If you read my blogs or follow me on Social Media you know I am not one to swear or use expletives to get my point across but for this blog’s title I am literally taking the words right out of my students’ mouth. The idea for this blog came from the Breathwork class I taught last Monday night at The Den Meditation Center…
We are entering a new era with medical fitness in terms of understanding how exercise can help individuals with chronic illness and stress. This is a very exciting time for the fitness industry…
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 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!).
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.
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.
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
When you think of taking care of your health, exercise is one of the first things that comes to mind. You know you need to stay active and stay in shape to protect your body, but what you may not realize is that you also need self-care to protect your mind. Combining self-care and fitness is the best wellness move you can make. Here are some ways to do it.
Start Working Out More at Home
Sticking to your fitness goals is important. If getting to the gym causes you stress or interferes with your schedule, though, you may want to think about building a gym at home. It’s easier than you think, and can make getting those daily workouts in easier on your schedule. You can use any extra space you have, whether it’s your garage, a spare room or a basement, and quickly set up a workout space in your home. The equipment you fill it with will hinge on your needs and the amount of space available, but for most people, basic workout equipment, like a jump rope and dumbbells, is enough to get a good workout at home and stick to their budget.
Consider Holistic Wellness Practices
A regular fitness routine will help keep your body in shape. Working out can help enhance your mood as well, but it’s not really enough to manage your mental health. You also need to find ways to help your body recover after all that effort, which is where holistic self-care practices come in handy. Incorporating practices like acupuncture, Pilates, massage and chiropractic treatment can be beneficial for relieving stress and helping keep your emotions in balance. Yoga is another practice that complements most physical fitness routines, and it improves strength and flexibility in your body. Runners can use beginners poses such as downward facing dog and pigeon to help build more muscle and keep joints flexible, all while reducing stress.
Treat Pain Through Self-Care and Exercise
If you suffer from chronic pain, you can combine self-care and fitness to find relief. The trick is to find simple workouts that get your body moving while helping your mind feel calm.
Yoga is also a good choice here, but you can also try doing tai chi. This slow, intentional practice is especially effective for seniors looking to decrease pain symptoms and decrease their fall risk.
You can treat more than arthritis with exercise and self-care, though. Studies have also shown that regular physical activity can help Alzheimer’s patients, and exercise may even play a role in preventing this debilitating condition. Research around this is still limited, but one thing that’s for sure is that adults who exercise are less prone to other chronic health conditions. Heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers can all be prevented with the right fitness routine.
Help Yourself Age Well with Fitness and Self-Care
Older adults who are looking to stay in their best shape also need to factor self-care into the equation. Without self-care, you are leaving your body and mind vulnerable to the effects of chronic stress. Consistent levels of high stress can leave older adults struggling with heart disease, anxiety and other health issues. Staying active is a great way to care for your well-being, but you also need to make sure you are taking time to really enjoy life. Practicing daily mindfulness can help all adults live more fulfilling lives. Being mindful means taking time to pause and reflect on your life, and to be thankful for the things that make you happy. In between workouts, take a 15-minute break to meditate or to write down what you’re grateful for.
Physical fitness can go a long way in preserving your overall health, but it’s not the only wellness habit you should commit to for a better life. Finding ways to work self-care into your fitness routine and your everyday life can change your body and mind in many positive ways, so make time for more self-care, and keep working toward those health and fitness goals.
Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy and encourage her clients to stay positive. She incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions.
- Pictures courtest of Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-people-standing-on-purple-yoga-mats-1496138/
A few years ago the term self-care appeared as a means of describing anything that a person does to take care of themselves, like getting a massage, meditating, going for a walk in nature, or taking a relaxing bath in essential oils. All of the above are great ways to improve your physical and emotional health; however, they are often used not as a way to improve health, but to undo the damage caused by underlying stresses and simply restore one’s previous level of health.
Take meditation. It’s a practice that has been used for millennia as a means of trying to reach an enlightened state. But what do we often use it for now? As a means to calm ourselves down after an argument with a significant other or a way to gain a glimpse of equanimity before what we know will be a tough day at work.
