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active adults walking

Can movement be therapy for emotional stress?

The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus.

Emotional stress makes life overwhelming. Sometimes, we experience an extremely stressful or disturbing event, while at other times we accumulate the stress of upsetting interactions over time. In either case we are left feeling emotionally out of control and helpless. Our minds feel like a hamster spinning away on a wheel, leaving us drained, heavy, disconnected and incapable of making rational inferences and decisions. Our bodies feel like logs being lugged around, making daily chores onerous.

Irrespective of how it’s triggered, emotional and/or psychological disharmony has wide-ranging physical reactions and symptoms. While most of us know of the emotional impact (feelings of sadness, anger, fear, guilt, self-doubt and many more) the physical impact is not widely spoken about. This could include muscular tension, aches and pains, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, breathlessness among others.

Everyone’s triggers and responses are unique. Healing from emotional stress, hence, cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution. If symptoms persist for long or are severe, do seek professional help. That said, there are a few practices that can aid in self-healing.

Movement

Movement can be therapeutic for a number of reasons. As we know, stress impacts mental and physical equilibrium, turning the body into a repository of unpleasant side effects. A prolonged state of negative emotions like anger, fear and hyper responsiveness in daily life, adversely impacts the muscular and nervous system. Movement and exercise can help address this at a dual level. At a physical level, it helps by releasing endorphins (aka happy hormones) and calming adrenaline. The more rhythmic and intense the movement, the greater this effect, since it elicits focus. Target at least 30 minutes of exercise/movement on most days. It could be any activity that interests and engages you, be it dancing, yoga, sport, running, swimming, cycling. It might feel better to do it in company, to help break any self-imposed isolation. You could split it up over intervals during the day (though half an hour is not much of an ask to reset yourself and get your mind, body and life on track!).

Mindfulness

Try to pay full attention to the activity and how you perform it. Stay with the process. The mind will eventually tune into the rhythm of the body, making you more ‘mindful’ of the activity and yield a positive sensory outcome, including from deep within. For some, this may be attained with gentler workouts, and for some more intense activities could derive the response, depending on one’s personality as well as physical capacity. Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way here. The beauty of movement is that it serves all, and it can be scaled up and down dynamically to make you feel most connected and generate positive inner vibes.

Deep breathing

Focus on the act of breathing and on how the breath goes in and out of the body (‘mindful’ breathing). It acts as another powerful therapeutic tool. This is true even during movement. Movement becomes more mindful when you focus on the breath while executing it, maximizing positive benefits physically (more oxygen, less physical stress) and mentally (greater connection with self, less mental stress). It aids in giving the mind a much-needed break while energizing the body.

Good sleep

Try maintaining sleeping and waking up time and hours even though it may seem silly or impossible. For those with sleeping difficulties or insomnia, the body clock needs resetting, requiring some repetitive reinforcements to break the negative cycle. It’s essential to retrain the body and mind to rejuvenate, rest and recuperate.

Changes won’t happen overnight, but all these practices together can go a long way to impart a greater sense of control, which propels us towards a happier state. It’s about reclaiming peace, being kind to ourselves and catalyzing inner healing.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

Original article published in a leading national daily:  https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/movement-as-a-therapy-for-emotional-stress/article26566357.ece

kid-swing

14 Fun Ways to Get Your Family More Fit

Time is one of life’s most valuable commodities. Consequently, between school, work and every day demands in today’s hectic world, family time is becoming more of a fond memory of days gone by. Additionally, television, computers, cell phones, and other technology are taking the place of family activities and interactions.

The decline in positive family interactions at home, and the increase in leading a more sedentary lifestyle, are two of the greatest threats to our children’s health and wellness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “family has a big influence on how we perceive exercise and mental health. Exercising as a family not only gets the entire family moving to reap the benefits of exercise but also models healthy beliefs about physical activity and improves family relationships”. And with childhood obesity becoming a nationwide epidemic, getting kids moving and active is extremely vital.

As parents, we want only the best for our children’s future. Making time for simple and fun family activities can have a profound impact on the mental and physical well-being of every single family member, both young and old!

Here are some fun, budget-friendly ways to bring your loved ones closer together and get a little exercise at the same time!

1. PLAY: Avoid television for family entertainment. Go to the park and play, have a family sports night (soccer, basketball, etc.), play Frisbee, hop scotch, or get a mini trampoline.

2. PETS: If you have a dog or other pet, actively play with them as a family and even take them on a family walk.

3. SWIM: Go to the beach, lake, or public pool. Swimming is fun and lively, and your family won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

4. WALK: Walk to the store, walk to school, etc. Get pedometers for the whole family and see who can rack up the most steps. Certain ones even log your steps online or through apps, so you can expand the contest to your friends and other families.

