Tag Archive: stress


Meditation for Children

In this day and age, with all the research and practical experience, there is no denying the benefit of meditation.  It has been proven to help relieve stress, manage chronic pain, help with depression and anxiety, as well as enhance feelings of compassion, calm, and peacefulness.

Meditation is a practice.  The results get better with time and consistency.  That being the case, it is greatly beneficial to introduce this habit to your children at a young age.  Not only will it help them in their present lives just as it does adults, it will also set them up to reap the benefits of a lifelong practice of meditation.  Many adults who try to adopt a meditation practice encounter some difficulty incorporating it into their daily lives and remaining consistent, especially because at first it is very difficult to settle your mind.  Children who grow up meditating will be at a much better advantage.

Having a regular mindful meditation practice will help your child remain calm and in control of his/her emotions, curb your child’s impulsivity, and help them to be more balanced and compassionate.  In older children, it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Below are some tips for introducing meditation to your child:

  1. Set a Good Example. As with anything you ask your child to do, it’s best if you lead by example.
  2. Help Them to Understand Why. All children want to know why.  Understanding the benefits of meditation will empower them to really try rather than just go through the motions.
  3. Use Guided Meditations. Guided meditation is a great way to start.  It gives your child something to focus on, which is sometimes easier in the beginning than trying to “not think”.
  4. Be Realistic. It’s best to start off slow.  Especially for young children, just 3-5 minutes in the beginning is enough.  If meditation becomes overwhelming, it will cause stress for your child rather than reduce it.
  5. Keep Them Sitting Up. Lying down can be too relaxing and lead to falling asleep.  While naps are great, they do not carry the same benefits as a mindful meditation practice.

Panic Attack Disorder

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are sudden surges of overwhelming fear and terror that strike with no apparent warning; that is, the fear seems unrelated and disproportionate to the circumstances at hand.  This overwhelming fear is often accompanied by symptoms such as a racing, pounding heart, feeling dizzy or faint, tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers, feeling sweaty or having chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, and feeling out of control.  Panic attacks usually last around 10 minutes, but can seem longer if you experience a succession of attacks.  It is estimated that one out of every 75 people worldwide will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but it is only if you have recurring panic attacks that disrupt your ability to go about your daily life that you would be diagnosed with panic attack disorder.  In many people the symptoms of panic attack disorder develop in association with major life changes, such as getting married, having a child, or starting a first job, as well as major life stressors.  The highest incidence of the onset of panic attack disorder occurs in the 17 – 25 years of age range, but people of all ages can experience anxiety attacks.

The thing about panic attacks that makes them so debilitating is that often after you’ve had a few in succession, you begin to have panic attacks about having panic attacks, especially at times when, or places where, you don’t feel safe such as a crowded public place like a train crammed with people.   Panic attacks are very frightening because you feel completely out of control and often like you might just pass out.  People with panic attack disorders will find themselves avoiding situations they think might lead to a panic attack, or places they are too scared to have a panic attack at.  It is this avoidance that causes the most interference in a person’s ability to live normally.

Panic attack disorders, like anything else, can be treated in a variety of different ways and should be tailored to suit each individual patient.  But, across the board, most clinical therapists will teach patients with this condition some coping mechanisms to help prevent the attacks, as well to help them deal with the attacks when they come.  Some of these coping techniques are outlined below, but it is recommended and advised that if you experience panic attacks with any regularity that you consult with a licensed therapist and not attempt to treat yourself.

It is important to note that many of these techniques and coping/preventative strategies are good practice for all people, whether they experience panic attacks or not.  I don’t know a single person who does not experience anxiety in their life about one thing or another.  Panic attacks / anxiety attacks are just forms of anxiety.  I encourage all of you reading this post to incorporate some of these techniques and strategies into your life as a way to lessen and prevent any anxiety you may experience.

1.  Deep Breathing & Meditation

Practice daily mediation to reduce stress and anxiety.  Also, if you find yourself feeling anxious or having a panic attack, focus on consciously taking deep breaths.  Shallow breathing (also called chest breathing), which usually accompanies a panic attack, disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and, in turn, your heart rate increases, you get dizzy, and your muscles tense, thus worsening the symptoms of your anxiety attack.  Clear your mind of everything but your breath.  (Counting will help.  Slowly count to 5 in your head as you breathe in, and again as you breathe out.)  This type of breathing will slow down your heart rate and release tension.

