A Pro-Active Approach to Reducing Stress

By Dr. Michael Roth

This post concludes my three-part series on stress, excerpted from my book, Balancing Your Emotional Health. I specialize in the mind/ body connection, and as I’ve stated in previous newsletter articles, stress is the underlying culprit of many of the issues my clients present in my Ventura holistic chiropractic practice. Here are three tried-and-true activities you can start using right now to reduce stress.

Flickr photo credit Giuseppe Milo

Dr. Herbert Benson is a pioneer in mind/body medicine. In his 35-plus-year career, he has defined the relaxation response and continues to lead teaching and research into its efficacy in counteracting the harmful effects of stress. When Dr. Benson introduced this simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieving stress in 1975, his book became an instant national bestseller. The Relaxation Response has become the classic reference recommended by most health care professionals and authorities to treat the harmful effects of stress.

Relaxation Response

by Dr. Herbert Benson

1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.

4. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word “ONE” silently to yourself. For example, breathe IN…OUT, “ONE”; IN…OUT, “ONE”, etc. Breathe easily and naturally.

5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.

6. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.

7. Do not stand up for a few minutes.

8. Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating “ONE.”

9. With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

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The neck is a primary target for stress. Here is a simple exercise to release tightness and tension in the neck and shoulders.

NECK AND SHOULDER RELEASE

1. Begin by letting your left ear drift slowly towards your left shoulder. Only go within your normal range of motion, and relax.

2. Place your arms on your lap or at your sides. Then, move your right hand behind your back to extend the flexion for that area.

3. Breathe and relax in that position for 15 to 30 seconds.

4. Repeat on the other side.

5. Next, gently let your chin fall to your chest. Slowly rotate your head in a small semicircle from one side of your collarbone to the other.  Hold your extension for a few seconds at any spot that is a particularly stressed or tight.

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This last exercise is designed to release tension in the neck and shoulders and increase the natural range of motion when turning your head side to side.

TRAPEZIUS RELEASE

 1. With the right hand, grasp the top of your left shoulder muscle (trapezius) and squeeze it gently.

2. Take in a deep breath. When you exhale, turn your head away from the hand, while looking over your right shoulder. Inhale when turning the head back to center.

3. Exhale while turning the head to look over the left shoulder. Return the head to center position.

4. Exhale, drop the chin to the chest. Inhale and raise the head to face forward.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 three times.

6. Next grasp the top of the right shoulder with the left hand and repeat steps 2-5 on the other side.

I encourage you to practice these exercises and feel for yourself the difference they make. As always, I am here to support you in health and wellness. Please call Crystal in my Ventura office at 805-644-0461 for an appointment.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt and would like to purchase my soft-cover book, Balancing Your Emotional Health, please call the office or click here for more information.

 

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Control Your Stress and Stay Healthy!

Your body can adapt to stress quite nicely, yet there are times when the body goes into a “flight or fight” response when stress occurs.

 

Imagine you are hiking through the words and suddenly you see a bear! Here are the changes that occur in your physical body as it prepares to fight or flee from the bear:

 

Your blood is redirected from your extremities (giving you cold hands and feet), from your face (creating a pale look) and from your digestive system to the large muscles to help you run or fight. Your pupils enlarge to help you see better and your hearing becomes sharper. Your breathing and heart rate increase, and your blood pressure rises. The adrenal glands secrete adrenalin and other hormones to create a heightened state of arousal. Glucose and oxygen are increased to the heart, brain and skeletal system for more energy.

 

Once the brain perceives that the threat is over, the body reverses this reaction to return to a more calm state. Blood goes back to the extremities and digestive system; heart rate, breathing and blood pressure go back to normal, etc.

 

Of course, this bear in the woods situation is not a regular occurrence here in Ventura, California! However, we humans may experience mini stress responses like this on a chronic basis. This consistent physical reaction can lead to health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, insomnia, high blood pressure, low energy, anxiety, weight loss or gain, and depression. Experts say that chronic stress can affect the immune system, which can lead to frequent colds and flu.

 

The body reacts just like the extreme physical response described above,but on a lesser scale when continual stress is experienced. These consistent mini-reactions can wear the body down and take years off our lives. In my practice as a holistic chiropractor, I see patients whose lives are being chipped away by chronic stress.

 

Nape pain

What can we do about the little annoyances of life that haunt us every day? Deep relaxation exercises can save us from the turmoil of stress. There are many relaxation techniques that you can do on a daily basis to help you lead a more stress-free life. I suggest you search the Internet or purchase a book or DVD on relaxation techniques, find something that feels good to you and do it regularly.

 

Breathing techniques work wonders. They can slow the brain waves down and help you think more clearly. Many people breathe too shallowly into their lungs. Practicing abdominal breathing encourages better oxygenation of the body. One breathing technique I do regularly is the following:

 

Lie or sit down and put your hands on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply and feel your abdomen rise. If you feel your chest rise instead, breathe in more deeply until you feel your hands rise on your abdomen. Once you have achieved this pattern, do a few minutes of abdominal breathing. Breathe in SLOWLY through your nose for the count of four. Hold your breath for the count of four and then breathe out through pursed lips (as if you are going to whistle) SLOWLY for the count of six.

 

Do this for five to ten minutes twice a day. This will definitely relax you!

 

There are many other relaxation techniques you can try such as meditation, progressive relaxation, imagery, etc. Exercise is a great stress reliever and is a must! Exercise produces endorphins, a source of pleasure. It can help to lower blood pressure as well.

 

Watch your self-talk. This is the talk that goes on in your mind all day long. Be more understanding and forgiving of the little irritations or people who frustrate you. They may have just had a fight with their spouse or heard some bad news and are struggling with their emotions. Be positive and stop any negative thoughts in their tracks.

Flickr photo credit Steven Depolo

Flickr photo credit Steven Depolo

Get out with friends so you have balance in your life. Laugh, laugh, laugh. Watch funny videos. Laughter is great for your health!

 

Talk out or write down things that bother you, don’t keep them bottled up inside. Stress can kill, so if you feel like you just can’t cope, please seek medical help!

 

Enjoy life, as it is too short to get ourselves all tangled up in anger and frustration. Practice relaxation methods and you will see a huge difference in your life. Be happy!