Elissa Epel: The Stress Prescription

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April 18, 2023

Elissa Epel: The Stress Prescription

Elissa Epel April 18, 2023

How can we live without the sense that our value is measured by achievements and productivity? What kind of attitude and skills are needed today to deal with the stress so many are feeling? In a nutshell, what does it mean to be human right now? 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with bestselling author and stress expert Dr. Elissa Epel about the inextricable connection between the mind and the body and how we each have the capacity to protect our health and well-being even in times of volatile uncertainty. 

Take a break, relax, and breathe, as you listen to this hopeful conversation on breaking free from toxic cultural imperatives; changing our minds, bodies, and environment; aging and the telomere effect; understanding the types of stress, such as acute, chronic, and restorative; cryotherapy and the benefits of cold exposure; deep rest, and how to get more of it; shifting the messages to our cells from “stay vigilant” to “I’m safe”; developing awareness and choosing your response; nervous system regulation; planting safety cues and secluded breaks into your day; befriending the body; “turning from gazelle to lion” in the midst of stress; seeing the beauty in each day; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Elissa Epel, PhD, is an international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging and a bestselling author. She is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, at the University of California, San Francisco, where she is Vice Chair of Psychology and directs the Aging Metabolism Emotions Center. She studies the environmental, psychological, behavioral, and social factors that impact cellular aging (such as telomeres, inflammation, and mitochondria), and is also focusing on climate wellness. She studies how self-care practices such as meditation and positive stress can promote psychological and physiological thriving and is interested in large-scale interventions for communal well-being and health equity. She uses science as a North Star, guiding us in the context of other sources of contemplative wisdom. She cowrote the New York Times bestseller “The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer” with Nobel Laureate Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn (translated into 30 languages). Epel is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, current president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and cochair of the Mind & Life Institute Steering Council. She has served as a consultant to NIH, CDC, Facebook, Apple, United Health, and UC campus-wide initiatives on stress and health. Epel’s research has been featured in venues such as TEDMED, Wisdom 2.0, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Morning Show, 60 Minutes, National Public Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and science documentaries. She enjoys leading science-based contemplative retreats at venues such as WEF/Davos, Esalen, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and 1440 Multiversity.

Author photo © Jeremy Montemayor

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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Also By Author

Elissa Epel: The Stress Prescription

How can we live without the sense that our value is measured by achievements and productivity? What kind of attitude and skills are needed today to deal with the stress so many are feeling? In a nutshell, what does it mean to be human right now? 

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with bestselling author and stress expert Dr. Elissa Epel about the inextricable connection between the mind and the body and how we each have the capacity to protect our health and well-being even in times of volatile uncertainty. 

Take a break, relax, and breathe, as you listen to this hopeful conversation on breaking free from toxic cultural imperatives; changing our minds, bodies, and environment; aging and the telomere effect; understanding the types of stress, such as acute, chronic, and restorative; cryotherapy and the benefits of cold exposure; deep rest, and how to get more of it; shifting the messages to our cells from “stay vigilant” to “I’m safe”; developing awareness and choosing your response; nervous system regulation; planting safety cues and secluded breaks into your day; befriending the body; “turning from gazelle to lion” in the midst of stress; seeing the beauty in each day; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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How to Mental Stack Your Way to a New Chapter in Life

Most people feel trapped in a thousand ways. But more often than not, this sense of entrapment us into putting our heads down and getting the things we are expected to get done, done. We can’t often see the entrapment, especially if it looks like the result of our own choices in life. But were they truly our own choices? What if some of the choices we made in life have never really been ours to begin with? 

I want to take us back a little. Back to when we were younger. When we had to rely on the wisdom of our elders, and those who have been in this life much longer than us. In my upcoming book Invisible Loss, I write about that time in our lives when we were at our most rebellious:

Disobedience—as a child, as a teen, as an adult in the world of work and home—is an act that creates invisible suffering. We learn to survive that repeated pattern of being commanded by our elders to be “good.” In order to be good and obey, we may create a life closer to that command but further away from our Original Self. We may work hard trying to be good, trying to please and fit into the mold created for us, but that only helps to build our Waiting Room life.

But time in the Waiting Room doesn’t need to last forever. And you don’t have to die inside it. There are parts within you that can bring forth a life worthy of your human existence. Places within yourself that have no shame.

As long as we have been alive, creating a life that aligns closest to the wishes of our caregivers and protectors blinds us to the life that we could choose for ourselves. That life is completely hidden even if we think we know our wishes. Often, only when we go through tragic or invisible losses, do we start to question those choices. Dare I say, these moments are opportunities to exit the loop of being “good.”

It is time to interrupt our regular transmission. It is time to be clear when it comes to what it is we are trying to communicate to the people in our lives. It starts from no longer trying so hard to fit into the mold that was created for us.  No matter how old we are, we can always break outside this mold and align our choices with our true values and desires.

This is not an easy task. I understand that. At the core of my book, Invisible Loss, I’ve created tjos easy practice to help set you on the right path to your Original Self. I call it Mental Stacking:

What Is Mental Stacking?

