Archive for the 'Stress Reduction' Category

The Importance of Reducing Your Stress

Apr. 17th 2010

Following is an article by Dr Mark Hyman, a pioneer in preventative medicine and mind-body health. He stressed the importance of stress reduction- the statistics are compelling. And there are a lot of great tips for how to do it. Take it to heart- you are worth it!   Kathy

Calm Your Mind Heal Your Body

When it comes to your health, there is one factor that is more important than almost any other…

If it is missing from your life, it causes or worsens 95 percent of all illness. It has been associated with dramatic reductions in disease and increased longevity.

And it is more important than cholesterolblood sugar, blood pressure, or any other risk factor in determining whether you will live a long and healthy life. But it doesn’t come in a pill, and it can’t be found in a hospital or in your doctor’s office.

What is this critical factor that determines so much about how healthy or how sick you are?

Your attitude, your social networks, your community, and your spiritual beliefs.

Put another way, the health of your mind and spirit and your sense of connection to your community has an immense impact on the health of your body. In fact, aside from eating breakfast, the biggest predictor of longevity is psychological resiliency — being able to roll with the punches that life throws at us.

We’ve known about this in medicine for a long time. I was recently browsing through my library and found an old book that I read in college called Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, written by a friend and leader in the field of mind/body medicine, Kenneth Pelletier. He is a clinical professor of medicine at the medical schools of the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Arizona.

His book was published in 1977. I wish I could say that a lot has changed since that book was published. Sure, we have filled in the gaps and learned more about the mechanisms through which the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body, but the basic truths remain the same.

There is a dramatic and powerful connection between your mind and body, and between your body and your mind. In fact, it really should not be called a connection because it is just ONE bidirectional system.

Unfortunately, few doctors accept or understand this fundamental reality about biology. So, in most doctors’ offices, you aren’t going to learn about the connection between your body and brain or how to use that connection to help you heal.

However, in this blog I am going to give you the tools to do that. I am going to explain how the body and mind are intimately connected and give you 10 tips you can use to calm your mind and heal your body.

Calming your mind is the last of the 7 Keys to UltraWellness; today you are going to learn how you can relax your way to vibrant health and optimal weight.

An Epidemic of Stress-Related Disorders

According to Hans Selye, MD, the man who coined the word “stress” and first mapped out its biological effects, “The modern physician should know as much about emotions and thoughts as about disease symptoms and drugs. This approach would appear to hold more promise of cure than anything medicine has given us to date.”

Selye’s words are as true today as they were on the day he wrote them.

We are seeing an epidemic of stress-related disorders in our society, including depression, anxiety, autism, attention deficit disorder, memory disorders, and dementia, and these disorders are making the pharmaceutical industry highly profitable.

You see, Americans live on caffeine and Prozac. We use substances to manage our moods. In fact, the four top-selling items in grocery stores are all drugs that we use to manage our mood and energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.

But how do we really deal with the root of this problem? You use the MOST powerful pharmacy in the world — which is right between your ears!

A little later, I will tell you how to use your brain to fix your health problems. First, I want to share a story that illustrates the power the mind has to harm or to heal.

The Power of the Mind-Body Connection

Tom, a long-term patient of mine, came to see me after his wife died. He suddenly developed heart failure. His heart just wouldn’t pump. It was flooded with grief molecules, hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin, and cortisol.

His case is far from being the only documented case in which grief caused cardiovascular problems.The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study about how grief or emotional trauma can cause heart failure — literally a broken heart.

Rather than giving Tom drugs for “heart failure” as I was taught in medical school, I suggested he get healing touch, a form of energy and emotional healing. Sounds a bit out there, huh? Well, he followed my advice and dramatically recovered. Touch, not medication, healed his heart.

I think we can all learn a lesson from Tom and other cases like his.

In school, we all learned how to read and write, but we never learned how to use our minds to help us with the most important survival skills of all: staying happy and healthy!

Other cultures differ in their training. Herbert Benson, MD, of Harvard Medical School, has demonstrated the amazing power that trained Tibetan meditators use to control their physiology by slowing their metabolism, changing their heart rates and brain waves, and raising or lowering their body temperature.

He even documented on film an ancient practice called tumo, the generating of internal heat, performed by initiated Tibetan monks. The monks are wrapped in icy cold sheets and must use their internal heat to dry them, possibly by actively burning something called brown fat. As a result, they can sit naked on a snowy mountaintop all night and not freeze, keeping warm with their internal heat.

That’s something most of us don’t have any consciousness of, or control over. Imagine if you could turn on fat burning and lose weight with your mind!