5. ADVENTURE: Every weekend, try a new activity your family hasn’t done yet. Hiking, bowling, canoeing, ice-skating, etc., all are active exercises disguised as fun. Let each member of the family have their turn to pick the next activity, so they stay involved.

6. GYM: Join a gym that offers family discounts, and work out together. If you can afford a personal trainer, they can organize a routine for each family member.

7. WILDLIFE: Visit a zoo, wildlife preserve, or an aquarium where you’ll be walking most of the day.

8. GIFTS: When birthdays and holidays come around, give gifts that encourage fitness. Jump ropes, Frisbees, running shoes, balls, active toys, etc., can all inspire your family to get up and get moving.

9. STAIRS: Encourage your family to take the stairs, instead of the elevator, whenever possible. If they object, make a creative game out of it.

10. REWARD: Exercise can be a reward. Offer to play catch with them or play a game of kickball or capture the flag as a break from homework or chores.

11. FRIENDS: Invite your child’s friend along for any of these activities. Kids have more fun with their friends, and are more likely to want to do it again.

12. FUN: Make things fun! Build an obstacle course with your family and have everyone participate. Have hula hoop contests or play active games like hot potato, Simon Says, and Duck, Duck, Goose. The internet is a great source for finding new games to play.

13. CHORES: Household chores done as a family can be great exercise (cutting grass, cleaning, etc.). You can also make chores fun by adding a “challenge” element. Kids love challenges. “I challenge you to put away all your toys in 1 minute.” You can have a fun family reward at the end like fruit popsicles.

14. DANCE: Dancing is a great form of exercise and is a lot of fun. You can have the kids each pick their favorite song and even have themed dance nights where you dress up in funny outfits.


Kendra K is an award-winning music artist with a passion for educating and entertaining children. She is a seasoned singer, songwriter, producer, pianist and violinist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Arizona. Kendra has worked as a physical education teacher and is also certified as a national health and fitness consultant. When Kendra is not busy writing songs and recording albums, she enjoys donating her time and talents as a children’s health advocate. Her biggest joy in life is spending time with her husband and their young son at their beach side home in the Los Angeles area.

Visit her website, kendrakmusic.com and her new children’s music CD is available through Amazon or CD baby

 

References:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/May-2016/Exercise-for-Mental-Health-8-Keys-to-Get-and-Stay

https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html

tide ocean

Are you being carried away the tide?

Are you being carried away the tide?

The best analogy I’ve come up with while working with clients to describe how most people live their lives is that they get carried away by the tide.

Imagine the powerful ocean currents pulling you in whichever direction they wish.

Life can have the same effect. People, circumstances, and indecision can carry anyone away into the tide if you let it.

It’s how people lose track of their priorities and find themselves unhealthy.

I believe this is why people are unhappy in jobs, relationships, and with life in general. Because we think life is out of our control. We forget that we get to choose.

So, if you catch yourself thinking that a situation you’re unhappy with just “is what it is,” that’s a sign you’re being carried away in the tide.

We can change any circumstance in our lives, even if it’s just changing how we perceive it. If that’s something you’d like support with regarding your health, I’d love to chat.

In conclusion, the next time someone asks you if you are being carried away by the tide, you can say: “Not anymore!”

Originally printed on Move Well Fitness blog. Reprinted with permission.


Maurice D. Williams is a personal trainer and owner of Move Well Fitness in Bethesda, MD. With almost two decades in the industry, he’s worked with a wide range of clients, including those with health challenges like diabetes, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, lower back pain, pulmonary issues, and pregnancy. Maurice is also a fitness educator with Move Well Fit Academy and NASM.  

child mouth

How to Approach Mental Health in Children?

Between the pressure of school, fitting in with peers and extracurricular activities, there are several challenges that children and youth are currently facing – including mental health problems.

Each year there are many studies conducted to determine the number of children suffering from mental illnesses, what these illnesses are and how many children and teens are seeking help.

Despite many countries delivering different statistics, there are similarities in the mental health of young people across the globe. Many studies, including a survey by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discovered children and youth between the ages of 3 and 17 had one or more of the below mental health problems:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioural problems
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Whilst adolescents were also shown to have:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Cigarette dependence
  • Illicit drug use disorder

Further studies conducted in the United States in recent years have shown 11 per cent of youth reported suffering at least one major depressive episode, while 7.4 per cent of youth reported having experienced severe depression.

So, how do we approach children and adolescents when it comes to discussing mental health? Dr Ryan Harvey from Australian home doctor service, House Call Doctor, discusses the signs to look for and how to get the correct help.