Mental Stacking is the ability to intentionally layer your thoughts to replace unconscious, Survivor-based

thinking with Wisdom-based thinking. In doing so, these Wisdom-based thoughts can more easily be converted into real-life action. This Stacking practice allows you to access your true and authentic self (your Original Self) and entrust it with the controls of your life. Here is what a basic Stack looks like:

  • The Cleanse: Transcribing the automatic, routine-based, unconscious thoughts. Write them down. Don’t stop writing until you feel you are done. 
  • The Pattern: Subtracting from that first layer the thoughts of fear and doubt. Once you write everything you are feeling and thinking down, read it back to yourself and find a sentence or two that comes from a place of fear or doubt. For example, somewhere in your long cleanse you may find yourself saying: “I feel trapped in my marriage and I don’t dare tell anyone about it because he is the nicest guy. All of my friends always tell me how lucky I am to be married to someone who takes such good care of me.”
  • The Reframe: Writing the consciously reframed thought layer in the Stack. Take that sentence and reframe it. For example: “I feel trapped in my marriage and feel ashamed for feeling this way because my partner is such a good guy,” to, “even though I may feel shame about how I feel, I need to share these feelings with my partner even though it may not be expected or understood. This is my life, after all.” 
  • The Plug-In: Translating the reframed thought into action. Once you have that reframed thought, think of a low-risk action you can take that can stem from that newly scripted thought. For example, you can suggest to your partner to go for dinner at a brand new place where you can bring up what is on your mind in a new environment. You can act on your right to express yourself regardless of what the response might be or how others view your situation. 

Your Mental Stack leads you to a specific next step that may not always be easy to see without the power of each previous layer in the Stack. 

Here’s to a great new chapter ahead,

Christina Ramussen

Invisible Loss


Invisible Loss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Sounds True

Christina Rasmussen is an acclaimed grief educator and the author of Second Firsts and Where Did You Go? She is the founder of the Life Reentry Institute and has helped countless people break out of what she coined the “waiting room” of grief to rebuild their lives through her Life Reentry® Model, a new paradigm of grief, based on the science of neuroplasticity. She lives in Austin, Texas. For more, visit christinarasmussen.com.

Author photo © Marc Olivier Le Blanc

The Greatest Wealth Is Found When We Gather Together

When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known for a long time that I am a wealthy and blessed person. The wealth that I’m referring to has nothing to do with my bank account balance. The wealth that I’m talking about are the meaningful connections that have sustained me over the years. What I lacked in familial bonds, the divine provided in long-term platonic relationships.

One of the clearest indicators of someone who is flourishing is their ability to build and keep meaningful connections and quality relationships. When designing a life that supports your becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, the people who are closest to you can either support or hinder your progress. This is why I’m adamant about being intentional about my connections.

My “Presidential Cabinet,” which is basically what I call my trusted circle of friends, is filled with some amazing folks. I’m forever grateful for my community of friends that became family, strangers that became mentors, and colleagues that became accountability partners.

In the chapter “What About Your Friends?” from my book, Evolving While Black, I share with you that people who have strong relationships feel the support of family, friends, and others in their community. When you know you have a village of folks you can count on, it improves your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression.

An agreement I made with myself in my early thirties was to commit to choosing connection and community over isolation. This decision is the gift that keeps on giving. The investment you make in choosing your connections is the greatest pathway to wholeness, prosperity, and longevity.

What you should consider as you’re continuing to build out your own Presidential Cabinet

Your connections should include people who:

  • Energize you and help you to create a life of ease
  • Encourage you to make your mental and emotional well-being a priority 
  • Consider you for opportunities when you’re not in the room
  • Show mutual support and respect 

Now that you know what to consider, use these prompts to create a plan

  • Who’s in your Presidential Cabinet, and how do they support you? 
  • Who do you need to add, and how will they support your journey? 
  • If you change nothing, what will your life look like three months from now? How does this make you feel?

My hope for you is that you attract meaningful connections that bring you joy and make your heart smile, laughs that make your cheeks hurt, and love that covers you like a warm blanket. You deserve to feel loved, supported, and cared for.

Until we meet again.

Currently evolving,

Chianti


Evolving While Black
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Sounds True


Evolving While Black
Sounds True

Chianti Lomax is a sought-after international speaker, certified mindset coach, and leadership trainer who thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, technology, and transformative coaching. As a registered yoga instructor, certified personal and executive coach, certified workplace mindfulness facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner, Chianti teaches doable habit changes to help increase our well-being and elevate the overall human experience. For more, visit chiantilomax.com.

Author photo © Ambreia Williams

Sara Avant Stover: The Portal of Heartbreak

Heartbreak is a universal human experience. Yet we often lack the vocabulary and the skills needed to move through heartbreak wisely. This was certainly the case for Sara Avant Stover, whose decades of spiritual practice and deep inner work could not prepare her for the “serial heartbreaks” that upended her life. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the author of Handbook for the Heartbroken about the challenges of navigating loss in a “heartbreak-illiterate” society. 

Discover how our most painful experiences can become a gateway to personal empowerment and healing, in this practical conversation on: taking on a disposition of tenderness; the impacts of cascading losses; entering the depths of our pain; the metaphor of the tightrope over the chasm; moving from self-judgment to self-acceptance; how Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy helps us during heartbreak; the quiet “soul” powers our pain can open us to; grief; supporting the heartbroken; rituals for letting go; the midlife initiation; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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