2.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (PMR)

PMR is a technique developed to reduce anxiety.  The thinking behind the technique is that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can lessen the anxiety by consciously releasing tension in the muscles.  The technique works in a sequential pattern, asking you to alternately tense and then release various muscle groups.  It does take practice and will become more effective with time.  There are CDs and MP3 downloads you can purchase that will guide you through PMR.

3.  Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  Before beginning an exercise program, always get clearance from your doctor.  It is also recommended to seek the advice and knowledge of a certified personal trainer who can design an exercise program specifically tailored to your needs.

4.  Avoid Stimulants

Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.  Remember, coffee is not the only source of caffeine.  It is also in teas, chocolate, and soda.

5.  Start a Panic Diary

It is important to understand your particular anxiety / panic attack triggers.  A diary will help you discover any patterns your anxiety may have.  While an anxiety attack may seem to come from nowhere, in all likelihood there is some thought pattern or situation triggering it that you are unaware of.  Some thoughts we have, called ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), are so “automatic” that we don’t really consciously register we are having them.  When you find yourself feeling anxious or having an attack, first control the symptoms using deep breathing or PMR.  Once it is under control, immediately go to your diary to write down any thoughts  you are having while they are still fresh.  Also, describe exactly what your were doing and where you were when the anxiety attack occurred.

6.  Have Patience

There is no point in increasing your anxiety levels by being anxious about how your treatment is going.  Do your best, whatever that may be (which will always change depending on the circumstances), and then let it go.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/understanding-panic-attack-treatment

http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attacks.shtml

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/panic-attack-symptoms

http://www.anxietypanic.com/signs.html

http://panicdisorder.about.com/od/livingwithpd/a/pdselfhelp.htm

When most of us think of posture, we recall memories of our parents, grandparents, and other caretakers chiding us to “sit up straight” and “stand up tall”.  If only they had told us all the reasons why, we might have actually listened!  The sad fact is many of us have bad posture.  Blame it on all the work and traveling that is done sitting down hunched over a desk or in front of a wheel.

As it turns out, posture is a big deal, bigger than I ever realized before I began researching this post.  It effects not only whether we will suffer from back and neck pain, but also our circulatory system, our blood pressure, our lungs, our digestive system, our endocrine (hormone) system, our energy levels, and even our thoughts, our confidence, and how others perceive us.  Let’s take these all one by one:

Circulatory System: Hunching over a computer or other bad posturing can restrict blood flow to the back of the head which can cause tension headaches or worse.

Blood Pressure: A study published in the August 2007 issue of “The Journal of Neuroscience” suggests that strain in the neck muscles (from hunching over your desk for instance) may contribute to higher blood pressure, as this type of strain can trigger brain cells to raise blood pressure.

Lungs: When hunched over your lungs are physically unable to take a full breath.  This can also contribute to raised stress levels, as deep breathing helps create relaxation while shallow breathing contributes to feeling stressed.  It has also been suggested that if a spine is out of alignment, it will cause a misalignment of the rib cage, which in turn will put undue pressure on both the lungs and the heart.

Digestive System: The bulk of our digestive system is located in our torso area.  When we are hunched over, we sort of crush and squeeze these digestive organs, thus hindering digestion.  Here is an experiment that can help you understand this in a visceral way.  During the holidays, after you have eaten that too large meal, try getting up and going for a short walk directly after, being sure to keep good posture the whole time.  Notice how your body feels.  Then, next time you eat a similarly large meal, force yourself to just sit there, hunched over, and notice how that makes your body feel.  Now, to be clear, the movement of walking does stimulate digestion, which gives that first experience an extra advantage, but there is something to be said for giving your digestive system the space in which to properly digest.

Endocrine (Hormone) System: Hormones play an important role in the overall health of our body.  Because poor posture forces our muscles to work harder to keep us upright, this creates unnecessary physical stress on our musculoskeletal structure, which in turn causes disruption to the release and concentration of stress hormones in the body, which then causes imbalances in the entire endocrine system.  (There is another component of how certain posturing affects our hormones, which I will touch upon later on.)

