perceived Stress Scale, to figure out whether the participants’ moods shifted.

The results? Not only did those on the fitness plan feel more accomplished about what they had gotten done after those four weeks, but they also had less mental distress, emotional exhaustion, and perceived stress. (In the control group, not much changed.)

“Exercise has potential to be an effective burnout intervention,” researchers from the University of New England in Australia wrote in the paper. “Organizations wishing to proactively reduce burnout can do so by encouraging their employees to access regular exercise programs,” they concluded. (So bosses, take note: Researchers even suggest that knowing this information could help save companies money, as they say the global burnout costs over $300 billion each year.)

And if you’re feeling down about your job or are in a constant state of tension every time you move your mouse, consider incorporating more cardio or weights into your fitness routine. Although the study was small—only 49 volunteers participated—the benefits to your work could be real (not to mention, you’ll also reap all the other health benefits you get when breaking a sweat).

This article originally appeared on Health.com

More from Health.com:

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Effective Are PTSD Treatments for Veterans?

539665361
Getty Images

Though many treatments for PTSD can alleviate symptoms, veterans continue to meet the criteria for the disorder

A new study published Tuesday suggests commonly used first-line treatments for PTSD in veterans may not work as well as medical experts once thought.

The number of American veterans who suffer from PTSD continues to be a serious national public health problem. Recent data show that more than 200,000 Vietnam War veterans still have PTSD, and other research shows that around 13% of Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who experienced combat have PTSD. The numbers continue to climb. As TIME previously reported, PTSD diagnoses among deployed troops grew by 400% from 2004 to 2012.

Now new research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals that go-to treatments for the disorder may not be as effective as many in the medical community may have believed or hoped. To reach their findings, researchers from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center reviewed 36 randomized control trials of psychotherapy treatments for veterans suffering from PTSD over a 35-year span. Two of the most commonly used treatments—and the most widely studied—are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE) therapy.

CPT is a treatment that focuses on changing dysfunctional thoughts, and exposure therapy is meant to help patients face what’s causing them stress and fear.

The research showed that while up to 70% of the men and women who received CPT or PE experienced symptom improvements, around two-thirds of people receiving the treatments still met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment. The researchers note that current veterans affairs policies emphasize the use of the two methods as treatments of choice.

The researchers also argued that veterans with PTSD are likely to have worse outcomes from treatment compared to civilians with PTSD. Though the researchers are unsure why that is, there’s some speculation: “Compared to civilian traumas such as car accidents and natural disasters, military deployment involves repeated and extended trauma exposure,” says study author Maria M. Steenkamp, an assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone. “It also involves not just life-threat, but exposure to traumatic losses and morally compromising experiences that create shame and guilt.” Veterans are also more likely to have additional mental health issues such as anxiety or substance abuse, she adds.

The researchers also raise the question of whether focusing on trauma during PTSD treatment is really that effective. Based on their review of the trials, they found that when CPT and PE were compared to non-trauma focused psychotherapy, patients showed similar improvement.

However, not everyone agrees that the findings should be cast in such a light. Dr. Paula Schnurr, the executive director of the National Center for PTSD under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there’s not consensus that veterans have a more difficult time overcoming PTSD symptoms compared to civilians, and adds that some people who treat veterans feel avoiding fears and trauma perpetuates problems, rather than processes them. In addition, symptom improvement is an important part of PTSD treatment since it improves veterans’ quality of life. Schnurr was not involved in the study, though some of her own research was analyzed in it.

“If a person has a meaningful response, they have a meaningful improvement in their quality of life,” says Schnurr, adding that many treatments for other mental health conditions have similar outcomes. “As scientists we will always try to enhance the effectiveness of these treatments for more people…My takeaway message [from the study] is one of optimism and also encouragement for people to seek treatment.”

The researchers say other treatment options should continue to be explored, and there are practitioners who are trying different methods, from acupuncture to healing touch therapy. Another new study published Tuesday in JAMA looked at 116 veterans with PTSD who either underwent mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy that focused on being present and non-judgmental in the moment or a present-centered group therapy that focused on current life problems. The results showed that those in the mindfulness group had a greater improvement in self-reported PTSD symptom severity. However, they were no more likely to lose their PTSD diagnosis.

There may not be a cure yet for PTSD, but the amount of research looking into how to improve or innovate treatments is encouraging. Veterans who need support can find resources here.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

10 Signs You Really Need a Vacation

woman-man-jumping-off-cliff
Getty Images

Because we all need some time off every now and then

You probably wouldn’t hesitate to call in sick if you had the flu. But would you take a day off when your stress levels have catapulted into the stratosphere? For many of us, the answer is no. In a 2011 survey of 1,546 people by the American Psychological Association, about one-third of respondents said they typically feel tense or stressed out during their workday. And despite that nearly all of us need an occasional break, many rarely take a vacation day because they worry that others will look down on them, says Paula Davis-Laack, PhD, author of Addicted to Busy. Sky-high stress at work won’t just lead to burnout—it can also bring on stomach issues, trouble sleeping, headaches, and more, according to a 2011 review by researchers from the University of South Florida. On average, Americans get 14 days of vacation a year, but use only 10 of them. How do you know when you’ve reached a breaking point and it might be time to cash in your chips? Read on for 10 signs that you and your workplace need a little time off.

