Stress is one of the biggest threats to the public's health, but it can be reduced at home with the right techniques.
Everyday Health documents how stress is an epidemic for all ages and genders in the United States, one which is often not spoken of and is unseen.
Anything can lead to a build-up of stress, from work commitments to personal problems, or even concern for affairs in the wider world. Even simply reaching middle age is now more stressful than ever before, with a Penn University study suggesting 45 to 64-year-olds are more stressed today than in the 1990s.
The increase in stress will similarly place an increased demand on healthcare as it manifests itself into a range of conditions and illnesses. An overview by Maryville University on healthcare management outlines that that demand for medical and health services professionals will increase by 17% from 2014 to 2024, making a reduction in stress-related illness a must, to ease the burden on hospitals and doctors. Whilst these uncertain times heighten the potential for stress and anxiety, it is important to consider how you can healthy, physically and mentally. However, by implementing meditation or relaxation at home, you can help alleviate those concerns and the pressure on our healthcare professionals.
What do you need to get started? Our handy guide will have you de-stressing in next to no time at all.
Find a Spot
It is important to find the right spot to get started. The ideal place will be somewhere you are not likely to get distracted or interrupted, at least for the few minutes you want to meditate. Make sure your cellular phone is off and, if you still have a house line, perhaps take it off the hook.
It is also important to consider your posture. Yoga Journal explains there are several postures you can use and picking one that is likely to give you the best chance to relax is important. You do not want to choose a posture that aggravates a back injury, for example.
Pick Your Time
Timing is everything and if you are at home all day, you will know what time you regularly get interrupted. What time does the mailman come? Do you have kids who are likely to pop home at lunch? If you know your routine, you will know when you can get five minutes alone and in peace.
Early morning is a great time to meditate as it is generally quieter, but also your period of self-reflection can help set you up for the day.
Nobody is expecting you to sit for hours at your first attempt, meditation is like any other hobby; you start small and work your way up. Even sitting for a few minutes, or however long you feel comfortable, is a great place to begin. Do not let your mediation become a source of stress; do not worry if you are doing it right or not doing it enough, it is counterproductive.
The human mind is a wonderful thing; it stores up information and constantly sends signals around the body to keep you alert and healthy. However, to meditate properly you must find a way to turn off the little itches that appear, or to-do lists that pop into your head. The best way is to focus on your breathing, concentrating on the inhale and exhale, carefully and with purpose. That focuses your brain and will impact the other signals, much the same as your to-do list does not pop into your head when you are distracted gardening, cooking or playing sports.
They are the basics, the easiest way to find yourself having some quiet relaxation time and hopefully destressing at some point in the day. There are no hard and fast rules to meditation, other than to ensure a better mental state of mind and ultimately, increased physical wellness too.
A symptom of stress can be tension headaches, a debilitating and painful intrusion on your wellbeing. If you do suffer from these, it is worth reading our article How to Get Rid of Tension Headaches for some practical advice on solving the issue.
~Exclusively written by Lana Preston for allwayswell.com
4/10/2020 0 Comments
3/19/2020 0 Comments
Covid19 has everyone pretty freaked out right now, and there is reason to be concerned - it is contagious (although not as contagious as something like measles) and people are dying (mostly people in their 70's and 80's) - but I believe there is equally good reason to feel heartened and confident.
Why? Because there are things we can do to protect ourselves and to those that we love. Most people are not at risk of becoming critically ill or dying. In fact, it is possible many of us had this virus back in December or January (remember that really really bad cough that was going around?? Hmmm....). We will make it through!
If you want as little risk as possible, the best thing you can do is stay home. Don't expose yourself or others, stay in as long as you don't need to go out and avoid social gatherings. This is a reasonable recommendation until the virus naturally makes its way through more of the population.
The next best thing you can do is wash your hands. Yes. Washing your hands is still the #1 #1 #1 thing you can do to prevent spreading the virus. Wash your hands with soap and water, don't touch your face.
There is also a lot of misinformation out there about Coronavirus, how it spreads and what can or cannot kill it. The Who actually put together a great list of Mythbusters - I highly recommend you check it out!
Here in the US we are still in the early stages of our curve. Yes, it is still likely to get worse before it gets better, but please please realize that we have only just started widespread testing. That means that our numbers could be artificially high in the next 5-10 days. This will be a more accurate picture of what is actually going on, not necessarily representative of a terrible and immediate increase in cases. So please, breathe deep, don't panic, read the statistics and not just the media. The raw data is going to give you a better sense of what is going on compared to a journalists' opinion and synthesis of it.
Good places to get accurate information are the CDC, The WHO Situation Dashboard and your local Department of Health website for your specific county. They will have a Covid19 page at this time - I know Multnomah and Clark County both do.
But I digress - in addition to quarantine and social distancing, staying positive and taking small steps to improve your immunity can go a long way. Stress is also bad for the immune system, and panic itself can be like a virus - if you've seen those empty toilet paper shelves at the store I am sure you can attest to that! Don't be infected by panic - stay calm, stay safe, and do all the little things you can do to keep calm and carry on.
Here is an excellent hand out from Functional Nutrition Lab about some of the Immune SuperHeroes out there that we can mix into our daily routine. Stay focused on what you can do instead of what you can't do and together, we will make it through!
Tension headaches are the most common types of reported headaches that usually consist of a dull ache in the head coupled with tenderness in ones scalp, neck and shoulder muscles. It’s often also described as having a sensation of pressure or tightness reaching the sides and the back of the head as well as the forehead.
Types of Headaches
Although the root cause isn’t yet fully understood, doctors have placed tension headaches into two separate categories. The first being Episodic Tension Headache which can last between 30 minutes and one week. This type of tension headache often occurs less than 15 days in a given month during a 3-month span but these types of headaches can become chronic. The second categorized headache is a Chronic Tension Headache; this type lasts hours and may continue into several days. Victims of chronic tension headaches occur for more than 15 days in a given month and may last up to 3 months at any given time.
It’s important to note that Tension headaches differ from migraines but can often be difficult to differentiate between the two. Migraines are known to disturb vision, can include nausea and vomiting and are usually made worse with physical activity.
These headaches can be caused by a number of items including stress, food, head injuries and so on.
Acupuncture and Tension Headaches
Acupuncture is used to treat headaches through the act of needle stimulation. As the needle stimulates the nerve, hormones such as endorphins are released from your brain throughout your body which then stimulates your immune and circulatory system. Studies claim that this is what relieves migraines and tension headaches.
Acupoints for Headaches
LI-4 - also known as "Union Valley" or He Gu, is the acupuncture point in the “fleshy” area between your index finger and thumb. It can be used to address many conditions, including stress, neck pain, headaches, allergies, stuffy nose, eye problems, toothaches and it can even improve your immunity. This point is also used to promote labor, so it should not be used when pregnant.
Drilling Bamboo- Located in the indentations on either side of the spot near the bridge of the nose where it meets the eye brows. Apply pressure to both points in this area with your index fingers for 10 seconds at a time.
Gates of Consciousness- Place your index fingers at the base of the skull in the parallel hollow areas between the neck muscles that run vertically. Press firmly upwards on both sides of the neck for 10 seconds at a time to relieve headache pain.
Foods to Avoid
If tension headaches are a factor in your life, a list of foods to avoid are as follows:
Fermented and/or pickled foods
Meats such as bacon, hotdogs, salami and cured meats
Foods and drinks that may contain caffeine
If you notice any of these foods aggravating your condition, you may way to remove the above foods from your diet and slowly work them back into your diet, if any of them start causing you headaches, it’s recommended to no longer eat that food.
Our modern lifestyle is synonymous with stress. Our lives are so rushed that we rarely have the time to pause and acknowledge the stress we experience. Pretty much every area of our lives are a source of stress – from juggling our deadlines at work and completing household chores to meeting financial obligations and managing family responsibilities. Most of us just accept stress as inevitable which is why we don’t take steps to reduce our stress levels. However, stress doesn’t just affect our mental and emotional health as research shows that stress also affects our physical health.
How Chronic Stress Affects the Body
Impacts Heart Health
Chronic stress increases your risk of high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and heart disease. When you get stressed, your body releases a flood of the hormone cortisol which increases your heart rate and tenses your muscles. While the occasional stress response does not have a lasting impact on your health, chronic stress causes high levels of cortisol for prolonged periods. Research indicates that high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood pressure and the levels of blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar – the most common risk factors for heart disease. Stress also promotes the build-up of arterial plaque which limits blood flow and increases the risk of a heart attack.
Increases the Risk of Sexual Dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction is a common problem that affects approximately 31% of men and 43% of women in our country. Sexual dysfunction includes issues such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation in men and a lack of sexual desire, the inability to become aroused and the lack of orgasm in women. Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common sexual dysfunction problems as it affects about 18 million American men over the age of 20. Studies show that psychological factors such as stress are the most common cause of ED. Counseling, therapy and stress reduction methods can help to prevent and treat stress-related sexual dysfunction.
Triggers Skin and hair problems
Studies show that stress is closely associated with a variety of skin problems including acne, psoriasis and eczema. High stress increases the production of sebum which increases your risk of an acne breakout. Stress can also trigger an immune reaction which can result in autoimmune diseases such as alopecia and vitiligo. Stress and skin or hair problems are closely linked and can form a vicious cycle where stress triggers skin and hair problems that cause an individual further stress. Researchers found that there is a 30-40% incidence of psychiatric issues such as stress, anxiety and depression among dermatological patients.
Greatly increases the risk of Obesity and other Eating Disorders
The National Center for Health Statistics for 2015-2016 estimates that 39.8% of adults (20 years old and over) were obese while an additional 31.8% were overweight. Changes in eating habits play a key role in the obesity epidemic but the underlying cause for these dietary changes is stress. Studies show that chronic stress triggers the craving for “comfort foods” which are high in sugars and fats. This is why people with chronic stress are at a much higher risk of obesity and other eating disorders such as binge eating and bulimia nervosa.
Increases the Frequency and Intensity of Headaches
When you experience stress, your muscles tense up in anticipation. Chronic stress keeps your neck and scalp muscles tense for a prolonged period which can trigger a tension headache. According to health experts, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Chronic stress can also increase your risk of a migraine headache. Unlike tension headaches (that are not debilitating), a migraine headaches is an intense throbbing pain that can be felt on one or both sides of the head. The pain from migraine headaches can be excruciating and last for 4-72 hours. Migraine headaches can also cause sensitivity to light and sound as well as nausea and vomiting.
Ways to overcome Chronic Stress
Although chronic stress can feel overwhelming, it’s not beyond your control. There’s a lot that you can do to lower stress levels naturally using a variety of techniques that are proven to help. These can include:
Studies show that acupuncture reduces stress over time which makes it invaluable in the treatment of chronic stress. Acupuncture stimulates the release of several hormones including oxytocin and serotonin which reduce stress responses, including anxiety. Specific acupuncture points provide greater stress relief and are used frequently by licensed practitioners. Acupuncture can also help to reverse the effects of chronic stress and have a positive effect on existing health problems such as hypertension.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is another stress reduction technique that is highly recommended as it can be used to consciously relax whenever you start to feel the pressure build. It involves tensing and relaxing specific muscles in the body in synchrony with your breathing.
Similar to progressive muscle relaxation and just as effective, deep breathing exercises promote both mental and physical relaxation within minutes, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. The practice is recommended for coping with stress disorders and depression, as well as chronic pain.
There are several types of meditation and you can make a choice based on your preferences, the amount of time you have and what you intend to get out of your meditation sessions. It really doesn’t matter what type of meditation you take up, as any form of meditation will help. The practice is known to provide immediate stress relief and also helps build resilience against stress, allowing you to cope more efficiently with difficult situations.
Stress can have a severe impact on our overall health which is why we can’t afford to simply ignore this problem and hope it goes away. It is estimated that up to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints. In addition to stress reduction techniques, you can also make changes to your lifestyle that are known to promote relaxation and make you less vulnerable to the effects of stress. Physical activity would top the list, as this is one of the best ways to get a rush of endorphins, helping counter the effects of stress. Reducing your stress levels will increase your resilience so that you can overcome life’s challenges allowing you to lead a happy, productive and fulfilling life.
Author Bio -Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on mental health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and obesity. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.
There are several acupressure points that are known to treat stress and stress related symptoms. It’s important to understand that acupressure is not the only form of treatment and having a balanced diet, exercise regime and lifestyle will also decrease the chances of stress being a factor in your life.
The following five acupoints are known to help alleviate stress and other related symptoms.
LU 1—Zhong Fu
GV 24.5—Yin Tang
KI 1—Yong Quan
LI 4—He Gu
S 36- Zu San Li
Lu 1, Zhong Fu- This point is often used to treat vomiting, stops coughing, disperses fullness in the chest, stops pain and regulates Lung Qi. It’s located in the upper chest in the space below the first rib, six cun from the midline. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Lu 1 regulates Lung Qi and stimulates the Lung Qi to descend. It also disperses fullness in the chest and stops coughing.
KI 1, Yongquan, Bubbling Spring- This acupoint is located on the sole of the foot approximately at the junction of the second and third toes. Indications that this acupoint will aid you are if you’re experiencing headaches, dizziness, loss of voice, blurring of vision and so on. In TCM, this acupoint is known to subdue wind and empty-heat, clear up the brain, and tonifies yin.
LI 4, Hegu, Joining (Union) Valley- The LI 4 is known to treat swelling and pain of the eye, nasal obstruction, toothache, facial swelling, deafness, sore throat and much more. In TCM, it’s said to dispel exterior wind, stimulate the dispersing function of the lungs, removes pain, and harmonizing descending and ascending functions. This point is located on the back of the hand at the apex of the webbed triangle between the thumb and the index finger.
ST 36, Zu San Li- This acupoint is often used to treat vomiting, stress and fatigue and gastrointestinal discomfort. This point is located along the outside of your shin bone about 4 finger lengths from the knee cap. You will know you’re in the right location because a muscle will mom out as you move your foot up and down. In TCM, this point is stimulated frequently to promote health and longevity.
GV 24.5, Yin Tang, Third Eye- This point is located about one finger above the point between the eyebrows and will be almost directly in the middle of the forehead. Working this point is said to calm the mind, clarify ideas and intuition as well as strengthen mental projection. It can be used to alleviate dizziness, stress, vertigo, sinusitis and headaches.
Each of the above points can be used to aid in relieving stress and/or other symptoms that can cause stress. It’s helpful to bring a list to your Acupuncturist of any symptoms you may have or are looking to treat, any information will be helpful in curating your individualized treatment plan. Please communicate with your Acupuncturist if you are pregnant or looking to become pregnant as some pressure points may affect you.
Winter’s element is water and is associated with the kidneys, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is considered the source of all qi and energy within the body. Winter is also associated with the bladder and adrenal glands.
Focusing on inner reflection, rest, energy conservation and storage during the winter months is when it’s most important as it helps us to properly nourish our Kidney Qi.
Below are a few methods you can learn about and apply during this season in order to maintain a balanced qi.
Balancing your lifestyle
For most people, a reduction in activity is common during the winter months whether it’s due to the frigid temperatures, damp weather, or lack of activities available in the area where you reside.
Given that reduced activity is likely a factor for many, it’s important to also consume less food this time of year to avoid unnecessary weight gain. Food that should be gravitated towards would be warmer foods such as beans, ginger or garlic, and even soups and stews.
Rest & Relaxation
Although the days are shorter during the winter, it’s important to stay in line with our circadian rhythm. This can be done by having an earlier bedtime and waking up after the sun has had time to warm the earth in the morning. Not only does getting more sleep helps with balancing our Yang Qi, it helps give our body the necessary rest we need in order to prevent common winter illnesses such as the flu, colds, and general aches and pains. Not only that, but according to TCM, unresolved anger, stress and frustration can throw your immune system thus off allowing pathogens to affect the body.
Relaxation is also a way to stay balanced during this time of year.
Drink Plenty of Water
We’re all aware that drinking water is extremely important to our survival, but it does more than simply keeping us alive.
Drinking water has many benefits including the fact that it’s essential for proper kidney function and can even prevent kidney stones. It’s also known for lubricating the joints, delivers oxygen through the body, regulates body temperature, and maintaining blood pressure.
If you have a hard time drinking water, try adding lemon to it to amplify the taste, drinking tea, or adding a vitamin flavor enhancer.
Wash your hands
Winter time is the time of year where we are in close proximity with others because we tend to stay indoors more. That being said, we are more likely to spread our germs to others and vice versa.
Washing your hands often can help prevent the spread of germs and keep you healthy. Other ways to avoid coming in contact with germs is to keep a container of sanitizing cloths with you so you can wipe down door knobs, grocery cart handles, and even condiment containers at restaurants before handling them.
The acupuncture point that we suggest catering to is Du 14. It helps regulate blood circulation and can also strengthen the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle to prevent the intrusion and duration of germs and viruses.
Du 14 is a crucial point that is used to release the Exterior and treat Wind-Heat.
Applying Traditional Chinese Medicine to your active lifestyle is beneficial for your health and should be made a priority.
A study published in the Annals of Yoga and Physical Therapy looked at how acupuncture treatments affect stress levels in administrative workers at a local hospital. The study included 58 participants who reported high levels of stress associated with their jobs. The participants were treated with eight weeks of auricular acupuncture. After the eight acupuncture sessions, the workers reported their stress levels had decreased from high to moderate. The study hypothesizes that reduced stress levels are associated with regular acupuncture treatments due to the release of neurotransmitters in the body. This study and many others are providing evidence that acupuncture can indeed decrease stress levels and improve overall health.
Stress is defined as either pressure or tension exerted on an object or a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Here are some facts from the Global Organization for Stress:
● Americans report higher levels of stress than most countries around the globe.
● Surveys show that nearly one out of 75 people worldwide experience panic attacks.
● Stress in American teenagers is now one of the top health concerns and it is being found that teenagers experiencing stress are more likely to develop long-term health problems.
● We all experience stress in our lives.
● But learning how to deal with it can be crucial for a happy, healthy life.
One way to deal with stress involves the use of a 3,000 year old medical system, known as Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. TCM uses many different modalities or tools to treat the human mind and body. The most commonly used modality is acupuncture and while acupuncture is still not widely accepted in the United States, it is gaining ground.
Studies show acupuncture can reduce stress when used regularly. The Journal of Endocrinology published a study showing stress hormones, like cortisol, were lower in rats that had received electroacupuncture. The use of electroacupuncture actually blocked the chronic stress hormones in the rats. It does the exact same thing for humans.
Specific acupuncture points on the body are better for relieving stress and are used frequently by licensed practitioners. One of these points is Yin Tang. Yin Tang is located directly between the inner edges of the eyebrows and is a reflex point of the pituitary gland. Yin Tang calms the mind and relaxes the body by helping control hormone secretions.
Another acupuncture point, Kidney 1, is not as frequently used because of its location, however, it can work wonders for decreasing stress. Kidney 1 is located on the bottom of the foot, at the junction of the anterior one third and posterior two thirds of the line connecting the base of the second and third toes and the heel. This point is VERY sensitive, but it has amazing properties. Kidney 1 can sedate and calm the mind, while also regulating blood flow to the upper part of the body also known as the brain.
There are other tools TCM practitioners can use to relieve stress, such as cupping and herbs, although acupuncture and acupressure tend to work the fastest. Ask me to find out more!
Winter is just one of the five seasons acknowledged by Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese followed the belief that humans should live in harmony with the cycles of nature. During the winter months, the darkness and cold indicate that we should slow down, take care of our health, conserve our strength and replenish our energy for the upcoming spring and summer months. This is observed in the animal kingdom, and it should also be considered a good rule of thumb for human beings.
Each season has multiple associations that help us adjust our habits as things change, which makes it easier to keep the body and mind balanced. Winter is ruled by the water element. The water element is associated with the kidneys and urinary bladder. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, the kidneys are the source of all energy found within the body. This energy, frequently called qi (pronounced “chee”), is what keeps us alive and allows our bodies to function properly. During the winter months, it is vital that we nourish and nurture our kidney qi.
Winter is typically a time when we decrease our daily activities. Because of this, we should also decrease the amount of food that we eat to avoid gaining excess weight. It is also recommended that excessively cold and raw foods be avoided or at least countered with things like hot tea. Cold and raw foods can deplete the kidney energy over time. This can lead to problems with digestion, sleep and much more.
It is suggested that during the winter months, we should emphasize foods that are warming to the body. This includes things like soups, stews, root vegetables, beans, garlic and ginger. Also foods like whole grains and roasted nuts can help keep the body’s core warm, while providing healthy nourishment.
The second organ associated with the season of winter is the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder is a reservoir where water in the body collects for disposal. The urinary bladder receives impure or dirty fluids from the small intestine and then further transforms these fluids into urine. The urinary bladder then stores and excretes urine as needed. This function also plays an important role in helping to regulate a person’s blood pressure. The ability to transform the impure fluids depends on the energy of the kidneys.
One of the most important things anybody can do during the winter months to stay healthy is drink plenty of water. Winter, in most places, literally drains the moisture out of the body. It is recommended that we drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, even during the winter months. However, the thought of drinking cold water in cold weather is a concept that tends to keep a lot of people clinically dehydrated during the winter months. This is why warm water with lemon or hot tea are good substitutes. We are still ingesting water, while avoiding the cold that could potentially damage our core.
By following the guidelines set forth by nature, we can also remain in balance with the natural world around us. This is how our ancestors did it and it served them quite well. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the wisdom our elders passed down through the generations.
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