By Patty Normand, MD
Many of us want to begin the new year fresh. Clean slate. Except that … it’s the same you. The calendar may have changed, but you are still you. You may have the best of intentions to get healthier, find a new job, or create more time with your kids, and yet you just can’t get off the launchpad or can’t stick with a new resolution.
So what about trying something different this year? First step. Don’t do anything. Just be. If this sounds unique, it is.
Here’s a brief exercise from Susan Gray, a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor at Rush:
“Right now, tune your attention into where you are located in this moment. You might be reading this at your office, on your phone, in transit or at home. Just get a sense of your environment. Now deliberately place your awareness on your breath. Allow your attention to rest on your breath. You are not trying to make anything happen. Just notice inhaling and exhaling. If you can feel the rise and fall of your chest or expansion of your lower belly, then guess what? You are in your body. Welcome to this moment. You are practicing mindfulness. By purposely placing attention on the present moment nonjudgmentally, awareness arises. If the breath isn’t a comfortable area for your body you could place your attention on sensations in your feet — feel them on the floor.”
Fred Brown is director of nursing psychiatry at Rush
By Fred Brown
Minor daily stressors can actually be good for us, keeping us on our toes, alert and even motivated. But as many of us know, stress can get away from us and feel out of control very quickly.
Excessive stress can have a negative effect on your health and lead to more severe issues such as anxiety, depression and even cardiac events.
Here are five ways you can celebrate national Stress Awareness Month and minimize stressors in your daily life:
Laugh and connect
We’ve all heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine,” and you may have had the experience when a good belly laugh felt like you just took an emotional jog around the block. Many of us are together daily and have been together for years, knowing each other well. Connecting with each other on a daily basis is important. Take time each day to enjoy your relationships through laughing or having lunch together.
Janine Gauthier, a psychologist at Rush, participated in our Rush On Call Q&A last week about staying healthy over the holidays. Here’s her advice about stress management:
There are some basic stress management techniques we can incorporate each and every day.
- Deep abdominal breathing — breathing in your belly
- Progressive muscle relaxation — relaxing one muscle group at a time until your entire body is relaxed
- Massage therapy — this promotes relaxation both physical and emotional
- Yoga — central to yoga is deep breathing
- Guided imagery — imaging yourself in a very relaxing place
- Physical exercise — engaging in cardiovascular exercise helps to promote endorphins in our body which helps us mangage stress
- Mindfulness meditation — where you allow yourself to do a body scan to find where you hold your stress and then allowing self to breathe and stay in the present moment.
The nice thing is that many of these strategies (breathing, mindfulness) you can engage in even when you are in the mall, in the car, standing in line or with family and friends. The goal is to make these a regular part of your life, which will become more natural the more often you engage in them, and you will find your are managing life more effectively.
Gauthier is the director of psychosocial oncology and director of clinical services for the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush. She’s also an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Rush University.