Wellness Articles

Archive for 'Stress Management'

Exercise and reduce your stress

Current research is documenting that as little as thirty minutes of exercise three times a week can reduce your stress levels as effectively or more effectively than taking medication. Walking, stretching, yoga, light calisthenics – you don’t have to become a gym rat to get the benefit of exercise.

Pick something you like to do – take a walk on a beautiful day. Get some small dumbbells and lift weights while you’re watching TV. Do some deep breathing to get yourself moving inside. Remember back to grade school, and do some light exercises the way you used to (take it easy when you get started) – sit-ups, push-ups and squat thrusts may seem retro, but they are time tested to strengthen your muscles, improve your circulation, and make you feel better overall.

And, they’re fun!

Consult your doctor of chiropractic to ask which exercises would be ideal for you. Investing as little as ninety minutes each week can make all the difference in the world – try it and see!

Adapting to Stress: Body and Mind

Health is a state of well being in three distinct areas: 1. Physical, 2. Mental and 3. Social.

A negatively stressful life will rarely lead to a healthy body.  A struggling, desperate individual will likely experience illness despite following most of the other important rules of wellness.  Even if you could be healthy while experiencing stress, you’d just be a healthy miserable person.  And, who wants that?

On the other hand, someone who has peace of mind, knows who he or she is, works hard to emerge victorious over struggles and experiences loving relationships will very likely enjoy ongoing good health.  If you’re not having a good time living in your body, it’s hard for that body to be well or for you to call it healthy.  The fact is, you can’t separate your wellness from your emotions.  Every feeling you have affects some part of your body.

“Celebrations and tragedies alike cause a stress response in the body.  Some stress is unavoidable.”

All feelings create physiologic change.  Skin, heart rate, digestion, joints, muscle energy levels, the hair on your head and endless cells and systems you don’t even know about change with every emotion.  These changes can be called the stress response.

The only stress-free people on the planet can be visited at any local cemetery.  On the other hand, stress becomes negative only when:

  • Your response to it is negative.
  • Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances.
  • Your response lasts an excessively long time.
  • You are feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered and overwrought from circumstance.

Our personality and emotions are not pre-determined and pre-programmed as we once thought.  You are not who you perceive yourself to be!  Many of us feel stuck inside a brain that doesn’t work the way we want it to.  What science has discovered is that we control our genes, they don’t control us!

Although your DNA is your basic blueprint, it is triggered by our attitude and environment.  By beginning to embrace and cooperate with life and recognizing how powerful you are, you can start to have a spirit of overcoming, experiencing positive, healthy stress, rather than living as a victim in a state of overwhelm and negative stress.

Stress has become a serious health hazard.  If you don’t get a handle on it quick, stress can take a huge toll on your physical, mental and social well-being.  Let me share with you the simplest way to turn stress into your ally and not your enemy…

Regular chiropractic adjustments are the quickest and most effective way to reduce stress to your nerve system.  Spinal nerve stress caused by a vertebral subluxation is a dangerous mechanism that damages nerves, weakens health and depletes energy stores.  Many people may walk around with a painless subluxation for years without knowing it.  Doctors of chiropractic are professionals who specialize in correcting vertebral subluxations, the cause of spinal nerve stress, which leads to increased energy, improved health and a rejuvenated body.

Summer Vacation Benefits

Summertime in the south is undoubtedly one of God’s greatest gifts.  I can remember how I looked forward to summer when I was a child.  I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house, and the way their back yard’s St. Augustine grass felt under my bare feet is a feeling I am trying to re-create at my own house.  There was always an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, time for canning and making jellies, and time for family vacations.  While we did not have an abundance of money, we did make time to go somewhere even if it was just for a day.  The act of getting everyone out of their respective routines and onto the same page for vacation time was something I craved then and still do now.  I don’t know how important the simple pleasures of southern living are to people in today’s fast world, but setting aside time for vacations is essential to sanity in the rush.

It is common for Europeans to take 4 to 6 weeks per year of vacation time.  Most European families would not dream of forgoing vacation time away from home, but many Americans do.  If you stay in your same surroundings all the time without ever going away to see things from a different perspective, it is easy to allow your body to absorb stress.  The proverbial rut is easy to fall into in this situation, and people who do not take at least some vacation time to decompress find that they are not only often bored and unhappy but also are more often ill than people who do make downtime a priority.

