Walk About Foster
Read about the walkability and getting out and about on SE Foster Road; my latest health article contribution to the local Foster United.
Stress: what is it good for?
Ok, so that's not entirely true. But 99.9% of reactions to stress nowadays are harmful and unnecessary.
Here's a whirlwind tour on what stress is doing to you and your body, why it sucks, and what you can do about it to have a happier, more kick ass life.
Most of us have heard that the physiologic (body) response to stress has evolved to run away from woolly mammoths or saber tooth tigers or something along those lines.
Well, ok, great, but we were also club-swinging unibrow-sporting troglodytes (word of the day for ya). Things have changed. So why on earth would morning traffic and work deadlines cause the same effects in your body as a near-death experience as the hands (or claws?) of a neolithic lion? Because, for the most part, deep deep down in your genes and cells, not much has changed. You're still living, breathing and metabolizing like its 1999. B.C that is.
And what is stress and who defines it anyways? What cranks one person's stress-o-meter up to 11 (public speaking anyone?), is exciting, challenging and enjoyable to another. Well, the million dollar answer is: that person, thing, event or activity that is "stressful" is only stressful because you're responding stressfully to it.
Ok, before I go too esoteric and off into "what is is" land, let me break it down another way: stress as a word was not created to describe a human physiologic response. It came from civil engineering, and only afterwards did biology researchers take the idea and apply it to the human body. Stress is a force from the outside that is exerting its effects in you (or a bridge, but why split hairs). Or to quote the never-wrong wikipedia, "stress is a measure of the internal forces acting within a deformable body." Sexy definition, right?
So something is trying to deform your body (boss breathing down your neck, kids going nuts, no time to yourself) and stress is the amount those things are affecting you, internally.
But. But. The real kicker of all this is you have a choice in the matter. You can choose how all those external forces affect your internal forces and deform your body. (ok, I'll stop with the engineering talk)
There are many ways you can respond physiologically (and emotionally) to potentially stress-inducing events and interactions.
How do you respond? Crack like an eggshell? Crumble like saltine?
How do you want to respond? Bounce back from any hardship like a superball? Nonchalantly and gracefully move from one project to the next like a slinky?
You may have minimal influence over commuter traffic, paying the bills and having a ever-expanding to do list with never enough time-- but what you do have maximal influence over is your response.
This is more than a matter of "just think good thoughts" or "quit your job and move to Fiji" (though if you're looking to take a concierge doctor to Fiji with you, let me know). I work with people to build up their internal reserves so that they can react to life more like a slinky and less like an eggshell.
Getting and maintaining that attribute is a process (unless you do just move to Fiji)- but one that when working together, I have always seen stress diminish, anxiety dissolve and positivity and resilience grow in their place. And from that standpoint, you can take on the tigers and bosses without losing your cool.
To your good health,
Well, I mean kids' brains have a lot of plasticity. That means flexibility, right down to each nerve and its connection with other brain cells.
At this point, I think I may be to old to be a protege of any sort, and I wasn't one of those kids who is a violin or calculus genius.
No, I think "spazzy" might have been used more commonly. Or "very active," "busy" or "curious" if one was trying to be nice. I like to think that I was just very interested in everything, and wanted to do everything at once. But if I had ever become too much for my parents, I very well could have ended up with an ADHD diagnosis (or ADD as it was known just a few years ago).
Lucky for me I grew up in the time before prolific medication of young ones. Today, around 5-7% of school-aged children are diagnosed with ADHD and with the development and widespread use of medication for this population, many children are on behavior-altering medications for years. Both intentionally and unintentionally, this affects developing brains, since the meds specifically target the part of the brain which is most plastic (prefrontal cortex), which actively grows and matures into one's 20s.
At the bottom of the page is the full research article I came across recently- it's 9 pages long and dense on the topic of psychophysiological coherence- one of my professional passions.
This is what I am tapping into when I use when I train people with stress and anxiety using in-office and at-home biofeedback therapy techniques. Knowing how simple and powerfully effective it is in children (and adults) with ADHD, I incorporate biofeedback into my patient plans before starting strong, potentially habit-forming psychostimulants- particularly with my pediatric patients.
To sum up the research results, all of the children (ages 6-8 grade) showed improved cognitive function and behavior after a series of 6 weekly biofeedback sessions (involving a Heartmath game to make it fun). Some of the surprising findings are that most of the kids were using Heartmath skills every day after a three month check in, on their own, with no adults prompting them. Another is that some (18%) of the children at that check in were completely off their psychostimulant medication (at be beginning of the study, all the children were medicated).
No parent wants their child to be excessively medicated- and with some emotional and psychological conditions, medication can allow someone to better function in their day to day activities. Looking at non-pharmacologic options is my focus when working with children (and adults) with ADHD, and I look forward to continue reinforcing these positive results using biofeedback for these individuals.
As with any chronic issue, there are often multiple factors at play- people experiencing ADHD often have food or chemical allergies or sensitivities for example- so my approach always takes into consideration each patient's unique history in order to make a customized plan of action for improved quality of life.
Stay happy, healthy and warm,
Stress vs. Well-Being: how do you measure up?
From overwhelmed to overjoyed
From overwhelmed to overjoyed
Gusts, flurries and dustings of snow. It's Portland, so we don't actually own snow shovels. Nine times out of 10 the snow doesn't even stick. And we like it that way, or else we frequent Mt. Hood.
My question is, how does the snow affect you? Are you running out the door to make snow angels (well, don't do that right now, or they'd be sludge angels) or do you curse the weather and all the bad drivers it brings?
For most of us in town, an inch or two is enough to completely change our day, our schedule and our routine. Schools are cancelled, trips across town are suddenly monumental tasks and businesses are suddenly and inexplicably closed (hey, they don't want to drive in the snow with Portlanders any more than you do).
Not all work grinds to a halt. Many must continue trekking to work and raising an already high level of work-related stress to nearly unbearable levels.
So before you get stuck in the next "big" snow, being pulled every direction by demands (go in to work and finish the project or go sledding on bunny slopes?), take a minute to recognize and readjust your expectations to living a life in overwhelm mode.
Do you feel:
These are some of the most common expressions of an overwhelmed life crumpling under time pressure and demands. Don't resign yourself to living under these constraints, there is a way out- I promise. Read more here and let's chat soon.
To life, health, and warm cups of tea,
How'd your holidays go? Did you plan ahead enough to get all the rest and restoration possible in a holiday vacation? Did you get good, quality family time or did it just add to the stress of the holiday season? I hope you didn't get caught in any pre-holiday shopping mall stampede- those will shoot up anyone's blood pressure. Hopefully you didn't cave at the sight of mini cheesecake bites and chocolate cookies like yours truly did.
Well, either way that's all behind us (and maybe the behind's a little bigger) and on to a new year. New possibilities, new hopes, new plans. New opportunities to rise above challenges and make the most of the year, the most of our life.
At the center of my stress reduction protocols are biofeedback and other HeartMath techniques. Here's a simple technique (though it might not easy in the midst of high stress) to build yourself up with positive energy in order to face the challenges with more poise, resilience and positive demeanor.
Tool: Inner Ease™ Technique
This technique can be done anywhere, at any time. It cuts right through stress and allows for a whole variety of responses besides just "freak out mode." Here's a short video by Howard Martin, one of the founders of HeartMath, explaining its use in the workplace for managing expectations either brought on by yourself or others.
Here's to a peaceful, stress-free 2013. If you'd like more tools and support in overcoming stress, I'm only a phone call away.
To your good health,