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Easing Anxiety & Stress with Meditation

Since we all deal with daily stress, its good to learn certain techniques on how to deal with what you are going through. Whether it be meditating,  taking time out, and taking deep breaths,  accept  that you cannot control everything around you.

I read this interesting article in The Khaleej Times that I thought I would share with you, as it is from past research in earlier studies which still apply today.

Using data from 47 earlier studies, researchers found moderate evidence to support the use of mindfulness meditation to treat anxiety, mental stress, depression and pain. Meditation did not seem to affect mood, sleep or substance use.

Mindful_Meditation

In an email to Reuters Health, Dr. Madhav Goyal who led the study at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, wrote “Many people have the idea that meditation means just sitting quietly and doing nothing.  That is not true. It is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programmes approach this in different ways.”

Dr. Madhav Goyal and his colleagues wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine that meditation techniques emphasize mindfulness as well as concentration.

Mindfulness meditation is aimed at allowing the mind to pay attention to whatever thoughts enter it, such as sounds in the environment, without becoming too focused.
Mantra meditation, on the other hand, involves focusing concentration on a particular word or sound.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2007, approximately 9% of people in the US reported meditating. About 1% said they use meditation as some sort of treatment or medicine.

Researchers, for their new report- searched several electronic databases that catalog medical research for trials that randomly assigned people with a certain condition— such as anxiety, depression or pain— to do meditation or another activity. These randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard of medical research.

The researchers found 47 studies with over 3,500 participants that met their criteria. After combining the data, Dr Goyal said his team found between a 5 and 10% improvement in anxiety symptoms among people who took part in mindfulness meditation, compared to those who did another activity. There was also about a 10 to 20% improvement in symptoms of depression among those who practiced mindfulness meditation, compared to the other group.

Dr Goyal said, “This is similar to the effects that other studies have found for the use of antidepressants in similar populations. Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that meditation programmes could have in addressing psychological stress, particularly when symptoms are mild.”

Dr. Allan Goroll, is a professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, and told Reuters Health the analysis is an example of an area of much-needed scientific study, because many people make treatment decisions based on beliefs – not data.

Dr Allan Goroll wrote; “People should remember that meditation was not conceived to treat any particular health problem, rather, it is a path we travel on to increase our awareness & gain insight into our lives. The best reason to meditate is to gain this insight. Improvements in health conditions are really a side benefit, and it’s best to think of them that way.” 

So…turn off the TV and computer, put down your phone and clear your mind when meditating. According to the research, it can help you to relax!

Namaste.

How to Beat Stress

Being a single mom with two kids, one of them a teenager with a busy schedule, the other an 11 year old who thinks she is 16, as well as trying to get to the gym daily before work and having a second job, three days a week…can be extremely stressful!

But, I have found that the key to successful stress management is to keep a mild, healthy degree of stress in your life, in intermittent amounts. It sounds crazy, but that’s how our brain works.

Relieving Stress

Relieving Stress

WD heart health expert Michelle Albert, MD. ,explains that stress sets off a surge of hormones, like adrenaline & cortisol, in your body. Elevated levels of these hormones can harm your heart because they raise your blood pressure and cause inflammation.  So it’s important to develop ways to cope when life becomes tense.

Each of us respond to stress in our own ways, so experiment with techniques that may help bring  balance in your life, and learn what works best for you. Most importantly, what I have learnt through trying to de-stress, is to make time for yourself.

This quick list helps me to manage stress in my daily life. I thought that I would share it with you.

RELAX NOW LIST:
Get away from the noise
Visualize yourself in a tranquil place
Gain control of your breathing
Repeat a helpful or inspiring quote or word
Use your imagination
Laugh a lot
Cry because you can

A LIST OF RELAXING THOUGHTS:
See problems as opportunities
Don’t take anything  personally
It’s not a perfect world out there
Push away negative thoughts
Control yourself! Not others
Smile. When you do, you feel better
Be yourself

DE-STRESS LIST:
Exercise
Meditate
Eat healthy foods
Cook more often
Practice yoga
Get a massage
Take a nap
Listen to soothing music.
Get enough sleep.
Take time out for yourself- Go for a walk, be in nature

GO FOR IT!
I do and I feel great!

Acupuncture Works Wonders for Depression

I just read about this new study that acupuncture can help for depression. I thinks its amazing and so interesting that I had to share the trial resuls from Plos medicine.

girl with anxious face

By courtesy of: www.doctorulzilei.ro

A new study shows that acupuncture is just as effective as counseling in patients with moderate to severe depression.

The randomized controlled trial revealed that both treatments offered a statistically significant reduction of symptoms when added to typical treatment in patients with recurring bouts of depression at three months.

The trial was led by Hugh MacPherson, Ph.D., University of York in the United Kingdom. The investigators of the trail said, “We have provided evidence that acupuncture versus usual care, and counseling versus usual care are both associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of depression in the short to medium term, and are not associated with serious adverse events.”