Energy Levels: Our energy levels are affected by bad posture (and conversely by good posture) because restricted airflow and extra stress on our muscles cause us to fatigue quicker and more easily.

Our Thoughts / Levels of Confidence / Other’s Perception: If you think of posture as how you occupy a space, you can easily begin to understand how it could affect what others think of you, as well as what you think of yourself.  Here’s an easy example:  If you were to walk in a room with your head down, shoulder’s hunched, fleetingly making eye contact with those you meet, you are going to perceive that experience through that posturing.  Likewise, the people you encounter will read you a certain way through that same posturing, thus causing them to treat you according to their perception of you, which will then reinforce the view your posturing initially gave you.  Conversely, if you were to walk into a room with your head high and your shoulders back, boldly making eye contact with all you meet, that experience will be the polar opposite, both for you and for others, and you will be treated differently as well.

Another compelling example of the power of posture has to do with the findings of a recent study.  Basically, it was found that if a person were to spend as little as 2 minutes striking certain power postures and poses (for example, standing with your arms stretched out wide, standing in front of a desk with your palms pressed on it, or reclining in a chair with your hands behind your head and your feet on the table), their testosterone levels would rise, and their cortisol levels would dip, leading to an optimal hormonal balance to help that person feel more powerful, confident, and able to take risks.

Another study found that if you sit up straight you are more likely to believe your thoughts.  I bet that if they did a similar study they would find that others would more likely believe your thoughts too.  Good posture displays confidence and openness, while poor posture tends to relay the opposite message.

Yoga is an entire discipline based on various postures and poses aimed at creating harmony, balance, and calm in our bodies and our lives.

All in all, good posture is much more than something your mom nagged you about as a kid.  How we hold our bodies and how we occupy the space around us has a profound affect on us physically, mentally and emotionally.  Changing your posture can literally change your body’s chemistry, its functioning, and its energy.  It can also change your perception and other’s perception of you.  It is much more powerful than most of us ever gave it credit for.  I don’t know about you, but I plan on calling my mom later today and thanking her for every time she told me to “Straighten up!”

Sources:  “The Power of Posture” Courier Post

The Effects of Bad Posture on Heart Health, Livestrong.com

The Importance of Good Posture, Buzzle.com

Poor Posture and Health, Root2Being.com

Sciencedaily.com, October 5, 2009

Natural Remedies for PMS

OK, so before the men who read this blog completely check out, I’ll ask that you reconsider.  This post may help you to listen and to understand the women in your life a little better.

PMS has been around a lot longer than the name itself – pretty much since the beginning of the human race, and women in particular.  Experts say that the definitive cause of PMS is unknown, but many think it has something to do with the flux in hormones.  First, lets brush up on some of what happens during a typical menstrual cycle. From the onset of menstruation (when you get your period) until ovulation, your body is essentially ripening an egg.  It is the pre-ovulation stage, the first stage of the menstrual cycle.  Estrogen is a hormone made by your body throughout your entire menstrual cycle, but it peaks right around the time of ovulation, the 2nd and 3rd week respectively, and declines before you menstruate.  Once you ovulate, we move into the luteal phase.  During this phase your body also produces the hormone progesterone.  So, basically, PMS is the time when your body is experiencing a decline in estrogen, as well as the effects of progesterone.  Both these hormones affect certain neurotransmitters that influence mood, by the way.

Some of the common symptoms of PMS include breast swelling and tenderness, headache, cramps, nausea, abdominal bloating, depressed mood, irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, food cravings, swelling of the hands, ankles, and face, anger, increased emotional sensitivity, and anxiety, to name a few.  If you have these symptoms and they are severe or debilitating, you might be suffering from PMDD and should seek medical treatment from your gynecologist.  Interestingly, PMS symptoms are often most pronounced for women in their 30s and 40s, so unfortunately if you are PMS-free now, you may not always be.  Also, if you are in your 20s and you do have PMS, it may worsen as you get older.  All the more reason to do what you can now to lessen the symptoms.