There is a suggestion from a recent study that vacations might even extend your life span.  The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) included 12000 middle-aged men who were at high risk for coronary heart disease.  One aspect of the study was vacation frequency.  During the nine year follow-up period of the study, those who took frequent vacations were 32 percent less likely to die from coronary heart disease and 17 percent less likely to die from other causes than those who rarely took time off.  According to the Framingham Heart Study, frequent vacations decreased the risk of death due to heart disease by as much as 50 percent in women aged 45to 64.  The reason for the extended life spans of the vacationing participants is linked to the fact that vacations reduce stress.  Stress, as many of us know, has been blamed for a plethora of maladies, including heart disease, hypertension, depression, and even cancer.

Scheduling time off to spend with family and friends, go hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, playing golf or any leisure activity that appeals to you is not just a luxury that only the elite get to enjoy.  It is a necessity for all of us to put at the top of our list of priorities.  In fact, Joe Robinson, of Santa Monica, California, is rallying Congress to get the Fair Labor Standards Act changed.  He suggests that every American needs 3 to 4 weeks of paid leave every year.  Mr. Robinson has written a book entitled “Work to Live,” in which he outlines his campaign to get Congress to prescribe a cure for what he calls vacation deficit disorder.  According to Robinson, U.S. employees have the fewest number of vacation days in the industrialized world, yet studies show they have trouble taking even those days off.  American employees get an average of 13 paid days off per year according to the World Tourism Organization, but 1 in 6 workers are too busy to take all the days off they have earned.  Our obsession with work, drive for success, and undying efforts to compete in the world marketplace has left many of us with an empty “time for me” bank.

In my own busy practice it is challenging to schedule time off, but we have to in order to be able to give 100 percent to our patients when we are there.  Long weekends count in the vacation game as much as longer stretches of time do.  If long weekends are what you have to take in order to get the time off you deserve, make sure you take more of them.  More and more resorts offer packages that cater to long weekenders.  Body treatments while on vacation are exceptional ways to accelerate the stress-reducing effects of days off.  A nice massage on a long weekend can give lasting stress relief benefits.  You can get really creative with ways to spend the necessary time away from the phone, doorbell, PlayStation, and computer.  Poll the family.  Find out what it is that everyone likes to do and make a plan to get some of that in for the whole family.

Vacations are a must.  If you don’t take them you suffer for it.  Judith Sachs, author of “20 Minute Vacations,” says that you can experience the soothing benefits of lowered stress and deep relaxation in 20 minute intervals right in your own chair.  The book outlines methods of having tidbits of the vacation experience more often.  Envision palm trees, ocean sounds, warm tropical breezes, or even the feeling of St. Augustine grass under your bare feet while you are biting a piece of sweet Georgia watermelon…Treat your body and your spirit well.

Stress Management

In my last column I dealt with nutrition and its role in the total health picture.  Once it is handled and the body is fuelled properly, other things need to be dealt with in order for your optimum health to be expressed.  The next facet of health that must be balanced in order to be as productive as possible is the management of stress.  Improper stress management can wreak havoc on a body and a spirit.

It is very important to realize that there are good stressors as well as bad ones in our lives, but both must be managed.   Some of the most stressful things in life are entering marriage, buying a new house, having a baby, starting a new job, and going on vacation.  Yes, going on vacation is a major life stressor.  Of course, the benefits of these types of stress should outweigh the detriment, but they are stressors nonetheless.  Other more obvious stressors are countless, so just fill in the blank but think of some creative ways to deal with them.  As I juggle the different wonderful things that are happening in my own life, I realize that it does take some effort to make everything come out all right in the end.

One way to deal with things that tend to bring on stress is to prioritize them.  I don’t mean make lists because what good is a list if you leave something off?  (smile)  I mean that you should ask yourself how important this stressor really is in the grand scheme of your life.  If it won’t matter five years from now, don’t worry about it.  Handle it the best way you can, and let it go.  I have learned a truly great lesson and that is to handle such things as if they were games.  Think about how much fun you have when you play your favorite game, whether that game is golf, Rummy, or Monopoly.  Life can be as much fun if you design it that way.  Make up games for everything from getting through the grocery store in less than half an hour to seeing how long your boss can go without blowing a gasket at the office.  Nobody ever said that life has to be a serious, boring endeavor.  If you go through it playing games, every day will be a lot more fun for you.

Remember that the score is being kept by you and only you.