According to the researchers, up to 60% of patients with depression have an inadequate response to antidepressants, and 30% do not stick to their medication regimen.  They also note that there is a growing patient demand for non-pharmacologic treatment options.

For the study, the investigators wanted to observe the clinical effectiveness of short sessions of either acupuncture or counseling compared with usual care for patients with moderate to severe depression in a primary care setting.

The randomized, controlled trial included 755 depressed patients who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 study groups in a ratio of 2:2:1 to acupuncture plus usual care, counseling plus usual care, or usual care alone.

Study subjects received 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care, 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care, or usual care alone.

The results revealed that compared with standard care, there was a statistically significant reduction in mean depression scores at three months for acupuncture & counseling.

At 12 months, there was no significant difference between acupuncture and counseling compared with standard care.

The authors said, “To our knowledge, our study is the first to rigorously evaluate the clinical and economic impact of acupuncture & counseling for patients in primary care who are representative of those who continue to experience depression in primary care.”

They note that more research is needed to figure out the optimal treatment plan for acupuncture & counseling in patients with depression.

Hugh MacPherson comments, “Although these findings are encouraging, our study does not identify which aspects of acupuncture & counseling are likely to be most beneficial to patients, nor does it provide information about the effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling compared with usual care for patients with mild depression.”

Boost your Health with Probiotics

A study shows that workers who take daily probiotics take less time off with common illnesses and stomach upsets.

Probiotics are products like yoghurt drinks that contain ‘friendly’ bacteria. It’s said that they promote good digestive health. To look at their impact, researchers in Sweden surveyed a group of employees taking L.reuteri, a common active ingredient of probiotics.

Boost your Health with Probiotics

A group of 181 staff, of whom 53 were shift workers and the rest day workers, was assigned to take a drink daily either with or without L.reuteri for 80 days.

23 out of 87 in the placebo group took sick days during this time, while only 10 of the 94 on L.reuteri did. The positive effect was most marked among the shift workers. None in the L.reuteri group took time off, while nine in the placebo group did. From the looks of this study, probiotics may be a simple way of promoting health.

5 Simple Yoga Poses to Help Increase Flexibility

Yoga is a commonly known generic term for the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in Ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace. Yoga is also a wonderful tool to increase joint flexibility.    

Factors like sedentary lifestyles, jobs and age can have strong effects on our flexibility and without it, poor postural habits and incorrect movements start to appear in our daily tasks, like sitting to standing and lifting. These habits, because of perceived, real or anticipated aches and stiffness can lead to joint immobility.

A regular Yoga practice can have wonderful healing effects on your muscles, joints, organs and most important, your mind. Your hips are situated in the center of your body, and when you can maintain and improve your flexibility in the hips, you improve the relationship with your entire body.

Hip flexibility can also help manage or eliminate lower back pain or knee pain stemming from over compensation. Find stability in your center, allowing for a more confident and supported movement in walking, sitting, or standing in your daily life and in your yoga practice.

When doing these five poses, remember to pay attention to your body’s limits. Yoga is about the journey you experience within your body, not about how far you can strain and stretch to achieve the perfect pose. If you find it difficult to maintain stability in your hips or that your lower back is arching, sit on a pillow or blanket. 

1. Bound angle pose.

If your knees don’t rest easily, use pillows or blocks to support your knees. If your lower back feels compromised or it is arching, sit on a pillow or blanket to raise your hips. Lean forward keeping your chest as open as possible.

2. Knee to ankle pose.

If your top knee is unable to rest on your bottom ankle, place a block or pillow underneath for support. If this feels uncomfortable, just sit in easy pose, shown in the second picture. Again lean forward.

3. Cow face pose.

Stack both knees on top of each other. If folding both legs is too much, allow the bottom leg to stretch out in front of you. Fold forward.

4. Head to knee pose.

Fold one foot into your top thigh with your other leg out in front of you. Hinge from the hips and only go as far as feels comfortable, even if this mean sitting straight up.

5. Wide angle seated forward bend.

Spread your legs as far as you can comfortably, keeping your chest open and your back straight, hinge from the hips and lean forward. Don’t forget to put a support under your sitting bones, if necessary. Always stay within your boundaries, even if this means sitting up straight you will still get great benefit out of this pose. If you experience pain or discomfort behind your knees, place a roll or low pillow under the knees to reduce the strain in your joints.

Namaste!

Optimists are better at Regulating Stress than Pessimists

New research from Concordia University’s Department of Psychology is improving our understanding of how optimists and pessimists each handle stress by comparing them not to each other but to themselves. Results show that indeed the “stress hormone” cortisol tends to be more stable in those with more positive personalities. Carsten Wrosch, psychology professor and member of the Centre for Research on Human Development (left), and Ph.D. candidate Joelle Jobin coauthored the study on stress and optimism.