In the above instances, meditation isn’t being used to take us to a higher place, it’s being used to get us back to baseline. And then the next day, when our job or our toxic relationships drag us back into sadness or anxiety, we use it again to bring us back up.
This is akin to using Tylenol to treat cancer. Cancer causes pain, so we take Tylenol to relieve the pain. This treats only the symptoms and ensures that we’re going to have to take Tylenol again and again each time the pain arises.
How would we stop that cycle? By curing the cancer.
Similarly, you can’t massage away a bad job and you can’t journal away a toxic relationship. In both instances, you’re merely treating the symptoms.
What’s the cure? Quitting.
Quit the job that’s taken your sanity day after day. Quit the relationships that have led you to the negative self-talk that requires hours of journaling and meditation to sort out.
Because all of the above self-care tools are amazing in their own rights, but are so much more helpful in improving your physical and mental health if you’re starting from a more stable baseline — which requires taking a good look (often through journaling!) at what is disturbing your peace.
So next time something has you anxious or depressed, grab that journal and write down what led to that feeling. Then start analyzing whether the cause can be quit. You may need a job-ectomy, or to have some toxic friends surgically removed from your friend circle.
And after you do, be sure to light some candles, throw some essential oils in a bathtub, and meditate your way to enlightenment — free of whatever was holding you back!
Learn more about strategic quitting for your health… register for Dr. Morski’s upcoming webinar:
Article reprinted with permission from Lynn Marie Morski.
Dr. Lynn Marie Morski is a Quitting Evangelist. She helps people to and through their quits through her book “Quitting by Design” and her podcast Quit Happens, along with speaking and coaching. She is also a board-certified physician in family medicine and sports medicine, currently working at the Veterans Administration. In addition, she is an attorney and former adjunct law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Visit her website, quittingbydesign.com
While most people picture their ideal vacation as lazing about on the beach getting roasted by the sun and sipping Mai Tais, you are not like most people. If you’re going to take time off and travel, you want to make the most of it and be active during your travels. A great way to stay motivated is to bring your dog along. When you travel with your pooch, the two of you can spend your time exploring cities on walks, traversing hike and bike trails, and generally being more active than your usual lazy vacationer.
Whenever you travel with your dog, you want to remain safe at all times. While many dogs love trying new things, they can also be overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations. Always keep your dog on a leash unless you are in a designated off-leash park. To stay safe even when off-leash, be sure your pup has updated ID tags1 and that their microchip has your current contact information. Dogs shouldn’t go to public places without vaccinations and parasite prevention products, including heartworm medicine and flea/tick/mosquito repellant. If your dog gets in a scuffle with another pooch at the park, be careful not to get in between them; instead, work at distracting your dog to get out of the fray as soon as possible.
Enjoy the Open Road
If you’re going to bring your dog on vacation, keep the locale within driving distance. Airlines may technically be able to “ship” your dog to your destination, but the process of crating, drugging, and shipping your dog in an airplane’s cargo hold is traumatic2 for the little guy. In fact, the Humane Society strongly advises against animals traveling in cargo. Beyond the stress that it causes dogs, airlines also have a habit of losing — and sometimes killing — dogs. Instead of risking it, plan a trip within driving distance so you know your dog is in good hands.
A Lot of Personality
Dogs differ in personalities3 just like people do. While some dog owners know their pup would love a day touring microbreweries in the city by foot, others would feel anxious surrounded by all those strangers’ feet and the smell of alcohol. Keep your dog’s personality and how they respond to situations in mind when planning activities. For instance, don’t take a little dog with short legs on a 10-mile hike up a mountain. Or, if your dog isn’t big on water, don’t book an afternoon kayaking in hopes that this time he will get used to it. Remember: this is your dog’s vacation too — he wants to enjoy it just as much as you do.
