Do you think you’re a stressed-out person? I certainly think I am — which is one reason I’m so interested in the results of a new Danish study looking at perceived stress and fracture risk.
Not only did the study find that high-stressed participants had a 68% increased risk of hip fracture and a 37% increased risk of any osteoporotic fracture. The research also suggests that it’s not just the stress itself, but our perception of that stress that’s important.
The study determined this with nearly 8,000 Danish adults age 55+ who were categorized according to their self-perceived level of stress. Note that the researchers didn’t try to measure the level or type of stress itself! Instead, they asked the individual participants to describe what their level of stress was — then watched to see who in the cohort experienced an osteoporotic fracture over the next five years.
The one-fourth of people who reported a “high” level of perceived stress had the significantly increased risk of fractures – again a 68% increased risk of hip fracture and a 37% increased risk of any osteoporotic fracture – compared to those who reported “low” perceived stress.
How to free yourself from worry and stress
I’m quick to identify myself with that high-risk cohort. My mother dubbed me her “worry wart” and that personality trait still challenges me today.
That’s why I took up meditation and have developed various methods to “dial down” my perception of stress. A favorite self-help approach is what I call the “BE FREE” method. Those of you who are also “worry warts” might give it a try.
- BreathE: Throughout the day, I consciously try to stop what I’m doing and slow down my breathing. Just two or three slow, deep breaths offer a calming chance for the more rational part of my brain to kick in. This exercise is all the more important when I find myself in a stressful situation.
- Feel: Once I’m quieted down, I focus my attention inward, telling myself to note the emotional response I am feeling—fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, or whatever. I just allow myself to feel that particular energy.
- RElease: Next, I intentionally release the negative emotion, and the energy behind it dissipates. I can feel my heartbeat slow, and the anxiety-producing stress hormones begin to quiet down.
- Envision: Still taking deep, conscious breaths, I asked myself, “How do I want to feel?” or “How do I want to be?” Then I envision that desired energy flowing through my body.
If you give it a try, let me know how my “BE FREE” method worked for you. Even more, perhaps you’d like to share some of your personal methods and tips for maintaining resilience amid the ups, downs and of modern life. I would love to hear about them!
Pedersen AB, Baggesen LM, Ehrenstein V, et al. Perceived stress and risk of any osteoporotic fracture. Osteoporosis International, 2016;27:2035–2043.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.