“The Human Spirit Needs Places Where Nature Has not Been Rearranged By the Hand of Man” ~Unknown~
Yay, warm weather is here, as we’re quickly approach the official first day of Summer. Like many of you, I long for this time of year when I can spend time outdoors and I also look forward to taking advantage of the many opportunities to reconnect with nature. This longing for fun in the sun and fresh air is not only rejuvenating both physically and mentally, the great outdoors also offers us incredible healing benefits. Scientists have discovered that by spending time outside we increase our exposure to phytoncides which naturally reduce stress. People who take walks in the park where they encounter many plants and trees, versus walks in the city where they are surrounded by buildings and cement sidewalks, had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure readings. In several other studies, specifically one that took place in April 2007, showed an increase in white blood cells within a group of 12 healthy men ranging in ages 37-55 , who took two-hour walks in a forest over a two-day period. In January 2008, a group of women who also participated in a very similar experiment entitled ”forest bathing” had an increase in white blood cells and a reduction in anti-cancer proteins, which lasted up to one week due to their exposure of phytoncides which are found in forest air.
The beach is another place to go for wonderful healing benefits. Salt water is high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and bromide which not only accelerates the healing of cuts, it also helps to fight infections, reduces inflammation of joints and relieves muscle pain and soreness. Salt water also stimulates blood circulation, increases moisture retention, detoxifies and promotes cellular regeneration. As a result it offers beautifying and anti-aging benefits, for both the inner and outer body. Regular beach time & salt water swimming also offers healing benefits for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. In summary, spending quality time in nature, offers us incredible physical and psychological benefits, such as recovery from stress, increased relaxation, decreased mental fatigue, better performance, restored mental clarity, increased immune function for improved heath, healing and an increased overall sense of well-being.
Best Places to Enjoy Nature
3) Local Parks
4) National Parks
6) Camp Sites
A Few Outdoor Nature Activities for Summer:
6) Paddle Boarding
9) Outdoor Meditation & Relaxation
10) Outdoor Yoga & Fitness Classes
Want to feel better mentally, physically and emotionally? Increase the amount of time that you spend outdoors surrounded by nature!
As a Holistic Health Advocate, stress is one of the leading topics that I cover with my clients. As a Health, Wellness & Fitness Professional, Speaker and Presenter, I’m also asked to speak on and write about related topics and stress of course is one that I’m asked to cover. It’s also a topic that I reference quite frequently in many posts via my blog “The Positive Pear.” Most recently I was asked to cover this very topic in which I entitled “Live, Love & Laugh Stress Awareness & Management” it also happened to be “Stress Awareness Month.” Here are a few highlights from that discussion…. People often discount the adverse effects of stress and its negative impact on our mind, body and emotions. Stress is directly linked to the six leading causes of death which are, heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver, accidents and suicide. Stress management is incredibly important for everyone and especially for those of us who are living with and battling chronic invisible illness & autoimmune disease, because not only are we more susceptible to stress, but having frequent bouts of stress can trigger many symptoms of our conditions. Long term exposure to high levels of stress can even cause a healthy body to remain in constant “fight or flight” mode with an inability to properly regulate the production of stress hormones. The continued release of these hormones can lead to impaired immunity. Which can lead to chronic conditions like adrenal fatigue, thyroid imbalance and several aging related diseases. Symptoms of stress often include, allergies, fatigue, chronic headaches, unexplained weight gain, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, digestive issues, depression, memory impairment, heart disease, strokes, and certain types of autoimmune disease.
Avoid ineffective fall back methods:
It is important to recognize your stressors and to take the appropriate action which would be either to avoid, alter, adapt or accept situations in which we’ve been exposed. Avoid resorting to methods which only temporarily reduce stress while creating other problems, such as drinking, pills, drugs, smoking, overeating, sleeping too much, zoning out, running away/becoming overly busy, procrastinating, withdrawing from friends, family and activities in addition to lashing out.
More Effective Ways of Managing Stress:
Remember that everyone encounters stress, working professionals, business owners, new parents, stay at home moms & dads, single people, married couples, teens & even children. The earlier in life that we learn to recognize the symptoms of stress and how to manage & cope the better. It is also very important to adapt effective coping mechanisms and to utilize these techniques regularly: First and foremost, know your limits and recognize when you’re exceeding them. learn to say “no” when appropriate. There is an example with the use of “spoons” and how it relates to the energy level of those of us who are battling chronic invisible illness. We’re only allocated so many per day and if we use too many, then we’re depleted and we run the risk of not being able to accomplish things that are incredibly important. We’re then forced to pick and choose our activities based on the number of spoons we have each day. This example can apply to everyone whether they’re chronically ill or incredibly healthy , ecause we all encounter stress and we can encounter it regularly. Simply put, do not take on more responsibly than you can handle. Be mindful of your association, support systems and friends and choose wisely. Avoiding negative, confrontational and toxic people who cause you stress.
Take Control of Your Life: Utilize proper time management skills, plan ahead, stay organized, prioritize and choose methods which help you to avoid stressors.
Check in Emotionally: Voice your feelings by speaking up for yourself or talking it out with a friend or family member. Work on developing or utilizing effective communication skills, rather than holding things inside and allowing them build up. This might also require becoming more assertive. Also be willing to compromise in situations and make personal adjustments if needed.
Change Your Way of Thinking: By changing your perspective you’re more apt to seeing the bigger picture, instead of seeing only the many individual problems that you may encounter. Adjust expectations that you have of yourself and others by making sure you have a realistic view of life. This is especially important if you are a perfectionist (like me). In doing so you’re less likely to set yourself up for disappointment and failure.
Acceptance is Crucial: Accept yourself for who you are, where you are and what you have to offer. Accept things which you can not control, such as the behavior of other people and focus on things that you can control such as your reactions. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people and allow them to make mistakes by forgiving them and letting go of anger and resentment, which will free you from negativity.
Adjust Your Attitude by Focusing on the Positive! How we think has a profound impact on our emotional and physical well-being thus affecting our ability to manage stress. Look at bad experiences as life’s learning opportunities. Do not remain here in this bad place even if you’re at fault. Simply make the appropriate adjustments, pick up the pieces and move on. When things are out of control, take a moment to think about all of those things that are going right in your life and all of the things that you are truly appreciative. Focusing on even the smallest of gifts, talents and accomplishments can help us to keep things in proper perspective.
Lastly but certainly not least, Live, Love, Laugh and enjoy life and all that it has to offer! Nurture and pamper yourself, get a message, exercise regularly, take a yoga class, practice meditation and relaxation techniques. Take a long hot bath, with scented lavender candles and relaxing music. Curl up with a good book and a cup of chamomile tea, write in your journal, or on your blog, surround yourself with nature by taking advantage of a good walk, a long hike, a bike ride, or by working in the garden. Always remember that balance in life is crucial and that we can all benefit from having a little more fun, relaxation, laughter and enjoyment.
Since 1992 April has been Stress Awareness Month
Additional tips on managing stress via “The Positive Pear” Natural Stress Management Technique, Deep Breathing Technique to Reduce Stress, Relaxation is Good for the Mind, Body & Soul, Is There A Prescription for Yoga In Your Future?
There is now neuroscience research that support yoga’s positive effects on anxiety, stress and depression. As the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga does this mean that one day your doctor just might prescribe yoga for what’s ailing you?
We’ve heard about the amazing healing effects of meditative techniques such as relaxation, meditation and yoga for many years, including how these reduce the activity of the autonomic nervous system, alleviating stress-related maladies, including migraines, anxiety and depression, among others. Now there’s additional medical research available to back these claims. Dr. Chris C. Streeter Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine practices yoga and conducts research on its effects.
Dr. Streeter conducted a study with doctors of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, comparing two groups of exercisers (group 1) people doing yoga and (group 2) people walking. After 12-weeks, those in the yoga group showed greater improvements in their mood and anxiety levels compared to the walkers, and there was a positive correlation between increased Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA levels were measured through brain imaging, and improved mood. The results of her study latest study is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinein 2010.
There is an estimated 20 million Americans practicing yoga. It’s no wonder that yoga and alternative therapies have shown up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country, including Boston University, Dr. Rob Saper of BU a former burned out medical student in the 80′s took a year off to study at Kripalu, the yoga retreat in western, Massachusetts, which he says, inspired him to “try to change medical education and medical care in a way that’s more wholistic” with an emphasis on self-care. Medical students at BU learn of yoga’s research-based benefits, in hopes that these future doctors will be able to exploit their knowledge to help patients as they become comfortable enough to include this alternative therapy in their evidence-based practice (EBP), perhaps one day prescribing yoga as they would Prozac or even pain killers.
Thanks to much research, the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga among other natural and alternative healing methods, this is a wonderful news for those of us with who live with invisible chronic illnesses, and their multitude of symptoms, and many of which we might choose to manage naturally. Yoga is also great for chronic pain, it also lowers levels of inflammatory proteins, and helps with many other ailments. As an avid yogi and sufferer of Ankylosing Spodylitis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction, I for one look forward to seeing yoga or even acupuncture appear on doctor’s electronic prescription pads. Perhaps doing so will garner even more support from insurance companies, hopefully making alternative treatments affordable and accessible to everyone.