There are some key dietary changes you can make that will help control your symptoms of PMS.  Calcium has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms.  Supplementing with Vitamin E has also shown some effectiveness.  There is some evidence, although less, that supplementation of magnesium and Vitamin B6 can also alleviate symptoms.  (Both magnesium and B6 can have side effects if you consume too much, and magnesium should not be supplemented if you have heart or kidney disease without consulting your doctor first.)

On a whole, it is important to eat well.  Specifically it is helpful to reduce salt and sugar intake, as well as decrease the fat in your diet.  Reduction or elimination of caffeine is also helpful as it can aggravate anxiety, depression, and breast tenderness.  Keep your blood sugar level stable by choosing sturdy, whole grain, complex carbohydrates and by eating small, healthy meals throughout the day.  Keep your fiber intake up.  Adding flaxseed can be helpful for this as it contains both insoluble and soluble fiber.  It also contains plant estrogen, which may help when your body experiences that decline in estrogen.  Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, as well as omega-3 rich foods, as they will help with mood levels.

Exercise has also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.  Exercise is a great stress reliever and mood-improver.  Stress is a big culprit for aggravating PMS symptoms, so it is advisable to adopt regular stress-relieving practices like meditation and yoga.  Some deep breathing at various times throughout the day can also help regulate stress.

As for herbal remedies, women have used evening primrose oil for quite some time to relieve PMS symptoms.  It is generally considered safe, but it is still recommended to check with your doctor before taking it regularly.  Another common herbal remedy is chaste berry, often brewed into teas.

As someone who experiences PMS every month, I can say that in my personal experience I have noticed that as my lifestyle got healthier over these past few years, my PMS symptoms have lessened.  I, myself, plan to try some of the other remedies I found in my research to see if they, too, can help me decrease my symptoms.  Having said that, there is something to be said for the natural cycles and rhythms of our bodies.  I think some of the stress caused by PMS, which then worsens PMS, is because we fight it.  We fight the days when we feel a little more down than usual, a little more sensitive, a little more tired.  If, after incorporating all or most of these remedies, you still find yourself experiencing some mild symptoms of PMS, then I would advise you to surrender to them.  If you fight them, it will just cause extra stress, which will then in turn make your PMS symptoms that much worse.  The menstrual cycle has its natural phases, just as the moon does.  It’s part of who we are as women.  (But, let me reiterate the importance of doing all you can to lessen the symptoms first, especially if you find that your PMS is disruptive in any way to your life or relationships.)

In conclusion, I will leave you with some food for thought.  When I came across this in my research, it sure opened my mind up to a new possibility.  The following is a quote from an article by Dr. Christiane Northrup, noted author and gynecologist.   “The luteal phase, from ovulation until the onset of menstruation, is when women are most in tune with their inner knowing and with what isn’t working in their lives…. In fact, it has been shown experimentally that the right hemisphere of the brain—the part associated with intuitive knowing—becomes more active premenstrually, while the left hemisphere becomes less active. Interestingly enough, communication between the two hemispheres may be increased as well.”[1] Now, doesn’t that put a whole new (and positive) spin on PMS?   Maybe if we stop thinking of PMS as the time of the month when we go a little crazy and instead start regarding it as a time where we may gain insight into our lives, it might then alter our experience of it?  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

Ehow.com :  How To Use Flaxseed Oil to Treat PMS

Medicinenet.com : PMS-Free Diet? What You Eat May Effect PMS

Livestrong.com : Natural Ways to Help with PMS

About.com : Natural Remedies for PMS

Drnorthrup.com : Premenstrual Syndrome


[1] Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle by Dr. Christiane Northrup, drnorthrup.com

Chronic stress is very damaging to both our physical and mental well-being.  (For more about the effects of chronic stress, read our blog titled “The Earth’s Heartbeat”.)  Yet, most of us encounter stress in some form almost every day.  So, what to do?  One very effective way to alleviate stress and to combat its damaging effects is to meditate.

Meditation can reverse your stress response and help shield you from the effects of chronic stress.   When you meditate, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your blood pressure normalizes, you use less oxygen, your adrenal glands produce less cortisol, your mind ages at a slower rate, and your immune function improves.   Besides reversing your stress response, mediation quiets the mind.  As a result, you become more focused, more creative, have a clearer mind, and can even gain a better perspective on stressful situations.

