4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

optimal lifestyle

Relaxation as Medicine

Know your intention.

Adults experience an average of 50 stress responses a day! Whether you are awakened in the night by a wrong number phone call, can not find your car keys in the morning, or share in a difficult conversation with a colleague, each stress response has a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.

One way to diminish this negative impact is to take a moment or two out of your busy day for an intentional relaxation break, called Eliciting the Relaxation Response. Becoming relaxed is initiated by focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, which will allow your mind to become soothed and quieted. Not only will you enjoy an increase in focus and productivity, but perhaps more important is the decrease of the impact of the stress hormones. Just as a massage will relax tense muscles, a relaxation break will relax a tense mind.

There is a physiologic response that occurs when we become stimulated by an event, a thought, or physical discomfort. Commonly known as the fight or flight response, the changes that occur in the body are due to a hormonal cascade during which adrenaline and cortisol flood the body. The stress hormones will cause the heart rate and blood pressure to rise, increase blood glucose levels, and increase blood clotting. This protective mechanism is meant to prepare the body for the possibility of physical injury due to a “fight” and/or the need to take “flight”. If a vicious dog were charging you, these physical responses would assist you in getting out of the way in a hurry.

Hopefully, there is no charging dog. There is however the reality of daily events, such as family dynamics, job, traffic jams, and chores to name just a few, that can lead to a chronic sense of stress, worry, and hurry. The near constant presence of adrenaline and cortisol leads to an inflammatory response inside the body that may increase the risk to develop diabetes, coronary disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease. The increase in blood clotting can lead to a heart attack. Chronic stress interferes with good quality sleep, which in turn will lead to an increased sense of stress. Appetite can be affected negatively, with either less nutritious food choices being made, or too much food being consumed as a means to self soothe. Chronic stress can affect exercise habits, personal relationships, job performance, and could lead to behaviors that do not support optimal health.

Additional information will be provided in this and future newsletters to address relaxation techniques, healthy nutrition, and routine physical activity—optimal lifestyle choices that will lower your stress response, and your risk for disease.

“Robin’s continual encouragement to pick a quit-smoking date inspired me to finally do it. She gave me the tools and strategies I needed to become a successful non-smoker!”
—Kathy D., client

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