“95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.” Says Dr. Mark Hyman, a family physician, New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader in his field. What can you do to relax, especially as we head into a hectic holiday season? Here are his tips in a nutshell:
Rule out biological causes of stress, such as a magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency, chemical pollutants, or a gluten allergy.
Relax while being physically active. Try walking.
Learn something new – especially something enjoyable and relaxing such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.
Exercise! It burns off stress.
Clean up your diet. Reduce caffeine and sugar and eat regular, small meals.
Take a multivitamin.
Try herbs that improve your response to stress such as ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha.
Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax.
Are you considering surgery? Before you do, read the October 6, 2010 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery which says that almost half of orthopedic surgery patients are low in vitamin D. This can hamper recovery from surgery. Low vitamin D levels mean slower healing for muscles and fractures. It’s very easy to test for and have fixed. If your doctor doesn’t do a pre-surgical screening of your vitamin D level, ask for it!
Often, the voice in our head is the one that makes us feel the worst. Both men and women can suffer from poor body image. Extreme cases of this result in eating disorders, but even mild forms of this can lead to low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and a decrease in our vitality. If you’re unsure about your own body image, massage is a great way to create awareness of what you actually look like. It also naturally creates a more positive response to how you look. Luckily, you can create awareness of what your brain is saying about your body and focus it on positive thoughts. If you’d like to change your attitude about your body, try these tips:
Understand that internal voices come from external forces like culture, religion, and family. Remind yourself that those thoughts were most likely put in your head from outside sources.
List the negative (such as too much weight, not pretty enough, wrong body shape). List them all. Tell yourself that these are other people’s demands on your body, not your own. You don’t have to look the way other people want you to.
Find an exercise that you enjoy doing, rather than one that makes your body look the way you think it should. You will exercise more if you enjoy it and do it for the sake of enjoyment rather than a goal. Try to be good to your body through moderate exercise and pampering.
Don’t discuss dieting, weight- loss, or time logged at the gym.
Think of yourself in a global context. It’s easier to become dissatisfied when focusing on American images of beauty. Remember these images represent just a tiny fraction of the possibilities for beauty and success.
Compliment yourself every time you criticize yourself.
You’ve seen all the pink ribbons, awareness for the cure for breast cancer is growing phenomenally. But did you know there’s something simple you can do to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer?
Breast cancer expert, Dr. Susan Love has the answer. In study after study, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer as well as the risk of recurrence. Exercise hard enough to sweat for 30 minutes a day, three or four days a week. That’s it, especially if you are post-menopausal. Any extra weight can increase your risk for cancer as well as a host of other diseases. The type of exercise doesn’t matter, just getting moving is the key. Also avoid unnecessary radiation. Don’t have X-rays or CAT scans unless you need them and they make a difference in your treatment. Radiation is cumulative and increases breast cancer.
You’ve probably heard that researchers from the National institute of Health have proclaimed that you can get real health benefits from just one massage. Specifically, whether you receive a deep tissue massage or one with a lighter touch, your stress hormone levels go down and your white blood cell count goes up. It’s an easy word to overlook, but these were not small changes, they were “significant,” which is an important distinction in scientific data. Reduced stress allows the body’s “rest and digest” reactions to ease digestion, promote better sleep, and take the strain off your circulatory system. Increasing the number of white blood cells boosts your immunity, giving added protection against colds, viruses, and infections. It shouldn’t be surprising that study after study continues to find massage is a pleasant way to increase your health, although all this good news does add up!
Sound sleep is an important part of good health. Some would argue it’s the most important component. If you suffer from chronic poor sleep, it’s found to have a cumulative effect effecting your heart, digestion, immunity, and memory. Here are a few tips from Dr. Mercola for helping you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Keep the lighting as low as possible
Keep the temperature in your room below 70 degrees
Did you know that muscle soreness can be decreased by what you eat? A recent study shows that ginger root eaten raw or cooked can decrease pain significantly. Ginger is a funny-looking bumpy root available in most common supermarkets in the produce section. You can just peel it and use it any way you like. It’s commonly used to flavor stir-fry dishes, soups, and desserts. I’ve even started adding it to juice. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which help deaden pain and ease sore muscles. It also happens to be terrific for your digestive system, so you feel better and are actually healthier overall. Now, most over-the-counter pain relievers can’t even come close to that!
Everyone knows that massage is good for your muscles, but it helps many other areas of your body. Massage also helps your nervous system, providing stimulus to the rest and digest aspect of your nerves. And what about that nickname of rest and digest? We can all guess that massage promotes rest in the short term, and also better sleep patterns which help you rest in the long term. Massage also helps your digestive system in two important ways. It stimulates the production of hormones that calm your fight or flight symptoms, allowing more circulation and efficiency to return to the vital organs. It also works directly on soothing the muscles of the digestive tract which push food along and allow for nutrients to be absorbed.
This is one reason massage is a benefit for anyone with chronic conditions that may lead to insomnia or sleep disturbances such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac, apnea, and acid reflux.
You’ve heard many times now that you’re supposed to drink water after a massage to flush out toxins. You may be wondering, just what is a toxin? The best analogy I have is that toxins are like dust bunnies. Dust bunnies are made up of all sorts of things and hide out in areas where the air and brooms aren’t circulating enough to get rid of them from the room. Your cells hold onto toxins mostly because there isn’t enough blood circulating in to clean them out. Massage increases blood circulation which can help clean the toxins out from your cells. If you drink water, it helps your blood circulate more efficiently so that those toxins are flushed right out of your body instead of being deposited under the bed of another cell.
Need to know more about toxins? As it turns out, some of them can be toxic if allowed to stay in your body. Deb Dittner, nurse practitioner and more right here at 550 Maple Avenue, defines toxins and offers many ways to get rid of them. Check out her latest article from the Saratogian: