2016 October 16 by Dr. Randy
Life has many stresses, and often we are juggling tasks, rushing to activities, and putting out fires in a busy schedule. All of these activities stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. They keep us in a mode of constantly handling emergencies.
The sympathetic nervous system is the fire fighter that responds to demands and perceived threats. This is a very useful function for keeping us safe and alive in dangerous situations. We respond almost instantaneously to a threat. Our foot hits the brake before we think about it, our hand recoils from a hot pan without our conscious intent. People who can handle a barrage of daily crises are often seen as efficient. But persistent stimulation and vigilance creates tension, and that tension can take its toll on bodily functions, resulting in high blood pressure, headaches, inflammation, heart disease, and anxiety.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) calms the mind and body. It provides a counterbalance to the many distractions and calamities of the day. It is exceedingly simple to activate the PNS through a whole range of nurturing activities: meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and even just being in nature. These relaxing activities cause a release of tension and its harmful effects. If we incorporate these activities into our daily routine the result will be a sense of ease, comfort, and increased happiness.
Just doing deep breathing will cause a shift from tension to relaxation. Deep abdominal breathing is a simple technique that can be done at a desk several times a day, at a red light in traffic, or during any short break in a hectic schedule. Sit for one minute and just focus on the in and out of breathing. Make this a habit through the day to relieve stress.
More formal meditation sessions in the morning and evening provide a powerful tool for activating the PNS, resulting in long-term benefit for muscular tension, anxiety, and adrenal stress. It will help keep blood pressure under control and calm the mind to become more efficient with a relaxed and less frenetic pace. Many guided meditations are available online. Those from Insight Meditation Centers are especially helpful and easy to access.
For those who prefer a more active form of relaxation practice, yoga or tai chi may be a better fit. Yoga provides the benefits of meditation with a stretching and energetic practice. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are moving forms of meditation. These will require regular classes, but the popularity of yoga has created many opportunities and choices through yoga studios and classes at fitness centers in most communities. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are often offered as a series through local recreation centers. They are especially suitable for older patients who need gentle movement forms.
Getting out into nature has been documented in countless studies to counteract stress. Any form of exposure through hikes, walks outdoors, the ocean, or the forest will benefit physiological functions and relieve tension. Similarly, exposure to animals is beneficial whether they are pets, wild birds, or squirrels. Take breaks from work and get outdoors. Take children to the park. It’s good for them too. Put these activities into your calendar and make time to just enjoy the trees and clouds.
2016 July 6 by Dr. Randy
Wherever you are on your life’s journey, health is always a foremost concern. You may be in great health or you may be struggling with symptoms or serious health problems. Everyone has weak areas that flare up. Athletes are plagued with stress injuries. Some of us have recurrent digestive issues or headaches or joint pains. Others struggle with chronic inflammatory conditions. Whatever your level of health, it’s always a good idea to periodically reassess your needs and consider the best program to achieve optimum energy and freedom from symptoms.
Start with diet, the key to good health. Stick to the program that fits your needs best. It may be a low carbohydrate paleo diet, or you may have discovered that you need more carbs for energy or sports performance. Stay away from those high-calorie bakery goods with empty calories. Focus on brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables.
Stick to your exercise program. Increase it. Walk, run, lift, cycle, play. Get outside into nature. Take advantage of the healing power of the trees and sun.
Review the supplements you take. If you have digestive problems, take probiotics and herbal formulas that heal the intestinal tract (glutamine, licorice, aloe, slippery elm). If you have recurrent inflammatory conditions, take plenty of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory supplements (resveratrol, n-acetyl-cysteine, turmeric). If nervous system problems or memory problems are a concern, take nutrients that nourish brain and nerve function (huperzine, acetyl-l-carnitine). And if immune problems are prevalent, take medicinal mushrooms and Astragalus and vitamin D. These are examples of supplements that may help these conditions. The right program for you should be individualized according to your unique needs.
Our lives are filled with stressful events that trigger anxiety, worry, and discouragement. These need to be countered with positive experiences, support, and stress reduction techniques. Integrate relaxation and centering techniques into your daily practice. These may include meditation, yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing practices. Take breaks during your day and stretch, or close your eyes for a few minutes and focus on your breathing. Clear your mind and your mood will improve. Relax and your body tension will dissolve.
If you need help in developing or refining a program for optimum health, I am available for consultations in my office or through a phone or video conference. Stay healthy and live a long and joyous life.
2016 April 27 by Dr. Randy
These are difficult and challenging times for many people. Whether it is illness, financial difficulties, or just life’s seemingly interminable problems, we all need to take heart and have faith. Between frustrating political struggles in an election year and a government that has become increasingly dictatorial and corrupted by corporate interests, things can seem overwhelming at times. For many, 2016 is a year of upheaval and change.
During times of stress it is important to keep perspective and overcome doubts and fears. The best way to accomplish that is to remain positive, maintain our community support system, and pursue our own spiritual path. All of that begins with family support and communication.
Several tools can assist in the process of managing stress. Here are four things to do every day.
The first is meditation or relaxation, focusing on the breath. In times of stress, take deep breaths. And at regular opportunities close your eyes and just observe your breathing. Children can easily learn to meditate through guided meditation sessions. Here is a site with some meditation recordings for children.
Of course, exercise is a great way to work off stress and essential for children as well as adults. Exercise improves mood, helps concentration, and promotes quality sleep. Keep moving. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time. Take walking breaks. Consider a standing work station for your computer. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s yoga, hiking, running, biking, a sport, or resistance training with weights, and put it on your calendar.
Trees, grass, water, forests, mountains all provide nourishment for the soul. Countless studies have confirmed what we all experience, that nature has a calming and rejuvenating effect on the body and mind. Go outside. And make sure that children get outdoors to play.
If worry, anxiety, sleep problems, or persistent thoughts are a problem, supplements can help. Calcium and magnesium can calm children or adults. B vitamins assist in maintaining emotional and mental balance.
Several amino acid formulas can help balance neurotransmitter function and have a calming effect. GABA is probably the most important calming neurotransmitter to decrease stress reactions. Two specific amino acids assist in GABA production, taurine and 4-amino-3-phenylbutyricacid (phenibut). Combinations of these two chemicals reduce stress and anxiety.
Homeopathy can have a dramatic ability to balance stress reactions.
And finally, Chinese herbal formulas can reduce anxiety and support the spirit.