Tag: stress

Stress Reduction

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

STRESS REDUCTION
Most of us can attest to the fact that stress is reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. Balancing work, family, health, money, etc. is a challenge that many of us feel ill equipped to face. Eighty percent of the doctor visits in our country are stress related. Our quality of life and health is largely determined by how we adapt and relate to daily stressors. Excessive stress not only takes its toll on our bodies, but strips the joy out of life and suppresses our creative instincts. Dissolving stress is certainly possible, but takes a commitment to making lifestyle choices that create balance throughout our lives. Here are a few ancient techniques for eliminating stress, increasing energy, and creating emotional balance. These are some of the most powerful tools we have for achieving optimal health and preventing future disease.

1) Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years in many Asian cultures, meditation has long been recognized as one of the most powerful tools we have for cultivating peace of mind and balance. Numerous studies have proven the incredibly positive effect that meditation has on stress reduction. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques taught around the world. For beginners, the most helpful approach is to start with basic mindfulness techniques that develop both relaxation and alertness. Once a basic ground of awareness has been stabilized, then more advanced meditation practices can be undertaken. Meditation is a practice that helps us identify with stillness and silence. It cultivates intuition and surrender. It can deeply help just about anybody, but is truly a miraculous practice for reducing stress and anxiety.

2) Yoga: This ancient practice has also been utilized by millions of people throughout history. Yoga is typically considered a form of meditation that involves putting the body into a variety of poses in combination with deep breathing to induce mental clarity, increased energy, and physical strength and flexibility. The healing benefits of yoga have been repeatedly documented by a variety of clinical studies. There are many forms of yoga and it is best to experiment to determine which form feels the most suited for your needs. 

3) Acupuncture: One of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. Perhaps one of the last truly holistic forms of healthcare remaining on the planet, acupuncture works with the Qi (life force ) of the body in order to induce a variety of therapeutic effects. The safety and efficacy of this practice are well documented which accounts for its incredible surge in popularity in the Western world. Acupuncture is considered one of the most powerful treatment options for stress reduction. 

4) Herbal medicine: There are a variety of both Chinese and Western herbal formulas that have been clinically proven to reduce stress and create emotional balance. Herbs are much less concentrated than pharmaceuticals, which is why they have far less side effects (but can still be as effective). If you are interested in using herbal medicine we recommend consulting an herbalist.  It can be quite overwhelming trying to self diagnose accurately in the supplement aisle.

5) Nutrition: Eating a diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long way toward healing stress. The standard American diet (high in processed foods, saturated fat, sugar, and trans-fats) has been linked to anxiety, depression, and increased stress in numerous studies. Change your diet to an organic, whole foods approach and both your body and mind will reward you beyond measure. Poor adaptability to stress is often a sign that our brains are starving for nutrients that we aren’t getting from our standard American diets.

Making these lifestyle changes may not be easy in the initial phases. It is often helpful to seek out the support of a health care practitioner to guide you through these transitions. Once you start feeling the enormous payoff of making such changes, there truly is no turning back. Your stress will dissolve, your weight will decrease, and your energy will skyrocket, not to mention the preventative measures you are taking for heart health. Isn’t that enough to warrant making a few changes?

 
 

How meditation may change the brain

How many of you have tried meditating, and find yourself trying to quiet your mind only to hear a little voice tell you that this is a waste of time?  A recent article in the NY Times suggests that meditation actually causes positive changes in the structure of the brain, increasing grey matter in the area of the brain related to learning and memory, and reducing grey matter in the area related to stress and anxiety.  Here is a link to that article:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=general

Finding your Middleway

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

In a time when we are constantly feeling pulled between the desires to get more done and to relax, finding the “middle” is an ongoing daily effort.  To find your personal balance point between more or less is to find your “way.”

When trying to understand the concept of balance, it is helpful to approach it through very simple questions.  For example, is it good to never eat or to eat all the time? No. The pendulum here can swing from gorging yourself to starving yourself.  Those are the two extremes of the pendulum: the yin and the yang, expansion and contraction, and non-doing and doing.  If you are in balance, you eat when it is time to eat in a way that maintains the health of your body.  To do otherwise is to waste energy dealing with the effects of eating too little, too much, or eating the wrong foods for you.  

Extreme behaviors begin to carve grooves in our landscape that we get stuck in.  As a result, we spend much of our energy on the effects of the extreme behaviors.  Our extremes teach us what imbalanced behavior patterns feel like and why we do not always stay up super late or eat the whole chocolate cake.  I love the saying, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  My 99 year old great Aunt Dot attributes her long life to this saying.  

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