Take a Breather
While a fun and active vacation is great, don’t over-exert your pup. Even the most high-energy breeds need to rest. Be sure wherever you’re staying is shaded and cool if outdoors or climate controlled if indoors. Always bring a supply4 of freshwater and a travel bowl that your dog is comfortable using. Whether hiking, biking, kayaking, or simply walking around the city, your dog needs frequent water breaks to stay hydrated and healthy. Finally, it’s okay to spend a little time apart — your dog doesn’t have to be the center of the social spotlight 100 percent of the time. If you are staying in a dog-friendly room and only plan to be gone for a couple hours, he should be fine hanging out there for the time being. If you want to take a little longer than a couple hours, look into a local doggie daycare5 or pet sitter that will watch your pup while you shop, go to a museum, or do whatever not-so-dog-friendly activity you want to do.
When you bring your dog on vacation, you can’t sit around and be lazy. Beyond the daily activity a dog needs, you have to be mentally alert and stay on top of their safety. Dogs generally shouldn’t fly — you’re going to want to plan a road trip for this excursion. Keep your pup’s personality in mind, and don’t put him in a situation that will cause anxiety. Finally, find ways to take breaks so your dog doesn’t get too worn out by this vacation.
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.
1 Dog Park Safety Tips – Angie’s List
2 United Airlines had most animal deaths in 2017… – Market Watch
3 Dogs Have These 5 Major Personality Types – I Heart Dogs
4 Planning on Taking Your Dog on Your Next Vacation? – Whole Dog Journal
5 What’s the benefit of doggy daycare… – Mother Nature Network
It’s exhausting being a human today – there are over one million Google hits per day for the word “stress”. Good and bad stress is a part of the human condition and it can be real or imagined and it is certainly a broad societal issue. By making a positive “next step” in managing your stress you can avoid becoming worn out by the journey of life.
Stress was first described in 1915 and the theory states that we react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the person for fighting or fleeing. Biologically, physical activity gives the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. Physical Activity releases mood-elevating endorphins, self-confidence and improves your sleep. Studies show that one can access the REM state (the most restorative phase of sleep) quicker on days you include physical activity. Under stress, our raised heart rate and blood pressure but tensions in our arteries and cause damage. Chronic stress which goes on longer than 20 minutes contributes to heart attacks just as acute stress does. It also causes constriction of the blood vessels, dilation of pupils, auditory exclusion and decline of peripheral vision. As the body heals this damage, artery walls scar and thicken which can reduce the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart (occluded arteries). Since the brain uses 20% of the oxygen delivered by the heart foggy-thinking may result. Stress can also cause the telomeres to shorten and erode. The telomeres protect the end of the chromosomes and if they shorten too much, they cannot multiply and die off resulting in quicker aging.
The President of the Salk Institute, Elizabeth Blackburn, and the recipient of the Nobel Prize states, “We’ve found that the better your telomeres are protected, the less chance you’ll have of getting any of the big diseases.” She suggests to stop the erosion, do physical activity of various types and don’t have long-term stress.
Begin to take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your spending, your environment and the way you deal with problems – especially family system challenges. Ask yourself, is it worth my health? Is this situation/person worth negatively impacting my health? Choose to be happy – it can boost your emotional well-being as stated in studies published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. Be mindful of good and hard-earned accomplishments and enjoy your small victories. Appreciate the simple pleasures, devote time to giving, make a point to listen to the other person’s ideas and UNPLUG! Ferris Bueller said – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.
Hamlet said, “There is nothing good or bad…but thinking makes it so.” Positive thinking is medicine and every thought can enhance or diminish our health, happiness and stress level. Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford proposes in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, “If you are a normal mammal, stress is the three minutes of screaming terror in the jungle which either it is over with OR you’re over with. Perceived threats spark the same physiological survival responses (fight or flight) that crocodile attacks do.” Our modern-day stressors have changed. Fighting off prehistoric predators and trying to find food are replaced by juggling deadlines, multitasking and always being “connected” and available. Modern day saber tooth tigers are bills, traffic, family pressures but our bodies react the same way without the natural release that we would get from fighting or fleeing. Try not to turn to sugar and caffeine which can result in swings in blood sugar levels, limit alcohol to one drink per day and try to achieve a balanced, clean diet on most days of the week to even out your beautiful life.
