December 2018 Newsletter

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STRESS

I was going to write this month’s newsletter about stress management and decided that what most of us need isn’t just stress management it’s stress reduction. Sure, we can do relaxation, mindfulness practices, meditation, get plenty of sleep, eat healthily and exercise to help manage our stress but wouldn’t it be better to reduce the stress? Yet many people find this hard to do. Our lives have become so busy that we are under continual stress to be somewhere or do something almost all the time. Our children’s lives are so full of school and after school activities that their heads are spinning too. We have changed from human beings to human doings.

How can we reduce the busyness of our lives? How can we reduce our stress instead of just managing it?

One answer is that we need to declutter our lives – declutter both our physical space and our time allocation. Two years ago, I started the process of decluttering my physical space. When we declutter our physical possessions, we look at each item we own and decide whether it brings us joy or whether it is a necessity. If it doesn’t bring us joy or it isn’t a necessity, we sell it or give it away or throw it out. We gradually surround ourselves with only things that are necessary or bring us joy. We can bring this awareness to how we spend our money as well by only buying things that bring us joy or are necessary. This helps the environment and our pockets.

We can do this in other areas of our life as well. How we spend our time is just as important; does what we do bring us joy? Is that time spent on an activity a necessity or a joyful experience? If it is neither then maybe, we could look at not doing it. We could decide to only spend our time on what brings us joy and what is necessary. This is a choice we make every day and if our lives are too full of stress part of the problem is that we fill them full of too many activities. We could look at how we spend both our money and our time more thoughtfully and we might find we can change our lives for the better.

Last year I decided to leave conventional general practice because I wasn’t enjoying my work. There is the necessity of needing money to live on, so I do need to work which is why I started at Safflower clinic. I now choose to spend longer with patients and not stress myself out with ten-minute consultations. Sure, I earn less money but now I try to spend less money. I try not to buy things I don’t really need, and I am aware when I buy stuff that it may have an impact of the earth and on my pocket. I could work more or harder, but I choose to work less and buy less and spend more time doing things that bring me joy. I spend more time writing and gardening and walking and having fun with family and friends.

I have taken on more study and find this can be a source of stress if I try to be a perfectionist about it. Like most people my expectations of myself can be too high so I try to find the joy in the study and if it’s just a drag I only do what is necessary. Since I started at Safflower life has been a bit too full of work and study, so I am considering whether to defer next year’s study or do less study. Each activity in our life can be examined and we can let go of those activities that don’t fill us with joy or aren’t necessary. In this way we help reduce our stress levels, which is really the best stress management technique there is.

If you would like to buy a copy of my book – Holistic Medicine, Beyond the Physical – copies are available on my website for $30 including postage in Australia or you can pick a copy up at Safflower Clinic for $20.

Disclaimer. This newsletter is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

The Tarkine

Last week I spent four days in the magical Tarkine. This relatively unknown location in Tasmania is a great place to experience old growth forest and get in touch with the natural world. The Tarkine is located in the north west of Tasmania and houses some of the most spectacular forest on the planet.

This rainforest is unique in that many of the plant species are ancient and there are many species that don’t exist in other places; it is said to be a living remnant of prehistoric forest. To spend a few days walking and camping in such a place is rejuvenating for the spirit and soul. We desperately need to protect such wilderness areas as they are still under threat from mining and logging.

The Tarkine has been listed as one of the top ten places to visit before it disappears and the main threats are not just logging and mining but also climate change. While such cool climate rainforests are generally fire resistant because of their moisture content increasing temperatures and droughts may dry out the forest making it vulnerable to fire.

To help protect the Tarkine there are a number of things we can do. The first is to visit it and experience its magic. The second is to work to preserve it by opposing mining and logging in the area. Go to Save the Tarkine website for more information. Thirdly we all need to recognize climate change as a major threat to the ecosystems of this planet, including the Tarkine, and work to change our reliance on fossil fuels and other pollutants. Our health depends upon the health of our planet.

 

Seven steps for dealing with overwhelming stress

In our busy western lives stress can often become a problem. Sometimes there are so many things happening that we become overwhelmed. This is when our stress hormones really kick in and we find it hard to cope with the many demands. I have written about dealing with stress in my book Holistic Medicine but here are seven simple steps to follow when you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out.

 

  1. Recognise that you are under stress. Sometimes we are so busy and overwhelmed by our lives that we don’t even realise that we are under stress. It helps for us to step back for a moment and take some deep breaths. We can pause for a few moments and just pay attention to the fact that our lives have become too full.
  2. Ground yourself. When we are overwhelmed we lose touch with our self and pay too much attention to what is going on around us. The process of grounding starts to bring us back to our selves. Grounding can be as simple as going for a walk outside (bare feet is best), doing some grounding yoga poses or lying on the earth.
  3. Focus on simple things that you can do. When we are overwhelmed with so many things going on in our life we need to focus on those things that will make a difference to our level of stress. What can we do to make a difference in the short term?
  4. Ask for help. Sometimes we try to do everything by ourselves. It is good when we are overwhelmed to ask for help from our family and friends. We can let them know things are overwhelming and that we need some help.
  5. Centre yourself. This is a process of paying attention to our heart centre. We can tap into our inner self and pay attention to the calming effect the heart centre can have on our whole self. Our intuition may help guide us to how to deal with the stress and how to prioritise our time.
  6. Pay attention to what being overwhelmed is telling you about your life. Most of us do too much and we forget to take care of ourselves. Stress shows us that we are not looking after our own needs very well.
  7. Let go. We may need to let go of the need to control everything in our lives. We may need to let go of doing so many things and being so busy. If we can let go of our busyness we can make some time in our lives to listen to our own needs better.