Every little problem is turning into a big issue

No one likes fielding other people’s mistakes, but the truth is, you should be able to handle the occasional curveball or two—and your goal should always be to knock it out of the park. A positive attitude is key. “There are days when you [tackle problems] like a rock star,” says Davis-Laack. “And that’s a good feeling to have.” Even on days when you’re not feeling very ambitious, you should try to keep the situation in perspective. Sure, legitimate annoyances will always pop up, but “not everything you deal with is a level-10 problem,” she says. If you’re acting testier toward your co-workers or clients (say, you find yourself thinking, “Didn’t we just go over that?” or “Why can’t you understand these directions?”), then you’re the one who might be making a mistake—by not taking some time off to recharge.

Your coworkers keep asking if you’re feeling all right

Other people may notice that you’re stressed before you do. If your coworkers keep approaching you to say, “You look tired,” or ask, “Is something wrong?” then that could be a sign that your stress has spilled over into your workday and is obvious to the rest of your office, says Davis-Laack. Another sign: You’re unusually cranky and people are giving you more distance than usual. If that’s the case, you may not need to take much time off—just a day or two or a long weekend, she explains. Andrew Shatte, PhD, a stress resilience expert and co-author of meQuilibrium: 14 Days to Cooler, Calmer, and Happier also recommends trying to work more “microbreaks” into your day. For example, all it may take to give you a quick mood boost is a 2-minute lap around the office floor or a short coffee break.

You start making mistakes

“Chronic stress is a well-known cause of workplace errors, and it’s a sign that you may need to take a step back,” says Davis-Laack. Studies show that when doctors and pharmacists are stressed or have a heavy workload, they could be prone to more mistakes—a serious problem in the medical community, since they can be potentially fatal to patients.

If you’re in the middle of a project and have been slipping up, finish the project and then arrange for some time off, advises Davis-Laack. “You don’t have to tell everyone on your team what’s happening,” she says, “but you might want to let your supervisor or client know that you’ve fixed your mistake and are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

You’re feeling pretty cynical

Everything bores you, nothing excites you, and you can’t muster up any positive thoughts about the company you work for. Once those cynical thoughts start percolating in your brain, it may be a sign that you could be headed for burnout. Try to counter it ASAP: Davis-Laack advises employees to keep at least a three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences. (And she also says that highly successful teams have a ratio of about six to one.) Shatte’s advice: “If you have an upsetting conversation with someone at the office, jump on the phone with another long-term colleague and ask to chat for a few minutes,” he says. “You want to balance out the bad experiences with even more good ones.”

You start ‘borrowing’ the office supplies

Sure, we’ve all snatched a pen or two, but when you’re practically shopping at the supply closet, that’s a sign that you’re stressed out. Researchers actually have a name for these habits: “counterproductive work behaviors,” or “CWB,” for short. And one new 2015 study found that it may take weeks or even months before they start showing up in stressed-out employees. “Uncertainty [in the workplace] drives a great deal of stress,” says Davis-Laack. “As a result, people tend to turn inward, seek to protect their own turf, and become less likely to help others because they don’t know what’s going to happen outwardly.” If you’re engaging in counterproductive work behaviors, like picking fights with your co-workers or taking extra-long lunch breaks, she says, you may need a day off to help reset your priorities or even seek out new opportunities.

Everything hurts

Backaches. Headaches. Eye strain. All of these painful conditions are your body’s not-so-subtle way of telling you that you might need a day off. One 2011 University of South Florida review about stress in the workplace found that heavy workloads, negative environments, and obstacles that prevent people from completing their tasks were all factors linked to pain-related health problems in employees. The researchers say that when people find themselves in a stressful situation, their bodies release chemicals that trigger inflammation and increase their sensitivity to pain.

Your stomach basically hates you

A killer headache isn’t the only physical sign that you’re feeling frazzled—cramping and bloating might be other indicators. “Some people say they’re more likely to have stomach problems and digestive issues when they’re feeling stressed,” says Davis-Laack. That could be because stress can cause changes to the bacteria that reside in our guts, which could make us more vulnerable to upset stomachs. In fact, a 2010 study in the Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease found that people with gastrointestinal disorders may be more likely to have chronic stress than their calmer GI counterparts.

And you can forget about getting a decent night’s sleep

If you’re having trouble sleeping, that can also be a side effect of too much stress, says Shatte. In one 2007 study from the University of Georgia at Athens, people who believed they did “excessive” amounts of work were more likely to have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and spending more time in the restorative part of their sleep cycle than those who weren’t as overloaded at the office. And another 2005 study by Swedish researchers also found that overworked employees were more likely to have trouble unwinding before bed and have increased amounts of daytime sleepiness, possibly because their bodies were trying to make up for lost shut-eye. Some researchers speculate that the hormones involved in the flight-or-fight response—which is activated when we encounter a particularly stressful situation—may cause lasting tension and sabotage your sleep.

