Another “Mini”Relaxation Exercise

December 3, 2015 at 10:03 am | Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Meditation picture

The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year.”  It’s also the time of year many feel the most stressed! The relaxation response is the body’s natural counter to the stress response.  If you’re feeling holiday stress starting to creep in, take a few minutes to try this mini relaxation breathing exercise from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

INHALE, pause- 1,2,3         EXHALE, pause, 1,2,3

  • After each inhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is held in)
  • After each exhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is let out)
  • Do this for several breaths.

“Mini” Relaxation Exercise

February 5, 2015 at 10:14 am | Posted in Health | Leave a comment
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BetwMeditation pictureeen the snow and problems with public transit, this has been an incredibly stressful two weeks.  The relaxation response is the body’s natural counter to the stress response.  If start feeling stress creeping in, take a few minutes to try this mini relaxation breathing exercise from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine

INHALE, pause- 1,2,3         EXHALE, pause, 1,2,3

  • After each inhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is held in)
  • After each exhalation, pause and count: 1,2,3 (breath is let out)
  • Do this for several breaths.

Healthy Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

December 11, 2014 at 10:49 am | Posted in Health | Leave a comment
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The holidays are a time of fun and excitement, but they can also be a time of added stress.

While stress is a normal part of life, it can have an impact on diabetes management. Stress hormones can raise blood sugar, and prolonged stress weakens the immune system and interferes with healthy self-care routines.

Stay healthy and enjoy the season with these techniques for managing holiday stress:

  • Prioritize – A common cause of holiday stress is trying to do too much at once. Focus on those things that are most important to you, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to taking on new commitments.
  • Take “time out” (Find a distraction) – Take a break and do something to clear your mind. Spend time with or call friends. Engage in some other activity you enjoy (like a favorite hobby).
  • Get Moving – Exercise is a known stress reducer, and sticking with your regular fitness routine can help with maintaining good blood sugar control. Small steps make a difference! Go for a walk, put on a yoga video or dance to a song on the radio.
  • Relax – Mind-body activities like meditation, deep breathing or positive visualizations elicit the relaxation response, the body’s built-in counter to the stress response.

Losing or maintaining a healthy weight is another source of stress for many during the holidays. The added pressures of the holidays can also contribute to emotional or stress eating (eating for reasons other than hunger). Signs of stress eating can be turning to comfort food after a difficult day, or mindlessly munching on snacks to burn off nervous energy. The downside is many comfort foods are high in sugar (which can raise blood sugar), fat, and calories. Distracted snacking makes it easy to take in more calories than expected. Consider preparing some healthy snacks to have accessible.

The techniques above can help with coping with stress eating as well, but if you’re still craving a crunchy snack or Mom’s Mac and Cheese go ahead and have some – just do so mindfully. Keep track of portion size, and eat slowly so you can really enjoy the food’s taste and texture.

It’s not possible to avoid all stress completely, but one final thing to remember is the holiday season (and the stress that comes along with it) is temporary. Slow down and enjoy the best the season has to offer. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or think you might be experiencing diabetes burnout, talk to your health care provider or a diabetes educator.

(Post content reviewed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine)

Meditation

February 20, 2014 at 11:15 am | Posted in Blood Pressure, Health, Heart Health | Leave a comment
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It may be easiest to understand what meditation is by first explaining what it is not.  Meditation is not thinking.  It’s seeing, smelling, feeling and experiencing without applying thought.  It is a quieting of the mind where the thinking part of the brain is turned off.  If you’re thinking, you’re not meditating.  Meditation is often viewed as an exotic or foreign activity, but it’s really just using a different part of the brain.

Two of the defining qualities of meditation are focused awareness and a receptive state of mind.  The body was not meant to live in the stress response, yet in this modern world we often find ourselves living in a constant state of low-level stress.  Stress aggravates everything.  It causes inflammation in the body, tightening of the muscles, and interferes with getting good quality sleep (in fact fatigue is the number one symptom of stress).  Turning off the stress response helps encourage broader awareness and adaptability.  There is an expansive feeling in this adaptive state as all the muscles stretch and relax; a feeling of “oneness” or connection to everything and everybody (contrast this with the stress response which is very disconnecting).

A good place to start when beginning a meditation practice is with the breath.  Focusing on the inhale and the exhale develops a moment to moment focus of simply being.  You may also find it helpful to focus on an image, or choose a word or words (or phrase/phrases) to link with the rhythm of your breath.  Observe the sensations you experience mindfully, try not to be too “thinky,” and avoid judgments.  It may be difficult to keep your mind from wandering at first, but a wandering mind is not a sign you can’t meditate – it’s a sign that you need to meditate!  Catching yourself drifting and bringing your attention back to the present moment helps build your meditation practice.

It’s recommended to spend 10-20 minutes in quiet meditation 1-2 times a day.  Maintaining focus for 20 minutes at a time can be challenging in the beginning, but you can slowly work your way up to it.  The more often you practice, the more the brain changes (in a positive way).  Meditating daily for just 20 minutes has been shown to remodel your brain away from stress to more pleasant and steadying states of mind – so you can see, it’s well worth the effort!

