Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Promoting Healthy Change: Stress Management

Just like how everyone knows that exercise and healthy diet is good… we all know that stress is bad. It is intuitive... but we also got presented with conclusive scientific proof! So I’ll break it down and summarize.

Conditions caused or exacerbated by stress include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Chronic Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Depression
  • PMS
  • Infertility
  • Side effects of Cancer treatments
  • Side effects of AIDS therapy
  • Preparation for surgery and xray procedures
So if we can reduce stress, not only will it improve our health but there is even evidence of it affecting the aging of our cells! Apparently, our telomeres become more stable and degrade less.

Right... so how to accomplish this? One may have to take inventory of all the things on one's plate and rearrange to intentionally decrease the amount of stress that one is exposed to. Of course this is easier said than done... but if you truly believe it is a priority, you can make it happen. There are many websites out there offering self help guides to stress management. There are also professional therapists who are trained in helping one cope with stress... they use techniques such as biofeedback, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or even hypnosis. Ask your physician if you need help in this area.

The conference talked about a "relaxation response" that you can induce. You can read more about it here.

Two steps necessary to evoke the Relaxation Response:
  1. repetition of a word, sound, prayer, thought, phrase, or muscular activity
  2. passive return to the repetition when other thoughts intrude
Physiologically this is what happens to your body when you evoke this response:
  • decrease oxygen cosumption
  • decrease respiratory rate
  • decrease heart rate
  • increase slow brain waves
  • decrease blood pressure

Many Christians probably induce this response without fully realizing it. I can recall back to times growing up... whether it was before piano competitions or exams when I'd get nervous and stressed. Praying before hand would always help me calm down and perform better. Now as a mom, I need to evoke this response more intentionally especially when feeling at wits end with my preschoolers and toddler!

I think it is neat to know that God programmed this biological response in our bodies when we turn our minds to Him and lift up our needs. They didn't address this part at the conference... but I think it is comforting to know that we have a powerful and loving Father who knows our needs and will respond. This is in addition to the physiologic calming effect that "praying" or "meditating" evokes.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.