Signs

While it may seem obvious to look for any ‘irregular behavior’, it’s important to specifically look for any of the below signs:

  • Your child is regularly anxious or distressed
  • Your child is regularly upset and refusing comfort (or having problems that are worsening)
  • Your child experiences a sudden change in their behavior lasting longer than two weeks
  • Your child engages in behavior that is hurting themselves or others
  • Your child is experiencing problems which are interfering with their usual daily tasks (i.e. school work), eating, sleeping and/or concentrating.

What to Do

If you’re worried about the well being of a young person, the first step is to consult with a doctor.

Hopefully, your child will understand that seeing a doctor will be helpful and a GP isn’t there to judge. If your child isn’t willing to cooperate, you can look at discussing their situation without them and putting together a plan with your doctor on how to handle their behavior (it’s also helpful to write down specific situations where you have noticed a change in their behavior).

Your doctor may suggest organizing extra support at school, access to information about mental health or support for challenging behavior.

How to Talk About Mental Health

Talking about mental health can be difficult. It may be easier to approach the situation by following this step by step guide.

Step 1: Say something. According to beyondblue (an Australian non-profit organisation), it’s important to voice your concern and show your willingness to support your child. This may open a door for them to seek help.

Step 2: Listen. It can be difficult for children and youth to open up about how they’re feeling, so it’s important you’re prepared.

A few pieces of advice from beyondblue include:

  • Be an attentive listener.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings – don’t down play what they’re telling you.
  • Ask open-ended questions – this will provide an opportunity for your child to keep talking rather than giving short or one-word answers.
  • Remind your child they’re not alone – this can allow you to offer your support along with suggesting the option of seeking professional help.
  • Regularly check in with emails, text messages etc. to ask your child how they’re feeling – they may want to tell you what is happening in their lives without talking face to face.
  • Do some research – before initiating the conversation, read up on their symptoms and potential mental health problems they may be experiencing so you have a level of understanding.

Step 3: Provide reassurance. Whether it be encouraging your child to explore different options at school or to seek professional support, a simple display of reassurance and support could be the turning point for your child.

If you’re worried about the well being of a young person, please contact a doctor for further information.


Dr Ryan Harvey is the Assistant Medical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.

selfcare

Self-Care Is Good For Your Mental Health

Stress and addiction are closely linked together. In fact, stress is one of the key factors(1) of addiction initiation, maintenance, relapse and treatment failure, according to Psychology Today. It is important to differentiate between chronic stress and normal stress. Normal stress can be healthy and even seen as pleasant.  However, chronic stress can have harmful effects on your physical and mental health.(2) One of the biggest sources of chronic stress is in the workplace. As a result, chronic stress can cause employees to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol.(3) Luckily, self-care can help you cope with this stress in a healthy way.

Mental Benefits of Self-Care

Self-care has a number of key health benefits. In its most basic form, self-care is simply taking care of yourself. Exercising, for example, can prevent several diseases and disorders including heart disease.(4) However, self-care also has a number of mental benefits as well.

Taking time away to take care of yourself provides you with a way to recharge your batteries. After a long, hard day at work, coming home and taking a relaxing bath can be akin to hitting the reset button. This makes you able to withstand everyday stressors better and enables you to stay focused and more productive when you are working.

But, now that you know the benefits of self-care, how can you actually implement it in your everyday life?

Sleep

Sleep is important for our mental and physical health, but it is very often overlooked. According to ResMed, sleep helps you heal damaged cells, boost your immune system, and recharge your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day.(5) On top of these physical benefits though, getting the correct amount of sleep also has tons of mental health benefits. No one feels 100 percent when they haven’t had enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can prevent you from focusing, make your irritable, and cause you to crave unhealthy foods. It is hard to deal with even basic, everyday stress when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. To help you get the sleep you need, it is important to have a set sleep routine and schedule. While it might seem like you can get more work done if you stay up, it is generally a much better idea to get the sleep you need and come back to your work later.

Take a Break

Taking a break can be helpful when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. No one can concentrate on one task for long, especially if it isn’t a task that is fun or exhilarating. So, instead of trying to focus on a task for longer than you could do accurately, take regular breaks. This can help you stay focused while you do work and decrease the amount of stress you’re under, especially at work. We recommend taking at least one break an hour and possibly even more if the task you’re doing is particularly difficult.

Eat Healthily

Eating healthy can improve your physical and mental health. Healthy food helps to boost your mood and can keep you from being stressed. Keeping healthy snacks close at hand and having regular meals can greatly enhance your overall mood and your mental stability.

