Scanning my bio page, and you can sum up my education and experience within a few seconds.
What you won't know is "Why?" Why do I do what I do?
And ... what right do I have to tell you and everyone you know that stress isn't a given. I might not even know you, your aggravating boss, your mother who never leaves you alone, your kids who drive you up the wall with worry. None of it. I may not know anything that's going on in your life. So, just why do I think I am?
Maybe it's because I'm the eldest child in my family. The stereotypical bossy older child. Don't ask my younger siblings- it's all lies. I'm motherly and nurturing not bossy. Or a matter of perspective, whatever.
So, I get to tell you how to be healthy because I'm a doctor. I get to tell you how to do it from a really common sense, healthy approach which is supportive to your body, mind because I'm a Naturopathic Doctor. But why do I think you can ditch your stress?
Because I've done it. I've crossed over that bridge- or maybe I choose to cross over again and again every day of my life. I used to be a nervous wreck. Really. You know the type.
I was stressed out and living on my last nerve on a daily basis. I was a living mascot of those dorky "I have one nerve left, and you're on it" T-shirts, or seen here in chihuahua form. Or maybe it's not a chihuahua, I don't know (the only dog categories in my mind are: big, small, friendly and growling).
Part of my stressed out picture comes from the fact that I've always been "busy." From childhood on, busy, busy, busy. You know, the kid who's in everything, and the co-ed who doesn't have a minute of down time. I've always been a big proponent of getting and keeping your priorities straight, so in addition to the work and school schedule, I've also always worked in exercise, family time, volunteer time and other activities. No time for me, no peace and quiet.
And what did this big bundle of messy nerves look like? Well, on the outside, not too bad. On the inside, constant tension, stress, anxiety and unrest, a history of heart palpitations and sometimes worse.
There's been the occasional panic attack (it's always fun when you feel like you can't breathe) and one week of anorexia. That was a real blast. Too sick to my stomach with anxiety to eat, too hungry to stop thinking about food. I'm no hero. After a week, I tried getting help from my doctor after being too nerve-shocked to eat for far too long. He recommended Ensure. Thanks, but no thanks. After life circumstances became less crazy, my condition improved.
Jaggedy = bad. Smooth = good.
Fast-forward to the middle of my internship years. One day while working with a patient's history of anxiety and panic attacks, I got some first hand experience with a weird-sounding computer program. HeartMath. I had heard about this "HeartMath" thing the year prior during a Cardiology lecture. The same lecturer was now my attending physician and was training me in how to use it with patients. On my first go-around in class, it sounded like this breathing and self-guided visualization thing that somehow helped with heart disease and anxiety. And, yep, that's pretty much it in a nutshell.
I practice what I preach. It didn't take long after learning how to use HeartMath with patients for me to experiment on myself. And the effects I first initially and every day since is what propels me to use it as a key part of my clinical practice. Bonus for me- no more being stressed out all the time, and definitely no panic attacks and upset stomach.
Every day that I use the HeartMath system, I can see myself building up my internal reserves. Stressed to relaxed. Upset to calm. Tired to energized. And I can feel the effects whenever I do it, computer monitor or not. In the car, in the shower- there's nothing more portable and easy to use any time than your thoughts and your breath. Here's an actual screen capture of a session I did a few months ago:
This is a six minute session. You can see the raggedy-jaggedy-ness on the left (= low coherence). This pattern smooths out and from a minute in until the end there is a much more smooth sine wave-like pattern (= high coherence). That's good. That's what you want. That's what is the actual key to reducing stress. The bottom graph is internal coherence built up over time. More blue equals less stress.
This is just one of many tools I use for myself and others who are stress-prone, but it's a very foundational tool nonetheless. I just wouldn't have the impact that I do in helping all us stress cases to relax and unwind. It creates real, appreciable change to permanently alter our stress response.
I love the many uses of HeartMath. For some I use it to curb a stressaholic's tendency to freak out. For others it's an immediate way in the office to snap someone out of acute anxiety- this will even work during a full-blown panic attack. How great is that?
If you know someone who's a stressed out mess, send them my way. I am a guide with a tried and true map which will help them leave the Land of the Last Nerve and arrive at Chill City. Won't you join me?
That's who I am. I am here, happy and eager to help.
If you want to be Happy, Healthy and Wise, let me help you with two of these three (wisdom not included).
C'mon, all the cool kids look like porcupines.
Have you had acupuncture?
What do you know about community acupuncture?
Read my latest Foster United article and find out about this local resource of ours. Seriously, I really bugged Whitsitt and asked him everything an acu-newbie wants to know, so you should hop on over to Foster United and read the scoop so I won't feel so bad for bothering one of their busy acupuncturists so much.
Last Friday, local KGW news showed a news segment on stress and started out with a simple three question test. How many of these do you do?
Thank you, because not only was I stressed out about being stressed out, but now I have to worry about being addicted to stress. Is there such a thing as Stressaholics Anonymous?
But in all seriousness, I have referenced what I believe are the top symptoms of stress, and many of them are a lot more hidden than just feeling "worried or nervous."
So stress and its health effects are suddenly being covered in the local news. First the Oregonian article, now this video from KGW. Well, as stress affects most of us, it's a very relevant topic. In my next article, I'd like to detail just exactly what it is I do to counter the effects of stress. If you've seen past articles you know that biofeedback is an important tool of mine, but it's not very well known so I'd like to let you in on this ace up my sleeve. Next time.
To your good health,
In an ever-developing expansion of my reach on the internet, PDX Holistic has featured Stress: what is it good for? At PDX Holistic, you can find my directory listing, find other holistic practitioners in Portland and get up-to-date articles and information straight from alternative medicine practitioners such as myself.