The United States Government has suggested 150 minutes per week of physical activity in addition to two days per week of strength training for 20 minutes and stretching every day. There are many meditation, relaxation response and calming apps which you can download to have with you and use when you are having a challenge with managing stress. Sit and stand tall and do not “slump” as this can cause shallow chest breathing which can trigger the fight or flight response. Try not to make important decisions while under undue stress as this may result in poor or faulty decisions.
A 2016 study by the American College of Sports Medicine stated if workers do not have emotional resilience skills and habits to help support them during stressful times, their productivity declines. Work-related requirements such as precision and accuracy, problem solving, interpersonal communications as well as speed and quality of work output will suffer. We need to adjust to change without disruption or difficulty while maintaining good functional capacities. We need to bounce back without breaking and without giving in, giving up or breaking down. Stress Management is an integral component of Global Employee Health and Fitness Month (every May) healthandfitnessmonth.org and as the Architect of this initiative I felt passionately about including this component along with nutrition and physical activity, to give each and every worker the opportunity to go home “whole.”
Each and every day when confronted with stress, think about what advice you would give to a friend and then take this advice yourself!
Diane Hart, Owner of Hart to Heart Fitness, (www.harttoheartfitness.org) is a Nationally Certified Fitness Professional, Personal Trainer, Health Educator and is current President of the National Association for Health and Fitness (www.physicalfitness.org) founded in 1979 by the U.S. President’s Council on Sports and Fitness.
Many people believe that arthritis can only come from physical activity in your body, and it certainly does, but what others tend to forget, or simply don’t know, is that an individual’s mental health is a huge factor in arthritis as well. A study in 2009 by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed that people who experienced traumatic events during their childhood, which included physical or emotional abuse, had a much higher risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis compared to individuals who did not experience trauma.
Can Stress and Anxiety Actually Worsen Symptoms of Arthritis?
Some researchers claim that there is a direct relationship between a person’s stress response and inflammation in their body. Author Andrea W.M. Evers, PhD, took blood samples from 80 rheumatoid arthritis patients once every month for six months to measure the correlation between the stress hormone and inflammatory cytokines, and found that it played a main role in the amount of arthritis severity. Releasing cytokines in your body are the cause of inflammation, and exhibiting various levels of stress can also cause these specific molecules to be released, which eventually will promote inflammation and pain. Evers concluded that “patients who have a tendency for more worrying reported slightly more disease activity, more swollen joints, and more pain.”
Identifying the Root of Your Stress
As an individual becomes diagnosed with arthritis, their emotions can become extremely overwhelming. They may grow frustrated, uncomfortable, or in some cases, become very depressed. It becomes harder to perform normal daily tasks like putting on socks, cooking food, climbing stairs, and even just walking for some people. Their daily routine has become altered, and while some people can handle the change in lifestyle, others find it harder to cope and their stress can actually make the physical pain worse. Being able to identify where the arthritis is coming from in the body and developing a plan to improve it is the first step to reducing the stress associated with this disorder.
Tips for Handling Stress with Arthritis
Learning how to cope and finding ways to relieve tension can improve an individual’s quality of life physically and emotionally. One tip to handling stress would be to stay as active as you can throughout the day. Many people who have arthritis are often fearful of performing exercises simply because they worry it might make the pain worse or damage the joints, however, physical activity can actually improve the symptoms of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Daily activities like swimming and walking can reduce stiffness and stress on the joints while releasing endorphin hormones, (the hormones that make you feel good), ultimately improving the pain associated with arthritis and putting you in a better mood altogether.
Another tip would be to eat right so your body can fight inflammation. This tip seems like common sense, however many people don’t know which foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Some foods to start including in your every day diet are salmon, berries, and leafy green vegetables. Foods to avoid are red meats and vegetable oils, mainly because they contain omega-6 fatty acids which actually cause inflammation instead of reducing it.