 

We become overwhelmed and stressed when we don’t listen to ourselves and forget to pay attention to our own needs. These seven steps help us take some time out and begin to listen to what we need in our lives. Our priority should be to simplify out lives and pay better attention to what makes us happy.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

Photo from Unsplash by Tim Marshall

 

Stress

Stress is a term that is bandied around an awful lot these days but what does it really mean and how does it affect our health?

Stress comes in a number of different guises and it affects our health primarily by putting extra demands on our adrenal glands (although it is much more complex than just the adrenals). The adrenal glands secrete a number of different hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Acute stress causes a surge in some of these hormones that puts us into a flight or fight response which is very useful if you are faced with a sabre tooth tiger or other acute stress. Chronic stress,such as most of us face in today’s fast and stimulating society, leads to chronic increases in these stress hormones and this leads to health problems of many sorts. Our adrenals may react by increasing secretion of the stress hormones at the expense of restorative hormones such as DHEA or eventually they may react by decreasing secretion of the stress hormones leading to fatigue and other health issues.

Sometimes we think of stress as only the emotional kind and it is true this is a major source of stress for many people, but we shouldn’t forget the other sources of stress that contribute to our health problems. Stresses can be divided into four main groups – environmental, psychosocial, physiological and biological.

Environmental stressors

  • Pollution – air pollution and contamination of our food supply with pesticides and herbicides puts extra stress on our body. Heavy metal toxicity is a problem for many people. Noise pollution can also be a problem.
  • Radiation – Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is a major problem in today’s society. We are exposed to millions of times more EMR than our grandparents and the effects on our  cells can be severe. We are also exposed to more ionising radiation than ever before with the increase in X-rays and air flights.
  • Weather – weather extremes put our bodies under stress and with climate change these weather extremes are becoming more common.

Psychosocial stressors

These are the emotional type stressors that we all think of as affecting our health. In today’s fast paced society there is increased performance stress in schools and work places. The constant pressure we put ourselves under can lead to adrenal exhaustion and burnout. Many of us also face financial pressures, relationship pressures and anxieties about the future.

Physiological stressors

  • Ageing – as we age our bodies have to cope with the accumulation of many years of ongoing stress of all sorts. Our cells age and the powerhouse of the cell – the mitochondria – decrease in number. Ageing puts at us increased risk of infections and degenerative diseases both of which contribute to increase stress on the whole body.
  • Illness – any illness puts extra stress on the body. Something as simple as a cold will increase the stress response. Chronic disease causes even more stress with both physical and emotional components.
  • Trauma – physical trauma is an obvious stress but emotional traumas can take a larger toll. Grief is a major stress with increases in many health problems in the first year following the death of a loved one.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – our poor diet and poor farming practices have led to an epidemic of obesity and deficiencies in many nutrients. If we don’t have the basic building blocks for our cells to work with then there is physiological stress at a cellular level.

Biological stressors

The main biological stressors are infections; all infections put stress on the body but there are some chronic infections that can affect us profoundly. Viruses, bacteria and parasites can all be to blame. The Epstein Barr virus (EBV), the cytomegalovirus (CMV), the hepatitis virus, the herpes virus and others have all been implicated in chronic diseases. Bacterial infections such as Lyme disease are now thought to be a major cause of chronic ill health.With the increase in overseas travel many people are exposed to bacteria and parasites that cause an increase burden of disease.

With all these stressors it is amazing that the human body works as well as it does and that for the most part good health is the norm. But with all these stressors affecting our body and our adrenals we do need to look after ourselves as well as we can. The seven key ways to decreasing the effect stress has on our lives are as follows.

  1. Eat a healthy diet. I have discussed this on my website and a good diet is essential in providing the building blocks for the body to replace and restore cells and to manufacture hormones and produce energy.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. Also discussed on my site – 8-81/2 hours sleep between the hours of 9 pm and 5 am is the most restorative and healing.
  3. Exercise daily – 30 -45 minutes of exercise a day is optimal. Too much exercise can be an additional stress on the body.
  4. Meditation – daily meditation decreases the stress response and calms the sympathetic nervous system.
  5. Relax with family and friends and cultivate community.
  6. Consider nutritional supplements and herbal tonics to help the body cope with stress.
  7. Avoid artificial stimulants. Caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants may provide short term relief from stress but long term they create more problems for the adrenals and the body as a whole.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.