Long-Deep Breathing Technique used in Yoga & Meditation to Release Stress, Allowing the Mind & Body Much Needed Recovery.
This breathing technique calms the mind and soothes the emotions. Use at night prior to bed or at anytime during the day when you are experiencing high stress periods. Lie down on your back if possible, or trying sitting someplace calm & comfortable. Close your eyes, breathe through your nose. On your inhalation, fill your belly with air, pushing your stomach up to ceiling. Complete the exhale, relax your belly and bring your stomach back into its normal relaxed position. Continue the process for 3 to 11 minutes. Inhale positive thoughts & feelings, and exhale (a.k.a. release) negative emotions:
Repeat this Mantra 3xs:
Today I will…
INHALE health and EXHALE disease
INHALE strength and EXHALE weakness
INHALE energy and EXHALE fatigue
INHALE faith and EXHALE fear
INHALE peace and EXHALE tension
Wishing you pain free days & many stress free moments.
Today I will renew myself by letting go of all expectations.
Controlling your anxiety and stress levels might be helpful in controlling inflammation, as well as ward off aging related chronic illnesses. When we are in a constant state of worry relating to daily life such as work, school, finances, family etc; our bodies begin to recognize this continued exposure as a threat. Thus Immediately activating the stress response by switching the body’s systems to “fight or flight” mode, a physiological response normally reserved for dangerous situations. The hypothalamus gland in the brain sets the response in motion by triggering the nervous system, which in turn alerts the adrenal glands to release a huge surge of stress hormones known as epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and cortisol directly into the bloodstream which causes several physical changes in the body. Including increasing the heart rate, elevating blood pressure and boosting our energy supply. Cortisol the primary stress hormone, also increases our levels of glucose in the bloodstream and enhances the brain’s use of glucose, which allows us to think faster to plan an escape. The release of cortisol also minimizes the use of crucial functions of the body. Functions such as the immune system, digestive system and reproductive system, rendering them temporarily useless, which would allow us to flee a truly dangerous situation much more quickly. Because several areas of the brain are alerted, this physiological state also effects our mood among other things. In a real life emergency these responses would be beneficial, but imagine what’s happening to the body each time you are under mental, physical or emotional stress. Being exposed frequently to stressful situations creates a constant release of these hormones and over long periods of time can be incredibly be harmful to the immune system.
In a real “fight or flight” situation the body completely returns to normal after the perceived threat has been removed. Stress hormone levels decrease, cortisol levels drop, heart rate returns to normal, blood pressure returns to its original level and body functions such as, the immune, digestive and reproduction systems resume their normal routines. However, with the continued exposure to stress, the body remains in constant “fight or flight” mode with the inability to regulate itself. The continued release of these stress hormones can lead to an impaired immune system. Thus breaking down the body’s ability to discern allies from helpers. As a result, the body begins to view everything as a threat causing immune malfunctions such as chronic inflammation. Which is the number one contributing factor to aging related diseases and major symptoms and conditions such as allergies, chronic headaches, obesity, diabetes, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, heart disease, strokes, insomnia, digestive issues, depression and memory impairment. It can also trigger the inflammatory response in the body, which would naturally effect chronic inflammatory diseases of the joints (arthritis) and skin (eczema). Imagine what the continued exposure to stressful situations can do to someone battling an autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory conditions such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, or a syndrome such a Fibromyalgia which is directly effected by stress.
We are living in very stressful times, but stress does not have to dominate your life. If you learn to master healthy stress reducing techniques now, you can limit your risk of chronic illness, aging related disease or the risk of exacerbating symptoms associated with diseases or conditions that you may already have. There is one technique that we can employ at anytime allowing us to reap immediate positive health benefits, while allowing us to regain control of our minds & bodies and that would be to adapt both an inner & outer smile. It sounds far too simple to actually work, but you can have confidence in knowing that by putting on an immediate outer smile, in spite of whatever stressful situation that you might be experiencing, it forces an inward shift. Which then becomes an inner smile or a positive mental attitude. This chain reaction then tells the body that everything is going to be ok. This causes the body to then immediately stop releasing stress hormones, which returns the blood pressure to normal, while also allowing the immune and digestive systems to regain their normal functions. It also releases endorphins which is a natural pain killer and serotonin which is a mood enhancer. By simply utilizing this little technique we can immediately create a positive mental attitude, which not only allows us to problem solve more effectively, but when used regularly combined with a healthy lifestyle can also extend our lives. Remember when you are under stress, remove yourself from the situation, close your eyes, take a deep cleansing breath and immediately adapt both an inner & outer smile. Have several each day and share a few with friends. Wishing you many beautiful and stress free days ahead “The Positive Pear” Blog:)
Other natural stress management techniques here on the positive pear.
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