Becoming more aware of your arthritis and coping with it appropriately will relieve pain in the body, resulting in an all-around happier and healthier you.
Lauren Adkins is a senior at Rowan University studying Health Promotion and Wellness Management. She is currently an intern at The Stress Management Institute and has a passion for helping people live a healthier lifestyle and improving their well-being. Lauren has also volunteered for a program at Rowan called “Get-FIT,” where she worked with individuals with developmental disabilities and promoted a happy, healthy, and fit lifestyle for them. Other than working towards a degree, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends, painting, and listening to music in her free time.
To understand how Pulmonary Hypertension reacts to Mind/Body Medicine, you must understand what is going on biologically. Mind/Body Medicine, such as meditation and exercise, can help to give these clients a better quality of life. As a fitness professional, it is important to know how, when and why you are using certain mind/body modalities.
Pulmonary Hypertension is a very rare disease of the lungs and right side of the heart. Sometimes there is no known cause except a change in the cells that line the pulmonary arteries. There is no cure, so managing the disease is the best most people can do. Some clients may be on multiple medications, which is normal. The changes in the pulmonary cells cause the artery walls to be thick and stiff. Extra tissue may form and the arteries may become tight. Young individuals usually become diagnosed by the age of 36 and women are diagnosed more often then men. Each year, 10 to 15 people per million are diagnosed in the United States. It is important to note that life expectancy is about 3 to 5 years if not diagnosed and treated.
Hypertension, as most people know, is a blood pressure which is 130–139 over 80–89. Individuals with hypertension can usually come off of medications with eating healthy and exercising. There are instances where the client will never stop taking medications, due to genetics. The client can eat healthy and exercise, but the blood pressure does not come down. A primary doctor may try to get the blood pressure under control, but can’t.
In this situation, the individual would be sent to a Cardiologist who specializes in Pulmonary Hypertension. There are four types of Pulmonary Hypertension and they each have their own symptoms and treatment. It is important to obtain a doctor’s clearance before working with this population.
Types of Pulmonary Hypertension
Group 1: Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
This group is usually classified as having no known cause. It can be genetic or develop from someone having Lupus, Scleroderma or HIV. Symptoms for this classification can be chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, inability to exercise, low blood pressure, chronic cough, shortness of breath, swelling or swollen legs.
Exercise is very important for this group by strengthening the heart and lungs. Clients will initially go to cardiac rehab for four to twelve weeks. When rehab is over, remember to obtain a clearance prior to working with your client. Start your client out by doing their cardiac rehab program. The goal is to strengthen the heart and help the client to build cardiovascular endurance.
Group 2: Pulmonary Hypertension due to left lung disease
The heart does not pump blood or relax effectively. Medications are used for this group to help lung functioning. Blood pressure medicine and diuretics may also be prescribed. The physician may also ask their client to lose weight or use a CPAP if they have sleep apnea.
Group 3: Pulmonary Hypertension due to lung disease
This group of individuals may have COPD, Interstitial Lung Disease, Sleep Apnea, chronic high altitude exposure, and pulmonary fibrosis. Treatment consists of improving lung function, proper sleep breathing and staying away from high altitudes.
Group 4: Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension
In group four, clients have blood clots in the lung. The blood clot restricts blood flow causing hypertension. It is important to work closely with the client’s physician for this type of hypertension.
Overall, exercise is thought to be good for individuals with Pulmonary Hypertension. There are, however, some guidelines to follow. Clients should never over exercise or become overheated. If you are working with someone who presents with symptoms, do not exercise upper and lower extremities at the same time. Exercise in extreme hot or cold environments should be avoided.
Stress management techniques will not help with bring blood pressure or heart rate down. For these clients, it is important to concentrate on the symptoms. Many individuals with Pulmonary Hypertension develop anxiety, depression and chronic stress. Clients may sit in a chair or lie on the floor for mind/body classes. It depends on what is comfortable for each client. It is important that the client knows to not get discouraged because they are not seeing a drop in blood pressure.
Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 18 years of experience in medical based fitness.