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.

Photo © Jason Elias

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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Peter A. Levine: From Trauma to Awakening and Flow

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Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

Book
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Digital Audio
Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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