Self-care can do wonders for your mental health and can prevent relapse. By preparing your body to handle stress well, you can keep your outlook positive and handle whatever the world throws at you.


Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.

References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201705/stress-and-addiction
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/chronic-stress-3145104
  3. https://rockrecoverycenter.com/blog/work-stress-and-substance-abuse/
  4. https://draxe.com/benefits-of-exercise/
  5. https://www.resmed.com/us/en/consumer/diagnosis-and-treatment/healthy-sleep/what-happens-during-sleep.html
man in window

Could Emotional Patterns Make Us More Susceptible To Cancer?

There is a lot of research, clinical data and statistics related to cancer – types, causes, and treatments – available to anyone interested in looking them up. There are, of course, the usual suspects /causes of cancer (more on that later). But there could be a case made out to look beyond the obvious. Scratch deeply and look below the surface. There is another omnipresent trigger we lug around and don’t give this Machiavellian it’s due. It coexists as both cause and effect, feeds off us, is often suppressed, and is usually the last to be addressed, if at all.

‘Unaddressed and unresolved emotions’.

The source of these could be singular, or more likely, multiple. Cracking or crumbling relationships, pressures of work (often tied up with a sense of ‘worth’ & ‘success’), irritants at home (from the mundane to the serious), overwhelming sense of responsibilities as a spouse, parent, child, maintaining a lifestyle, etc. come to mind easily. This tangle slowly and silently claws away at body, mind and soul. Some may immediately label it ‘Stress’. But this emotional web can manifest in other physio-psychological avatars too. It is silent and deadly. It attacks all systems- skeletal, muscular, nervous, circulatory, etc. All organ systems on one hand, and cognitive and emotional on the other, interfering with and impairing our quality of living and coping abilities. While one needs to clearly distinguish and recognize medical reasons for what they are, the truth is, this silent trigger is omnipotent. Abstract though it may seem, emotions wield the power to mess with our tangible systems. They have the capability of producing unwanted, negative, and damaging results in the human body. Sometimes, drastically so.

SHOULD WE BE LOOKING MORE SERIOUSLY AT OUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH IN OUR BATTLE AGAINST CANCER?

A long, relaxed conversation with a cancer survivor friend brought this aspect to the fore yet again. He has overcome cancer twice and tried all treatments – mainstream and alternate, including adopting a complete lifestyle change which most of us can only aspire to. But there remains an unaddressed issue. After years spent on this journey of cancer, getting on and off track, he calmly mentioned this point in relation to his experience of it. It was interesting to hear him analyze his own life experiences. Aware of what’s impacting him (acknowledging the source of his emotional drain), he recognizes the need let it go, and admits that he hasn’t been able to yet. Driven by his emotional moorings, he hasn’t been able to sever this source of recurring negativity in his life despite nudging by family, friends, healers and a few doctors.

He further went on to calmly say that till such time as he lets go, he is not fighting the root causes of cancer completely. (I say ’causes’ so as not to make an oversimplified case of cancer triggers, especially in relation to emotional health, nor is it my intention to present this as a thought in conflict with medical advice or challenge it.) He intends to seriously weigh the worthiness of continuing with this emotional baggage and its impact on his body.

DOES THIS MATTER?

He isn’t the first person – or the last – to have mentioned this connection. There is something more than pure abstraction at play here. And it’s worth acknowledging the elephant in the room. We are, after all, feeding it and it is rolling its weight all over us. Emotions impact us and negative emotions more so. Our bodies respond in myriad ways trying to combat it. Labored breathing, racing/irregular heart beat (cardiovascular), tight muscles (muscular), tingling in fingers/toes (neural), aches and pains (skeletal and muscular), compromised digestion, high/low blood pressure (other body systems)… these are just some common perceptible symptoms and responses to our altered emotional states. We have all experienced them to varying degrees and at different points in our lives. Not to mention what happens to our (emotional) responses and thought process.
It becomes a cause of concern when this altered state continues for a longer period of time. The body appears to adapt and these symptoms become silent and internal in nature. The impact, meanwhile, continues on a wider, cellular level, and various manifestations of this silent aggressor may emerge over a period of time, including possibly, as cancer.

SHOULD WE EMPOWER OURSELVES BETTER?

