There's new brain science that can help you cope with stress caused by the news.

Americans have been barraged in mid 2018 by a series of major news events — some of them unsettling.

President Donald Trump's trip to Europe left many unsettled about the future of the decades-old U.S. relations with Europe, and a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin left many uneasy when Trump did not forcefully back the findings of American intelligence agencies.

This all has come after hysteria on all sides over a Supreme Court nominee and a fountain of bad news about natural disasters, immigration issues, growing addiction rates, and a startling 30% increase in deaths of despair.


It doesn't matter which side of the aisle you are on or even if you have a side. The dangerous polarity and the rhetoric that catches fire is leaving many people feeling numb, discouraged, angry, or lost.

And yet, maybe this stress is beneficial in its own way, encouraging us to pause for long enough to update how we think about stress.

My colleagues and I at University of California San Francisco have developed an online program called emotional brain training (EBT) for improving the brain's effectiveness in preventing and treating stress-induced problems. (If you're interested in trying it, you can — click here and enter the promo code "upworthy" for free access.)

We've found that there are five brain-based techniques that can effectively train you to bounce back from stress more rapidly.

1. See stress as a moment of opportunity.

This simple mental reset stops the secondary stress of ruminating about being stressed that can last for hours or days after we are triggered by a situation.

What’s more, old unconscious expectations that are stored in the emotional brain can block our creativity. Stressful moments open the brain to revising those expectations, so it’s easier to experience a breakthrough in a love relationship, a work project, or a new perspective on life. Through the portal of stress, old expectations unlock. They become fluid so that fresh ideas can appear in our mind more readily.

The first technique to outsmart stress is to say to yourself, "Stress? Great! It’s a moment of opportunity!"

2. Check your stress number.

Instead of asking, "How do I feel?" or "Why did I do that?" ask "What number am I?"

We use the EBT 5 Point system, with 5 being the highest level of stress. In Brain State 5, the primitive, reptilian brain is in charge, and all aspects of life seem extreme. At Brain State 1, the lofty neocortex takes control and the various domains of life naturally feel effective and balanced.

Checking brain states has important benefits like helping us understand ourselves better and appreciate shared human experiences. Everyone experiences all five brain states.

3. Update your unconscious expectations.

The third technique is to update unreasonable expectations that are encoded in the brain from past experiences.

These unreasonable expectations can be false associations, crossed wires from a momentary experience of stress that we coped with in an unhealthy way which the brain then recorded and now replays in response to small daily stresses.

For example: If we reached for food when we really needed love, an expectation is encoded ("I get my love from overeating.") If we feel distanced in a relationship, the encoded message may be "I get my safety from isolating," laying the foundation for decades of distancing from loved ones. These expectations amplify our stress chemicals and promote reactivity and prolonged stress.

Emerging research shows that these circuits can be reactivated and updated. When we train the brain to react with something more healthy, the brain begins promoting stress resilience, helping us bounce back from disturbing news more rapidly.

The EBT technique for rewiring, which is called the cycle tool, applies this research with a set of statements that guides users to reduce their stress and update their expectations. The key is to state one phrase after another, and pause for long enough that the messages from the unconscious mind "bubble up" into the conscious mind to complete the sentences.

The EBT Cycle Tool

This situation is:

What I'm most stressed about is: (narrow it to one complaint)

I feel angry that:

I can't stand it that:

I HATE it that:

I feel sad that:

I feel afraid that:

I feel guilty that:

Of course I would have that guilt reaction, because my unreasonable expectation is:

The reasonable expectation that I will replace this with is: (repeat three times)

I'll give an example. Here's my cycle tool at this moment:

The situation is that politicians are making a mess of things. What am I most stressed about is the world falling apart. I feel angry that the world is falling apart. I can't stand it that you can't trust anyone. I hate that they won't do what I want them to do. I feel sad that things are so bad. I feel afraid that they will get worse. I feel guilty that I am so stressed out!

Of course I am stressed out, because my unreasonable expectation is that I get my safety from other people doing what I want them to do. That's ridiculous! I cannot get my safety from others doing what I want them to do. That's impossible. The reasonable expectation that I will replace this with is that I get my safety from connecting with myself and doing what I can do to create safety and joy in my life.

In one to four minutes of using this emotional tool, I feel good again and appreciate that I have made a small but important improvement in my wiring.

4. Tap into the power of compassion and humor.

The fourth technique is to check the brain state of others. Problems in relationships are most apt to happen when both people are stressed. The reptilian brain is in charge, so emotions are extreme and the brain activates circuits of relationship dysfunction. Our thinking brain remains offline, so analyzing the situation rapidly devolves into obsessing or ruminating. We're apt to distance ourselves from others and judge.

When stressed like this, nobody is "relationship material." By realizing that your partner is in stress, you can access compassion and use humor (e.g., "I'd like to discuss that but my reptilian brain is in charge right now.") to melt that stress and hasten a healing moment of reconnection.

5. Finally, try a little tenderness.

How can we boost our spirits during turbulent times? Let's remind ourselves that the stress of the situation is perfect in its own way. It gives us opportunities to try a little tenderness, becoming more sophisticated in how we approach our emotions, thereby discovering a new zest for life. That zest becomes our gift to ourselves, to our loved ones – and to our nation.

This story originally appeared on The Conversation and is reprinted with permission.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.