(Post written in collaboration with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine)

Managing Holiday Stress Tweet Chat with the Benson-Henry Institute

December 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment
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Managing Holiday Stress Chat

Diabetes ABCs: J

November 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Diabetes ABCs | Leave a comment
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Jokes/Humor

J“Why did the chicken cross the road?”  Diabetes is a full time  job.  There are meals to plan, carbs to count, medications to take, exercise to fit in . . . and that’s on top of everything you have to do for work and family.  It’s a lot to juggle, and a lot of added stress.  At times like these, laughter really is the best medicine.  Find something that makes you laugh – a good joke, a funny movie or a clever YouTube video – and come back to it whenever you need a quick stress buster.

(Content reviewed by MGH Diabetes Center)

Handling Holiday Stress

November 16, 2012 at 10:16 am | Posted in Comics | 1 Comment
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Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, full of food, family and friends, and … stress! So much stress! Try these three easy tips to relax and fully enjoy the festivities.
holiday_habits

Diabetes Burnout

March 24, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in Health | 2 Comments
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By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical GroupStress

“I give up”. “I’m tired of doing this every day.” How many times have any of us uttered these words? This seemingly never ending winter has certainly made me feel this way, especially on the many days that the Needham commuter rail line came late, or more often, not at all. The choices facing me at that point included going home, (not really an option) or trudging to the Orange Line (along with all my other train friends). Whichever option I chose would cause an inconvenience, either to my co-workers and patients or to me, but not a potentially life threatening consequence.

When you have Diabetes and feel like giving up, the potential repercussions are much more serious and can include new or worsening complications like heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney disease. People who feel this way about their Diabetes are frequently experiencing something called Diabetes burnout (DB). This means that you are just overwhelmed or exhausted with taking care of yourself. This feeling may last days or weeks or be intermittent. However, the longer it goes on without any intervention, the greater the possibility of a worsening in your Diabetes control.

I want to make it really clear: it is totally understandable that you may feel like giving up on your Diabetes self care sometimes. Almost everyone who has Diabetes feels frustrated and distressed from time to time, and some more than others. Taking care of yourself and your Diabetes is a fulltime plus job, and that is on top of everything else going on in your life. Your daily self care includes things like checking your blood sugar, taking your medications, watching your carbohydrate intake, and exercising. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy or motivation to do all of these things all of the time.

Helping hands

Here’s the key: the most important thing to realize when you are feeling this way is to acknowledge the feelings and know that there are people and strategies available to help you deal with them. It’s also important to be aware of some cues that may mean you’re experiencing DB. You may not be aware of anything different, but the people in your life may notice things have changed. It may be you aren’t checking your blood sugar as often as usual, you’re more careless with your diet choices, or you may even be less precise with the timing and taking of your pills or your insulin injections. In the most serious instances you may even neglect to do these things all together.

Now that you are aware of these behaviors, you can work on improving the situation. Here are a few strategies to implement when you feel worn out:

1. Admit to yourself how you feel. Don’t be ashamed of these feelings. Keep a journal to help you gain perspective.

2. Talk to your health care provider. They will help you to manage these feelings.

3. Get support. Let your family and friends know that you are struggling and let them help you—they care about you and want to be there for you. You may want to join and work with a Diabetes support group, too.

4. Identify roadblocks. Realize that sometimes things happen that you can’t control. You may have blood sugar fluctuations or not be able to eat exactly as you would prefer. You just need to do the best that you can and keep going forward

5. Make a schedule of all that you have to do to self manage your Diabetes to help you to stay focused.

Once you are diagnosed with Diabetes, it doesn’t go away. You can close your eyes and click your heels 3 times, but when you open your eyes you will still have Diabetes. It’s the job that you can’t resign from. My hope for you is that you always reach out to those in your life to help you through the rough patches.

Breathe, Stress Less

March 17, 2011 at 9:00 am | Posted in Health, Heart Health | Leave a comment
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Stress Dictionary Entry

It’s only March, but already this winter is shaping up to be one for the record books.  Along with impressive snowfall totals (just over 70 inches since December according to this Boston.com graphic), the string of snowstorms moving through the area brought along stress and aggravation to everyone from residents and city officials trying to keep roads and driveways clear, to travelers trying to get away.  Shoveling, plowing, salting and scraping are all part of wintertime living in New England, but the stress of post-snowstorm clean-up may also be bad for your heart.  

When facing a stressful situation, whether it’s a presentation at work or the thought of cleaning up the latest foot of snow, the body responds by releasing stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline.  Heart rate, blood pressure and the volume of blood out of the heart all increase. Under normal circumstances the body returns to normal once the stress has passed, but for many people in our 24/7 world, chronic elicitation of the stress response is now part of daily life.  Chronic stress may put you at risk of developing hypertension or heart disease. Yikes! 

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed now?  Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.  

Research by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine here at Mass General Hospital has shown that eliciting the relaxation response (the antithesis of the stress response) can lower your blood pressure and decrease the cumulative effects of stress.  Sitting quietly, take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus on a word or phrase, repeating that word or phrase quietly to yourself on each breath. Continue for 10-15 minutes…. 

There are many different techniques to elicit the relaxation response including diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, mindfulness, guided imagery, yoga or tai chi.

Research has demonstrated that regularly eliciting the relaxation response can have lasting declines in blood pressure. The Benson-Henry Institute offers a 13 week Cardiac Wellness Program for patients with hypertension or heart disease. 

It may not be possible to live a completely stress free life, but knowing a few good strategies for managing that stress can make a difference.  Here’s some good news: spring training has already started.

 What do you do to manage stress? 

(Information reviewed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine)


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