Does it mean all cancers are somehow the result of negative emotions or negative emotions will always lead to cancer? There is no definite, categorical ‘Yes’ as an answer. But, it could prove helpful investigating and addressing how our underlying emotive states may be leaving us exposed to greater possibility of serious health conditions, including cancer, along with all other clinical causes. As a precautionary tool, I reckon paying attention to emotional health plays a rather important role. We know that a healthy and fit lifestyle has so many advantages in serving as prevention for many health conditions. ‘Fitness’ needs to encompass emotional and mental health (strength and fortitude) too, by constantly sieving out the negative and enhancing the positive. It requires acknowledgement and working upon, with a conscious approach. As a cancer coping mechanism, focusing on positive emotional health and reducing negative (draining/sapping/unhappy/stressful/fearful) emotions plays a powerful role.

Emotions have the power to alter the human state at the conscious and subconscious levels. They can be an ally or a foe in our battle against ill health. They have the ability to align internal systems/processes to either facilitate or hinder external efforts.

So while one may refrain from an outright ‘yes’ to the question raised above, one cannot say an outright ‘no’ either. As science discovers deeper working of the human ecosystem, it is increasingly revealing the intertwining of our emotive state with our physical one.

Humans are emotional beings.

We cannot challenge it nor ignore the fabric that differentiates us. When one goes against the basic grain it creates friction. Prioritizing striving for a residual state of positive emotional health needs a deliberate plan and push. It is not easy. But neither is cancer nor its treatment. Using different techniques to spot and train our emotions, create emotional alchemy, makes sense now more than ever before, with different types of cancers spiraling and affecting all age groups, sometimes with the known triggers missing.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” –C. G. Jung

Originally printed on bodyinmotion.in. Reprinted with permission.


Vani Pahwa is a Functional Fitness specialist with over fifteen years of experience, and cutting-edge certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally recognized fitness institutes. She is also a Cancer Exercise Specialist (perhaps one of the first in the country). Sought after for her multi-disciplinary fitness modules and expertise, Vani has conducted fitness workshops for leading corporate houses, conditioning and training camps for various sports communities, training programs for coaches, personal training programs for CEOs of multi-nationals, athletes, junior and senior sports professionals among others. Her combination of specialties, client profile and range, and extensive work experience makes her unique in the country. She is the founder of Body in Motion.

** If interested in further research on the topic you may read up related links including:

plane-travel

Travel is Medicine for Your Mental Health

Do you know the difference between hard work and overwork? For most professionals, the answer is likely ‘no’. While this New York Times article helps explain the difference, even those who know they are overworking may not know a way out of the trap our professions can put us in.

Pressure put on us because of financial and professional expectations can be overwhelming, and the consequences of this work-related stress can have irreparable health effects. So, if you have vacation days, take them. They serve as the best way to improve your health by escaping the negative effects of overwork, even if it is only temporary.

Work and Health: An Often Negative Relationship

We would all love to have a career that truly mirrors our passions. For most, this is not possible. Even if we are doing what we are good at, or something we truly love, finding the perfect job can be near-impossible. For this reason, most of us face stress related to work that can seem an unshakeable burden.

The Huffington Post explains how the nature of many jobs – even ones not considered to be overly stressful – can have serious health consequences. Sitting, a seemingly unavoidable part of most white collar jobs, puts serious strain on our cardiovascular health. The Mayo Clinic adds how work-related stress can diminish our mental and physical well-being. Those who work jobs that are computer-dependent develop computer vision syndrome (CVS), at a clip of 64% to 90%, according to U.S. National Institute of Health.

All of this is to say, wasting your vacation days means further endangering your health. We arguably take years off of our life just from working, and turning down our vacation days adds to these already unavoidable work-related problems.

The Flipside: How Travel Benefits Your Mental and Physical Health

Travel days aren’t just must-takes because work is boring. Travel can actually provide health benefits that begin to take effect before you even step aboard a plane. That’s right, the anticipation of a trip alone can provide an elevated mood and decreased stress.

Express Travel Clinic breaks down the health benefits of travel into four fairly basic categories:

1) improved happiness

2) reduced anxiety, stress, and depression

3) improved physical health

and

4) an overall healthier mind

Regardless of your current physical and mental fitness, it is difficult to argue that we could not all use more of these travel-related boosts in our lives. This is especially true for those who are in recovery from addiction. Vacation can provide an opportunity for new perspective on life, self-reflection and healing, and the chance to experience activities that could fill the void formerly occupied by your addiction.

Anybody who travels should consider whether or not they want to bring their pet – typically dogs – and this is true of those in recovery, too. The companionship can help provide a sense of responsibility and stave off the urge to return to former habits; they’re a wonderfully rewarding.

Traveling is good for us, there are no two ways about it. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, you name it. The stress we feel from work – especially overwork – can cause irreparable health consequences, both physically and mentally. So, if you have travel days, take advantage of them. And if you don’t, you should at least consider a job that has a more reasonable approach toward your well-being.


Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21480937