The study tracked 135 older adults (aged 60+) over six years. They collected saliva samples five times a day to monitor cortisol levels. This age group was selected because older adults often face a number of age-related stressors and their cortisol levels have been shown to increase.

People in the study were asked to report on the level of stress they perceived in their day-to-day lives, and self-identify along a continuum as optimists or pessimists. Each person’s stress levels were then measured against their own average. Measuring the stress levels against participants’ own average provided a real-world picture of how individuals handle stress because individuals can become accustomed to the typical amount of stress in their lives.

Joelle Jobin, a PhD candidate in clinical psychology who co-authored the study with her supervisor Carsten Wrosch and Michael Scheier from Carnegie Mellon University, says “for some people, going to the grocery store on a Saturday morning can be very stressful, so that’s why we asked people how often they felt stressed or overwhelmed during the day and compared people to their own averages, then analyzed their responses by looking at the stress levels over many days.”

She also said that pessimists tended to have a higher stress baseline than optimists, but also had trouble regulating their system when they go through particularly stressful situations. She reported that on days where the participants experienced higher than average stress, was when they saw that the pessimists’ stress response is greatly elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down. Optimists, on the other hand, were protected in these circumstances.

One surprising finding was that optimists who generally had more stressful lives secreted higher cortisol levels than expected shortly after they awoke (cortisol peaks just after waking and declines through the day). Jobin says there are several possible explanations, but also notes that the finding points to the difficulty of classifying these complex hormones as good or bad. She say that the problem with cortisol is that we call it “the stress hormone”, but it’s also our ‘get up and do things’ hormone, so we may secrete more if engaged and focused on what’s happening.

Helpful Tips to Reduce Stress Daily

Stress does not make us feel good and of course the effects of stress can be absolutely debilitating. In fact, millions of people land up with all sorts of symptoms and ailments like headaches, migraines, muscle spasm, sleeping problems, getting upset easy and it even hurts your immune system. When you have chronic stress your body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response is compromised, which can lead to disease. Its not always easy to guide everything that happens in your life on a daily basis, but here are some suggestions to help relieve your daily tensions so that they don’t build up.

1. Take a walk outside.

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, leave the space you’re in and take a walk. Get some fresh air if you can. A short break from your current environment and possibly some fresh air and sunlight can be just enough to change your point of view and give you a new perspective.

2. Act of Kindness to others.

Volunteering has been shown to relieve stress. It makes you feel good as well as make someone else feel good. Studies show this really works. Try it.

3. Move your Body and burn off some steam.

Exercise! Running, yoga, lifting weights, and playing sports are all great ways to get your mind off of the things that you find stressful and do something healthy for your mind and body. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, which are often referred to as the body’s “feel-good chemicals.” Physical activity releases endorphins and can help boost your mood and energy.

4. Express your frustration in writing

Sometimes its good to make a list of all the things that are bothering you.
Read it through, correct it until it sounds exactly what you mean and then tear it up and throw it away. Its often a great way to get rid of negative feelings.

5. Take a few DEEP breaths.

Breathe in and out from your abdomen, regular breaths, deep breaths, fill up your lungs and allow your autonomic nervous system to regulate itself with no for effort from you, other than to take regular deep breaths. This is a very effective way of calming your mind.

Five Tips to Help Manage Stress

The American Psychological Association suggests these 5 easy steps to help manage stress – Try them out!

Stress occurs when you perceive that demands placed on you–such as work, school or relationships–exceed your ability to cope. Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences, affecting the immune, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, and take a severe emotional toll.

Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity.

But by finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, many of these negative health consequences can be reduced. Everyone is different, and so are the ways they choose to manage their stress. Some people prefer pursuing hobbies—gardening, playing music, creating art, while others find relief in more solitary activities, such as meditation, yoga, and walking.

Here are five healthy techniques that psychological research has shown to help reduce stress in the short- and long-term.

Take a break from the stressor. It may seem difficult to get away from a big work project, a crying baby, or a growing credit card bill. But when you give yourself permission to step away from it, you let yourself have time to do something else, which can help you have a new perspective or practice techniques to feel less overwhelmed. It’s important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but even just 20-minutes to take care of yourself is helpful.

Exercise. The research keeps growing – exercise benefits your mind just as well as your body. We keep hearing about the long-term benefits of a regular exercise routine. But even a 20-minute walk, run, swim or dance session in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.

Smile and laugh. Our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress in their face. So laughs or smiles can help relieve some of that tension and improve the situation.

Get social support. Call a friend, send an email. When you share your concerns or feelings with another person, it does help relieve stress. But it’s important that the person whom you talk to is someone whom you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. If your family is a stressor, for example, it may not alleviate your stress if you share your works woes with one of them.

Meditate. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practicing a form of mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.