That is how powerful our mind and our beliefs can be.

But in the West we aren’t even taught how to cope with the day-to-day frustrations of life. We live under constant chronic stress and we are not trained to address this stressful psychic load that is the burden of the 21st century.

This is unfortunate, because stress is killing us.

Just consider these facts:

• 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.

• Low socioeconomic status is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher risk of death from all causes. This is not because of poor health habits, but because of feelings of powerlessness and loss of control.

• Internalized racism and stress are associated with high amounts of belly fat.

• Stress hormones damage the hippocampus — the memory center in the brain — causing memory loss and dementia.

• In a study of people who volunteered to have cold viruses injected into their noses, only people with a high level of perceived stress got colds.

• Women with metastatic breast cancer survived twice as long if they were part of a support group.

• Belonging to a group — a religious group, a bowling club, a quilting group – reduces risk of death from all causes and increases longevity, despite health habits.

• In a study of doctors, those who scored high on hostility questionnaires had a higher risk of heart attacks than those who smoked, were overweight, had high blood pressure, or didn’t exercise.

So, if you don’t think the mind has the power to influence your body, think again.

The good news is that you can change your beliefs and attitudes and their effects on your mind and your body. You may need to learn a few new skills, like stress reduction techniques, but it can be done.

However, our beliefs and attitudes aren’t the only things that matter. Our mind and brain function is also influenced by what happens in our bodies. By addressing the 7 Keys to UltraWellness, “mental” problems can often be cured – without changing our beliefs.

The effects of beliefs and attitudes are important. There can be no question of that. But the effects of imbalances in our core body systems on our mental state and brain function are just as important and are mostly IGNORED by traditional medicine.

The systems in your body that affect mood and brain function include hormonesimmune system,gutdetox systemenergy systemnutritional status, and other environmental inputs.

For example, I saw a man yesterday who was completely stressed out and anxious. He had palpitations and drank four martinis a night just to calm down. He also had severe muscle cramps and eye twitches.

These are obvious signs of magnesium deficiency. But stress, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all deplete magnesium. He was trapped in a vicious cycle.

What he needed wasn’t Valium or Prozac, but rather to address why he was magnesium-deficient and then fix it through detoxification, treating his yeast overgrowth, cutting out alcohol and caffeine, and supplementing with the relaxation mineral, magnesium, to calm his nervous system.

That, in combination with other tools for calming the mind and the body, will help him reset his nervous system. By using these tools together, he’ll be taking advantage of both the body-mind effect and the mind-body effect, thereby optimizing his treatment.

You can do the same thing. By employing the following techniques, you can leverage the power of your brain and body to calm your mind and bring healing.

10 Tips for Calming Your Mind

Here is what we know about how to influence the mind-body and the body-mind system. Consider these essential survival skills. You cannot thrive without them!

1. Address the Underlying Causes of Stress — Find the biological causes of problems with the mind by working on the 7 Keys to UltraWellness. Mercury toxicity or a magnesium or vitamin B12deficiency or a toxic gut chemical or a gluten allergy could be changing your brain. So, by changing your body, you can change your mind!

2. Relax — Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must DO something — you can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer.

3. Learn New Skills — Try learning new skills such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Move Your Body — Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind, so just do it! It has been proven to be better than or equal to Prozac for treating depression.

5. Optimize Your Nutrition — Clean up your diet from mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body.

6. Supplement — Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

7. Try Herbs — Use adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help you adapt and balance your response to stress) such as ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha.

8. Use Heat Therapy — Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax and turn on the relaxation response.

9. Change Your Beliefs — Examine your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and consider reframing your point of view to reduce stress.

10. Find a Community — Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

In the last seven blogs, I have introduced you to a set of new ideas and concepts that have the power to transform your health personally and to transform health care as a whole. It is no small job in either case, but it is essential to stem the impending tsunami of ill health and economic burden facing us, our children, and our children’s children.

The solution is a fundamental change in our worldview about health — a view that helps us get to the core of illness, learn self-care, take control, and empower ourselves to transform our own health and turn our “sick care” system into a health care system.

Each of us can contribute and make small changes that will have a big effect as we move towardvibrant health and vitality as individuals, and as a society.

Take control of your health today using the techniques I have outlined in this series of blogs, and you will become part of a growing movement that is working toward fundamentally changing the way we understand the body and practice medicine in this country.

Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Stress Reduction | No Comments »

Yoga and your health

Jan. 29th 2010

I was happy to see the results from this research study which proves that yoga reduces inflammation in the body. Yoga is a wonderful way to promote health, reduce stress, protect us from some of the debilitating changes that come with aging and to feel great. It is so mainstream now you can find a beginner class in your Adult Ed or many other community venues. I highly recommend your trying it if you haven’t. For years I told myself I couldnt do it because I wasn’t flexible- all the more reason  to do it! Find a teacher you like, that can make all the difference. And there are different styles of yoga so you might want to try different classes too. You will reap many benefits, try it, you deserve it!

- The Behavioral Medicine Report – -

Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known To Promote Inflammation

[1]Regularly practicing yoga exercises may lower a number of compounds in the blood and reduce the level of inflammation that normally rises because of both normal aging and stress, a new study has shown. The study showed that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than did women who were the same age and weight but who were not yoga practitioners. IL-6 is an important part of the body’s inflammatory response and has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related debilitating diseases. the researchers suggest that reductions of inflammation may provide substantial short- and long-term health benefits.

“In addition to having lower levels of inflammation before they were stressed, we also saw lower inflammatory responses to stress among the expert yoga practitioners in the study,” explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and lead author of the study.

“Hopefully, this means that people can eventually learn to respond less strongly to stressors in their everyday lives by using yoga and other stress-reducing modalities.”

For this study at Ohio State University and just reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the researchers assembled a group of 50 women, age 41 on average. They were divided into two groups – “novices,” who had either taken yoga classes or who practiced at home with yoga videos for no more than 6 to 12 sessions, and “experts,” who had practiced yoga one of two times weekly for at least two years and at least twice weekly for the last year.

Each of the women was asked to attend three sessions in the university’s Clinical Research Center at two-week intervals. Each session began with participants filling out questionnaires and completing several psychological tests to gauge mood and anxiety levels.

Each woman also was fitted with a catheter in one arm through which blood samples could be taken several times during the research tasks for later evaluation.

Participants then performed several tasks during each visit designed to increase their stress levels including immersing their foot into extremely cold water for a minute, after which they were asked to solve a series of successively more difficult mathematics problems without paper or pencil.

Following these “stressors,” participants would either participate in a yoga session, walk on treadmill set at a slow pace (.5 miles per hour) designed to mirror the metabolic demands of the yoga session or watch neutral, rather boring videos. The treadmill and video tasks were designed as contrast conditions to the yoga session.

Once the blood samples were analyzed after the study, researchers saw that the women labeled as “novices” had levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 that were 41 percent higher than those in the study’s “experts.”

“In essence, the experts walked into the study with lower levels of inflammation than the novices, and the experts were also better able to limit their stress responses than were the novices,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained.

The researchers did not find the differences they had expected between the novices and experts in their physiological responses to the yoga session.

Co-author Lisa Christian, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology, suggested one possible reason: “The yoga poses we used were chosen from those thought to be restorative or relaxing. We had to limit the movements to those novices could perform as well as experts.

“Part of the problem with sorting out exactly what makes yoga effective in reducing stress is that if you try to break it down into its components, like the movements or the breathing, it’s hard to say what particular thing is causing the effect,” said Christian, herself a yoga instructor. “That research simply hasn’t been done yet.”

Ron Glaser, a co-author and a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, said that the study has some fairly clear implications for health. “We know that inflammation plays a major role in many diseases. Yoga appears to be a simple and enjoyable way to add an intervention that might reduce risks for developing heart disease, diabetes and other age-related diseases” he said. “This is an easy thing people can do to help reduce their risks of illness.”

Bill Malarkey, an professor of internal medicine and co-author on the study, pointed to the inflexibility that routinely comes with aging. “Muscles shorten and tighten over time, mainly because of inactivity,” he said. “The stretching and exercise that comes with yoga actually increases a person’s flexibility and that, in turn, allows relaxation which can lower stress.”

Malarkey sees the people’s adoption of yoga or other regular exercise as one of the key solutions to our current health care crisis. “People need to be educated about this. They need to be taking responsibility for their health and how they live. Doing yoga and similar activities can make a difference.”

As a clinician, he says, “Much of my time is being spent simply trying to get people to slow down.”

