Why Some People Are Born Anxious, With Daniel Keating

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Have you ever noticed that some people just seemed hard-wired to be stressed out? Maybe you feel as though you’ve been dealt an anxious hand yourself. According to psychology professor Daniel Keating, how we deal with stress and anxiety may have been determined while we were still in the womb.

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This Week’s Discussion

In his book Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity - and How to Break the Cycle, Daniel Keating examines some of the biological underpinnings of stress.

There’s evidence to suggest that if you’re faced with some sort of adversity in your first year of life or even in utero, that can actually affect how you deal with stress later in life. (Adversity in this sense can mean many things; even if your mother was particularly worried about money or other factors of modern life while carrying you, for example, that might have an effect on how you regulate stress.)

It’s a matter of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how the same genes can express themselves in different ways. In other words, that stress in your first year of life won’t change your DNA but can affect how you develop. Early life adversity can potentially cause “stress dysregulation”, essentially a slight mismanagement in your body’s ability to deal with stress.

So what can those of us who are destined to be anxious do to deal with our predilections towards anxiety?

You’ve probably already heard the answers: Exercise. Talk therapy. Surround yourself with people who support you. And, of course, seek out professional help if you need to. Listen to our discussion with Daniel Keating for a more thorough explanation of the science of stress and epigenetics.

Our Upgrades of the Week

Every week we like to round out the show with the little upgrades we’ve made in our own life.

  • Andy: Spring has recently arrived. It's been a little too much spring for me, in fact, leading me to a life-changing decision: I’m going to buy an air conditioner for my apartment before summer arrives. Summer can be very gross and I deserve some relief.
  • Melissa: Melissa has been priming her morning exercise routine by arranging everything the night before. That way there’s nothing to set up and no barrier to entry, so to speak.

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