When you get home, you reach for a glass of wine

Do you bolt straight for the wine cabinet when you come home? If so, says Davis-Laack, you might be using alcohol as a coping mechanism for too-stressful days at the office. One 2012 study conducted in people in the nursing field—a particularly challenging occupation—found that drinking alcohol was a common way they dealt with the pressure. And another 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who were experiencing burnout were more susceptible to emotional and uncontrolled eating—two habits that could boost your risk for obesity. A better way to send stress packing? Exercise. One study from the University of Maryland found that when people performed 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, they were calmer in the face of an anxiety-inducing situation than those who had just rested quietly. (Now you know what to do on your day off!)

You can’t remember why you wanted this job in the first place

Some people who are under a lot of pressure lose perspective of why they keep coming to work, says Shatte. This is one of the more serious signs of burnout, so if this is you, you may need to take a longer break from the office—and you may also need to reframe your thinking. “Sometimes people can become siloed at their job, and when that happens, they fail to see how their work affects their country or community,” he explains. Think about how your day-to-day impacts your life’s big picture: do you have a family to support? That’s one major reason to stay positive, says Shatte. So keep a picture of your relatives on hand, and remind yourself that you’re working for them, not just The Man.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

More from Health.com:

TIME psychology

How to Be a Better Person: 7 Steps Backed By Research

volunteers-construction
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  • Research also shows little things can make a difference:
  1. Play music with positive lyrics.
  2. Clean smells and the odor of cookies both make you behave better.
  3. Keep the area warm.
  4. Get outside in nature.
  5. Read fiction.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

You Asked: Do I Worry Too Much?

You Asked Do I Worry Too Much
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Frequent fretting is unproductive and not so hot for your health.

As human beings, our ability to predict trouble—and outwit it—is one of those cerebral superpowers that set us apart from birds and beasts. But nonstop worrying can be crippling to your life and your immune system.

“Just having a thought about some potential bad thing that might happen—everyone has those,” says Dr. Michelle Newman, director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Pennsylvania State University. “But if you have difficulty stopping the worry once it starts, that’s one of the ways we define what’s called pathological worry.”

Newman, who is also editor of the journal Behavior Therapy, cites more characteristics of out-of-control worrying, like fixating on things over which you have no control—or which have a low probability of happening—and “catastrophizing” them. Worrying about a loved one who’s driving and picturing the horrible ramifications of an accident is one example; imagining a string of events that might lead to your losing your job and your home is another.

Anxiety is a related feeling that often goes hand in hand with worrying. While it can be a little tricky to separate the two, Newman says the technical difference is that worrying is “verbal-linguistic” while anxiety is “physical.” If you feel tense or on edge while thinking about your job security or your child’s long car trip, you’re experiencing both worry and anxiety. Feel those emotions “more days than not” for a period of six months, and you meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Basically, you’re a chronic worrier.

“I like to say that chronic worry is a process looking for content,” Newman says. “You’ve gotten into the habit of looking for something to be concerned about, and you always find it.”

That’s bad news for several reasons. First and foremost, incessant worrying and anxiety can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and has been linked to an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease. “Anxiety can also over-activate your immune system,” says Dr. Wesley Moons, formerly of the University of California, Davis, and now CEO of his own consulting firm, Moons Analytics.

While at UC Davis, Moons and his graduate student Grant Shields found that people who reacted to stressful situations with anger experienced a smaller immune system response than those who reacted with anxiety. Shields says the sorts of immune system responses his research linked to anxiety could hurt the body’s ability to fight off infection or disease and have been tentatively linked to higher mortality rates.

“That’s not to say getting angry is a healthy reaction to stress,” Moons adds. “But in terms of your immune system, anxiety appears to trigger some different and potentially more detrimental responses.”

But isn’t there a benefit to lots of worrying? After all, if your mind is tackling contingencies and potential threats, you can act now to prevent them—right?

Unfortunately, Newman refutes this idea. “Mostly worrying becomes a process unto itself that doesn’t lead to problem solving or helping you in any way,” she says. If you’re worrying about something, she says, you’re not taking steps to address the source of your worry, if that’s even possible.

When you boil it down, worry is really a failure to live in the moment, Newman says. Activities that attempt to anchor your mind to the present—including yoga and meditation—may help combat incessant worrying. Exercise, massage and other things that alleviate physical tension are also helpful, she says.

Another great way to reign in your worrying is to set aside a specific time and place for it. Select a spot you can get to easily every day, but that isn’t a place where you normally spend time, Newman advises. (A quiet bench in your backyard, maybe, or a chair in your guest room.) Your goal is to give yourself 20 or 30 minutes a day in that space, devoted only to worrying. “The rest of the day, you tell yourself you aren’t going to worry because you will at that time and place,” Newman explains. “The idea is that by isolating your worry, you can control it.”

She says that focusing on a favorite relaxing setting—your “happy place”—also has proven worry-reducing benefits. “Close your eyes,” she says. “Try to vividly picture that place—the sights and smells and sounds you would feel and hear.” Hopefully the place that you see is worry-free.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com