Mediation can be self-taught or you can take classes taught by a certified meditation instructor.  (If you have the time, an experienced teacher can be very helpful when you are just beginning your meditation practice.)  Simply put, the practice of meditation is sitting comfortably in a quiet space, clearing your mind, and breathing in and out.  While it is simple in design, meditation does take practice and discipline.  If you are just beginning, it is recommended you only attempt 5 minutes of meditation at a time (the bare minimum needed to produce desired results) and then build into longer meditations (20 minutes or so.)  You may find it hard at first to clear your mind of its endless chatter, but that is normal.  Whatever you do, don’t let it stress you out!  Simply notice the intruding thoughts, let them go, and re-focus.

For some, it is helpful to focus on one thing during meditation.  This can alleviate distracting thoughts.  You can focus on your breath, even counting how many breaths you take.  Alternately, you can focus on an object such as a painting, a flower, or a candle.  Some like to focus on a particular sound, the classic one being the Sanskrit word “Om”, which means perfection. With this method, you would chant “om” (or any other word you like) with each exhale.  Still another method to help quiet your mind is to focus on a single thought or idea.  Some good ones are love, gratitude, peace, and forgiveness.

Some people who practice meditation find it helpful to use imagery as a tool.  With this method, you imagine you are in a pleasant and relaxing place as you meditate.  It is helpful to be detailed in your imagery, as this will make the place come alive to you, as well as focus your mind more efficiently.  Listening to calming music is another way to clear your mind as you meditate.  There are some great CDs out there specifically geared towards meditation.  Alternatively, you can purchase guided meditation CDs (or through itunes).  These types of CDs involve someone talking you through the meditation.

In the beginning, I would suggest trying all the methods to best figure out which ones work for you.  Remember, don’t get discouraged.  Be patient with yourself and trust the process.  With practice, everything gets easier and the benefits are too great to pass up.  If you stick with it, before long you will find yourself looking forward to your few minutes of peace and quiet and relaxation.  It is amazing how great it feels to just be still.  To just be.

In conclusion, I will leave you with a quote I came across not that long ago:

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted.

Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

Hans Margolius

Stress is not good for us.  Most of us know that by now.  We hear it daily from doctors, news reporters, medical journals, health magazines and talk shows.  There is plenty of research about the adverse effects of chronic, unmanaged stress.  They include:  a weakened immune system, heart issues such as high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, blood clots, and hardening of the arteries, muscle pain in your neck, shoulders, or back, stomach issues such as aggravated irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers, reproductive issues such as low fertility, erection problems, problems during pregnancy and painful menstrual cycles, a worsening of certain lung conditions like asthma and COPD, and skin issues such as acne and psoriasis are also made worse by stress.  As if all that is not reason enough to get your stress level under control, there are a myriad of emotional issues linked to chronic stress such as feeling generally cranky all the time, feeling overwhelmed by even the smallest of issues, lack of patience, feelings of frustration, lashing out for no reason, finding it hard to focus, feeling either jumpy or tired all the time, and chronic fear as you imagine all the bad things that can happen.  Bottom line, being stressed out all the time is no way to live.  So where does all the stress come from? Have you ever wondered if there is an external force affecting the stress level of our world?  What can we do to reduce our stress and get back in sync with the world around us?  Please read on and consider this….

Did you know the Earth has a heartbeat?  I’ve recently been reading a fascinating book called Nature’s Secret Messages by Elaine Wilkes, which is where I first learned about it.  The heartbeat is known as the “Schumann Resonance” – named after the German physicist W.O. Schumann who predicted it.  More scientifically speaking, the Schumann Resonances are “quasi-standing electromagnetic waves that exist in the Earth’s ‘electromagnetic’ cavity (the space between the surface of the Earth and the ionosphere).” (1) They are not caused by anything internally in the Earth, rather they are related to electrical activity in the atmosphere, particularly lightning storms.  “In the normal mode descriptions of Schumann resonances, the fundamental mode is a standing wave (also known as a stationary wave because it is a wave that remains in constant position) in the Earth–ionosphere cavity with a wavelength equal to the circumference of the Earth. This lowest-frequency (and highest-intensity) mode of the Schumann resonance occurs at a frequency of approximately 7.83 Hz.” (2)  There are variations in frequency, depending on the electrical activity in the Earth’s ionosphere, but what we do know is that the Schumann Resonances typically stay well below the 50 Hz – 60 Hz frequency most of our technology runs on.