The researchers’ next step is a clinical trial to see if yoga can improve the health and reduce inflammation that has been linked to debilitating fatigue among breast cancer survivors. They’re seeking 200 women to volunteer for the study that’s funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Material adapted from Ohio State University [2] by CFisher [3]

Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Stress Reduction | No Comments »


Dec. 8th 2009

We all do it. You do, don’t you? Well, I have been stuck for months in procrastinating about writing my blog. The more time that went by, the less I felt like doing it. I would tell myself- ‘do it, you have do do another blog entry’ and then I would distract myself into some other activity and again, nothing accomplished. I do this with other things- often they relate to accounting, money or other areas I feel somewhat inadequate in. I avoid doing what I need to do so I dont have to face my discomfort. But, I like writing and I have loved doing my blog. It just became something that I kept “forgetting” to do. So, what does this have to do with stress? A lot. All of these incomplete, avoided and dreaded activities haunt us at some level. even on the ‘back-burner’ they nag and sap our energy. It feels so good to accomplish one of these things- for me there is a rush of energy and a feeling of freedom. Try it. Pick one thing you have been avoiding- even a small thing- and as Nike says, “JUST DO IT!” You will feel better. I know I do.

Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Stress Reduction | No Comments »

The Power of Gratitude

Aug. 2nd 2009

I am actively engaged in a daily practice of gratitude, trying to replace the grumbling and complaining with acceptance of what is and an appreciation for all that I do have. There is so much to be grateful for but this is constantly drowned out by the echoes of so many complaints inside of all of our heads. The weather, bills, work, our partner, children the list is endless. There is surely no shortage of things large and small to complain about. And this often becomes the social glue cementing us to others. We look for agreement, sympathy, pity to feel less alone.

Lately I am redirecting the negativity and finding when I focus on what I am grateful for, my mood shifts, my body feels better, my energy increases and I am happier. Those all seem like good reasons to keep doing it!  If stress is part of your daily fare, try noticing the content of your thoughts. Where is your mind focusing? On what you don’t have? On what you don’t like? On all that is wrong with your life? Try shifting towards gratitude- in fact you can make a list each day of 5 things you  are grateful for. Notice the shift inside.

I want to share with you my friend’s inspiring story about a Gratitude Practice and its life-altering effects

Bring gratitude into  your life- you  deserve it!


A Gratitude Practice
Change Your Life in 10 minutes a Day
by Andy A. Migner
A few years ago, my friend Sarah and I began an experiment. The project arose out of desperation. Sarah was on the verge of asking her husband for a divorce and she was painfully aware that it was her critical mind, not her husband, that was wreaking havoc in her life.
I was feeling heavy hearted for Sarah and her family, for the pain that would result from an unnecessary divorce, especially for their three children, when an idea dropped into my mind, fully formed. It was simple, it was brilliant and it was an answer to prayer.
I called Sarah and asked her if she would be willing to try an experiment for a month. “Every day, let’s e-mail each other three things we are grateful for about our husbands, and one compliment we have expressed directly to them.” Doubtful, but desperate, Sarah agreed.
At first this practice seemed anything but simple. Staring at a blank computer screen, our fingers rested on the keyboard completely uninspired. If you had asked us to write complaints about our husbands, our fingers would have been dancing on the keyboard, but things we were grateful for? Apparently our “gratitude muscles” had atrophied. To jump-start this process, we sent each other a list of things we had ever been grateful for about our spouses. My list included qualities I had seen in my husband when we first met; ‘the strong spirit evident in his sparkling blue eyes’, and qualities that came out later; ‘what a supportive coach he was at the births of our three children’. Sarah’s list included her husband’s  soft, gentle nature, his intelligence and his fun-loving committed parenting.  Acting like some sort of drain cleaner, these lists unclogged our “appreciation pipes”, unearthing qualities in our husbands that we had forgotten. They provided a foundation, making it easier to come up with the daily gratitudes.
Daily compliments were even harder. I’ve always marveled at people who easily express kindness and praise and wished I could be more like them. One night that first week, I hadn’t yet found anything to compliment. My husband and I were outside and my eyes fell on a garbage can. I thought of thanking him for all the years that he had taken the trash to the dump. Honestly, I didn’t feel thankful and praising him felt awkward. I was embarrassed, afraid my insincerity would be more obvious than my appreciation. But I had to come up with a compliment to report back to Sarah, so I barreled ahead. “Thank you for all of the years you have taken care of the trash” My husband beamed. He was so touched by (and probably hungry for) my appreciation, he didn’t notice my discomfort.
It was at the end of the second week that the most amazing thing happened. Sarah fell back in love with her husband. 42 “gratitudes” in 14 days and Sarah was looking at a new husband. It was nothing short of a miracle. All of the qualities that had initially attracted her to him were back in the foreground. Her daily e-mails were rich, full, romantic and heartfelt, a far cry from that first week of forced gratitudes.
My life changed too. Initially, I thought this gratitude practice was for Sarah (and her family) and I took part in it largely to help her.  It didn’t take long to realize the folly of my thinking. I also suffered from a critical mind and his practice was as much for me as it was for her. In fact, I’m sure that it was an answer to long standing prayers. As a result of this practice, I became happier in my marriage and the whole tenor of our home softened. About a month into our practice, my husband announced that he wanted to end his professional partnership and start his own business. He had complained about his work situation for years but he’d never before had the strength and confidence to consider striking out on his own. Was this a coincidence, or was my change of focus uplifting him in some mysterious way? Remember, this gratitude practice was a private matter between me and Sarah. Our husbands did not know about it. The only thing they experienced directly from us was the daily compliment. By that summer, my husband completed all of the necessary steps to dissolve the partnership and he has been successfully managing his own business ever since.
Thirty days after we began, there was a note tacked onto Sarah’s gratitude list; “Our one month experiment is up, but I don’t want to stop. Would you be willing to continue doing this gratitude practice? It is helping so much. Focusing on the positive is still so new to me, I’m afraid I’ll slip back to my old ways without it.”  Feeling the same, I immediately agreed.
A month later I found another note at the end of one of Sarah’s e-mails. “It is easy now for me to come up with things I’m grateful for about David, but I can’t think of anything about myself. My self-esteem is in the trash can”  We decided to add three gratitudes about ourselves each day. These gratitudes identified our gifts and talents and other things, like ‘my willingness to change’ and ‘ability to think outside the box’. Eventually we settled on the following format; three things we are grateful to God for, three things we are grateful for about our husbands and three things we are grateful for about ourselves.
It has been a number of years since we began this daily gratitude practice. Many friends, and friends of friends, have been inspired to join us, or to create partnerships of their own. Together we have witnessed amazing miracles. Our “gratitudes” have expanded to include our children, in-laws, employers and others. This simple practice is transformational. I invite you to find a partner and try a “one-month experiment” of your own. Miracles await.
As a Life Coach, Andy Migner, M.S.W., passionately encourages and inspires others to follow their dreams, find their purpose and become the person they were intended to be. She also offers “Power of Gratitude” workshops and Oneness Blessing events. If you start a gratitude practice she would love to hear about your experience:( You can learn more about her work through her website:

Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Mindfulness, Stress Reduction | No Comments »

The Unrelenting Rain: An Exercise In Acceptance

Jul. 2nd 2009

As I sit here the rain is pouring down, the skies are very gray and the thunder is booming off in the distance. This has been going on for weeks. Every day I awaken to clouds, rain and more rain. I don’t ever remember the experience of such unrelenting rain for so many days on end. I yearn for the feel of warm sun on my skin, for the bright blue skies and am concerned about how all of my tomato plants will fare without their daily dose of sunshine.

But then I reflect on one of the basic tenets of mindfulness which is accepting what is. In truly accepting what is, there is no discord in the mind, no wanting things to be different. And in this simple yet profound practice, there is peace. When we want or need things to be different, we create stress in our bodies. We struggle against the current reality and in doing so create struggle inside of ourselves. We are all familiar with the stress that ensues.

So, this rainy weather feels like a great opportunity to practice this acceptance. We have NO control over the weather. Our only choice is to be okay with whatever it is. And in this practice of accepting the rain, we may discover  the ability to accept other things in our lives. Just remember when we  lose our ability to be okay with things as they are, we create stress. Acceptance is the path towards peace.

Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Mindfulness, Stress Reduction | 1 Comment »

Getting away from it all…..

Jun. 9th 2009

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to go backpacking up in the White Mountains with my 19 year old son as sherpa, guide, cook and emotional support. It was my first time on a backpacking trip in over 30 years! The climbs were arduous and much longer than I thought I could endure. But the views! Spectacular! And of course the good feelings of accomplishment as well as the special time of bonding with my son was so rewarding- lots of card games of Rummy 500 in the down time. No electronic devices, no electricity, no running water- it was primitive and yet so much more conducive for connecting internally and externally.

The experience reminded me how important it is to get away from our daily life once in awhile. The change of perspective can be illuminating- freedom from the mundane, petty concerns is energizing. Time always seems to slow down for me when I am away. And being in nature is so healing- taking the time to marvel at  the moon, the sunset, listen to the birds, gaze upon brilliant flowers and other miracles. Do you seize the opportunity to do this in your life? It is so easy to take it all for granted.

Getting away can be a wonderful stress reliever. Think about a way to make it happen for yourself during these wonderful summer months- 1 night, 2 nights 3 nights or more- near or far. Just getting away is good for relieving our stress and getting us out of our ruts.

Happy trails! You are worth it!


Posted by Kathy Kommit | in Stress Reduction | No Comments »

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