Feed your spirit as regularly as you feed your body.  It doesn’t matter if you are going to church every time the doors swing open or spending quiet time in meditation on your back porch, but recognize the need to connect with your inner self and the true source of life.  If traditional religion doesn’t satisfy the urge to feed your soul, go to the bookstore or go online and find some information on meditation and how it’s done.  This is a good place to start looking for the spiritual food that is best for you.  There must be a way for you to quiet the chatter in your mind.  If you’re constantly having a conversation in your head about something or wondering what you’ll do for dinner or how that next project will come out or who’s going to do your taxes or what could your mother possibly want for her birthday or why is that weird person staring at you or….  You get the idea.  There simply must be some time for you and only you.

Have an attitude of gratitude.  I know that sounds cliché, but it really does matter.  If you take the time to thank people who help you in every way, more of the same help will attract itself to you.  If you are truly grateful for everything that is good in your life, you’ll be amazed at how much good will come to you.  The opposite is also true.  If you focus only on negativity, that’s what you’ll get.

Benefits of Massage

Do you ever have trouble finding just the right gift for the person who has everything?   One suggestion is something that will not only be unique for the person who has everything but will benefit him or her as well.  That gift is the gift of therapeutic massage.  I have written in the past about the need for humans to deal with and reduce stress rather than carry it around and hope it will go away.  In addition to my regular chiropractic adjustments, one of my favorite ways to reduce stress is to have full body massages.  This idea is foreign to many but as massage becomes more readily available to us it would be helpful if more people understood what it is and how it can be beneficial as part of a regimen of natural health care.  I was surprised to learn recently that when some people hear the word “massage” they think of massage parlors that were actually just covers for brothels in days past.  Therapeutic massage is as far from a brothel as is a doctor’s office, and I thought I would share some information on the subject with you.

Massage has been used for thousands of years as Chinese medical texts document.  Many different methods of massage were used to loosen muscle tissue and to relieve pain.  The techniques that most massage therapists use today are based on the principles of Swedish Massage which was developed in the late 19th century by a Swedish gymnast named Per Henrik Ling.  The system developed by Mr. Ling is a systematic application of pressure and motion on the muscular and ligamentous tissues in the body in an effort to relieve tension in these areas.  While that seems simple enough, there is much more that happens as a result of getting a massage than meets the eye.

 A tremendous amount of research has been done on the effects of massage on the body.  Massage can relieve muscle tension related to stress as well as muscle soreness from overworking.  A trained massage therapist can locate stress points in the body and work them out so that the body’s response to stress and muscular soreness is much more palatable.  Sometimes massage therapists work on trigger points, which are areas of the muscle where blood is not flowing properly and knots form.  This sometimes doesn’t feel great at the moment but a tremendous sense of relief is the result of a good trigger point session.  If you get a deep tissue massage to work on really stubborn areas, the body might feel a little bit sore as a result.  Drinking plenty of good, clean water will help to rinse away any toxins that might cause this soreness.

Massage has been shown to stimulate the flow of the lymphatic system, and this eases the elimination of toxic substances that would otherwise tend to build up in the body.  There are entire massage techniques which are built solely on the different methods of aiding lymphatic drainage.  This helps the immune system work more efficiently.  Increasing lymphatic circulation can also reduce edema (swelling) in certain instances.  With less edema comes less pain.

When you get massaged, you go into a state of deeper relaxation than normal.  As you become more relaxed, you tend to breathe more deeply. Having deeper respirations increases the body’s rate of oxygenation and thereby promotes a clearer mind and a more restful state.  The body’s  healing processes are sped up if the body is resting.  That is why one of the cornerstones of good health is the assurance that you get plenty of rest.

Massage also promotes the release of chemicals called endorphins in the body.  Endorphins are hormone-like chemicals produced in the brain that have a close functional relationship to morphine.  This makes the brain a factory for its own pain-control substances.  The other phenomenon associated with endorphins is that they serve an antidepressant function.  Heavy exercise also produces endorphins and results in the infamous “runner’s high.”  Massage is a way to experience the pain-relieving effects of endorphins without the vigorous output on your part.

The potential benefits of massage are numerous, and can be more completely explained by a trained massage therapist.  Always ask about a therapist’s education, certification, and licensure.  Although Georgia doesn’t have strict licensing requirements for massage therapists, graduates from approved schools can take a national certification test which is standardized and assures you that basic knowledge about specific techniques is mastered.  With many natural aids to healing available to us, we can bring about a better state of being and thereby make our world a little bit better place to live.  Treat your body and your spirit well.