The human race evolved in this frequency, this Schumann Resonance.  It is very important to us.  So important that NASA created a Schumann wave simulator (basically a magnetic-pulse generator that mimics the Earth’s frequency) because they noticed that without it the astronaut’s physical condition severely deteriorated while they were in space, away from Earth’s heartbeat.  There are many people today who believe that all the manmade frequencies of our technology is “polluting” the Earth’s heartbeat, the Schumann Resonance, thereby causing us to feel more stressed, fatigued and out of balance.  If astronauts’ physical condition can deteriorate because of a lack of it, it stands to reason that the general population’s physical condition may also be affected by its distortion.

So, what to do?  We can’t shut off all our power, that’s for sure.  That is not a practical solution.  However, we can get more connected to Earth and to nature by spending more time in it.  I’ve often noticed how the energy changes when I vacation with my family at the Jersey shore.  We cross that bridge into Ocean City and it’s as if all the troubles of normal, everyday life just disappear and I instantly feel more relaxed.  I’m sure it is influenced by the collective energy of all the other people there who are also in “vacation mentality” so to speak, but I wonder if the fact that we spend a majority of our time there barefoot on the beach and in the ocean, connected to nature day after day for hours at a time, also plays a significant role in that collective, more relaxed energy.  Maybe our increased connection to our collective heartbeat is what helps us all feel more relaxed.

Have you ever spent a day hiking in the woods, or just lounging at a park, and felt as if you lost time somehow?  I think that feeling is due to being exposed to Nature’s rhythms, which are so different than our own manmade ones full of alarm clocks and artificial lighting and cell phones that never stop ringing.  The astronauts have shown us how important it is for us to be connected to our Earth, and specifically its heartbeat.  Being in touch with nature can ground us, and help us to feel more centered.  It can take us back to our roots as human beings.  Next time you are feeling stressed out, give it a try.  (Better yet, use Nature as a way to prevent stress by visiting it regularly.)  Take a trip to the nearest piece of nature – even if all you can do that day is simply stand barefoot in your own backyard – and just take in all that nature has to offer.  Breathe deeply.  Feel how Earth’s gravity roots you to the ground.  Look up at the sky and watch the clouds roll by.  Look around and watch the other forms of life sharing your piece of nature – the squirrels, the insects, the birds.  Close your eyes and feel the wind as it moves around you, listening closely to all the sounds of nature that surround you.  Reset your rhythm to Mother Nature’s rhythm.   It may be just the medicine you need.


1.  www.lessemf.com

2.   www.wikipedia.com/Schumann_resonances

Other sources:  Web MD

Yoga is on the fast track to becoming a mainstream therapy tool for those who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).  It is estimated that 1 in 5 soldiers returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from PTSD.  In response to this overwhelming need, the US Army has been exploring all different sorts of therapies in an effort to ascertain the most effective ones, or the most effective combination of therapies.  Yoga has so far proven to be very successful in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD for army veterans.  One such success story is the work being done at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where yoga instructor Robin Carnes teaches the service men and women a type of yoga called yoga nidra, which is a form of guided meditation. The work she does there is in conjunction with a team of psychologists, a physical therapist, 2 nurses, and a social worker and general internist who also assist the service men and women in their recovery.  The Walter Reed program has been so successful, there will soon be pilot programs based on its model in various military bases across the country.

So, what makes yoga so great for those who suffer with PTSD?  One of the main therapeutic components is that it helps restore the mind – body connection in a positive way.  The memory of the trauma that causes the onset of PTSD is stored at the sensory level, in the body, and sufferers often feel completely disconnected from, and at the mercy of, those seemingly uncontrollable feelings and sensations.  Yoga teaches them how to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings through the process of staying with whatever sensations occur in the poses they hold and seeing how they come to an end.  Yoga also teaches a mindfulness, a capacity to sit with oneself in stillness and notice what is going on inside.  This mindfulness helps the PTSD sufferers stay in the present, connected to the present, and not get swept away in the past.  (Often someone with PTSD will feel transported to a totally different place and time when they are gripped by the memory of the traumatic event.)  Yet another benefit to yoga is that it teaches those with PTSD key relaxation techniques through the breath, helping them learn how to self regulate.  This gives them the tools they need to stop the tide of traumatic memories from taking hold of them; it helps them remain calm.

Not all PTSD sufferers are war veterans.  Many more are regular civilians who have been attacked in their home, at work, or on the street.  People who are victims of natural disasters can also suffer from PTSD.  Yoga is wonderful therapy for all people who have to cope with this illness.  It is important to note that those who are victims of sexual assault may have a tough time in the beginning with some of the yoga poses, particularly child’s pose and happy baby pose.  If that is the case, it is best to ease them into the process.  Evidence has shown that those who stick with it and keep trying to get their body in those vulnerable poses will eventually reap great therapeutic reward for their persistence.  Yoga is a particularly healing therapy for victims of sexual assault because of its emphasis on self-acceptance.

If you were to ask anyone who practices yoga regularly what the benefits of it are, odds are you would hear responses similar to:  being grounded and present; gaining an awareness of my body and its strength; feeling calm and in control of my thoughts; a clearer mind.  One can gleam how these benefits would take on a special meaning to one who has PTSD.  But, we could all use these benefits and though not all of us have PTSD, I would venture that most of us deal with stress in our daily lives.  If yoga can help those with PTSD, I know it can help the rest of us who only have to cope with the regular stress of everyday living.  It really is a wonderful practice to take up and a great way to not only regulate stress, but to also reconnect with your body and your self.  If you’re not taking yoga now, why not start?  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

There is a large amount of research and experts weighing in on the importance of sleep.  In a nutshell, it all boils down to this very simple statement:  “Sleep is VERY important.” With all the information I found on the topic, I will keep this first blog on the subject somewhat general.  Because of its importance, it is a topic that will most likely be revisited again.

Many people equate sleep to a battery recharging.  That is a good analogy on many different levels, but it is also inadequate, because a lot of what happens during sleep has to do with repairing and healing as well, both physically and mentally.  That’s why lack of sleep often leads to illness – your immune system is down because it hasn’t had ample time to repair itself.

One of the easiest ways to understand the importance of sleep is to look at all that goes wrong when there is a lack of sleep.  Sleep deprivation is all-pervasive in its effects on your physical health, mental health, and emotional well-being.  It can cause any and all of the following: impaired judgment (increasingly risky behavior with the less sleep you get); car accidents, sometimes fatal; illness/disease; decrease in reaction time; irritability, impatience, mood swings; inability to concentrate; decrease in learning ability; increase in stress and stress hormones; heart issues such as hypertension and irregular heartbeat; weight gain; hallucinations; adrenal fatigue; being too tired to enjoy the things you love.

Here are some tips to help you get adequate sleep:

1.  Keep a regular sleep schedule.  Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Unless you are a shift worker, keep your sleep cycle in line with the natural circadian rhythm – wake in the light of the morning, sleep in the dark of the night.  As a guideline, try to be asleep by 10:30.

2.  Figure out how much sleep you need. The guideline is 8 hours, and for many of us, that is exactly what we need.  But, there are those who will need 9 or 10, and there are those who will need no more than 6 or 7.

3.  Keep your bedroom cool and dark.

4.  Minimize your exposure to bright lights for at least 2 hours before you go to sleep.

5.  Stay away from stimulants such as caffeine and sugar after lunchtime. Avoid alcohol for several hours before you go to bed.

6.  Drink plenty of water throughout the day.  If dehydrated, your body will respond as though it’s in stress, and stress hormones are “awakening” hormones.

7.  Exercise.  Please note, however, that it is important to be aware of the time of day and type of exercise you are performing.  In general, do all intense exercise before dinner.

Sources: Consumer Reports on Health, 5/10; How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy, Paul Chek; “Importance of Sleep: Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep”, Harvard Health Publications; “Sleep: Understanding the Basics”, emedicineHealth.com, “Why Sleep Is Important and What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough”, American Psychological Association.

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