Nice article from the Times of India, citing research using Yoga Asanas: Among the many clinical researches being conducted at Nimhans , one involved patients of an old-age home who were exposed to six months of yoga therapy. MRI scans taken before and after showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory index. “It waslarger than before because the grey matter had increased. The results will be published in a scientific journal shortly ,” adds Gangadhar. The hippocampus is vulnerable to stress and atrophy is seen in patients of schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. “Yoga acts as an antidepressant ,” he says. Read the entire article here.
Nathan Allen loves the colour blue.
His T-shirt is blue, the blanket wrapped around his knees is blue, and his eyes, bright under his baseball cap, are blue.
But blue is also a feeling, and after spending months undergoing near-daily dialysis at the Hospital for Sick Children, who could blame an 11-year-old for feeling a bit down?
Nathan was referred to the hospital’s new on-staff art therapist to help him cope with his emotions. And when Jennifer Bassin came to visit recently week with her case of supplies, he chose the colour blue to start on a sculpture of a car.
“Shocking,” jokes his mom, Judy Chapman.
Nathan was diagnosed with a bilateral Wilms’ tumour, a rare cancer of the kidneys mostly affecting children, at age 5. He started chemo and radiation and had a partial nephrectomy in both kidneys. His left kidney never worked properly again, and after almost five years of remission, cancer returned to his right kidney.
Now he undergoes chemo once every three weeks and dialysis five days a week. That’s a lot of poking and prodding for an 11-year-old who would prefer to be playing defence on the Georgina Blaze novice hockey team and cuddling his 3-year-old beagle, Daisy, at home in Keswick, Ont.
After three more chemo treatments, Nathan can go home. His parents are training to do at-home dialysis and counting down the days until Nathan can receive a new kidney. His mom is praying she can eventually donate one of her own.
Until then, he looks forward to his weekly sessions with Bassin. She visits during the two-and-a-half-hour dialysis process, and they paint or sculpt while the machine whirs in the background.
“It absorbs some of the time,” Nathan says. “I like to build stuff.”
Bassin has brought something called a 3Doodler — a cross between a hot glue gun and a tiny 3D printer, which can make plastic sculptures. This day, after he makes the car, she asks Nathan to make something that resembles his idea of cancer.
“A big, black, blob,” he says.
Nathan is an outpatient but most of Bassin’s patients are long-term in-patients at Sick Kids who have chronic illnesses, complex medical histories or have faced traumatic injuries.
Since the program started in May, she does art therapy just two days a week and sees between four and eight children aged 4 to 18. Psychiatric patients have benefited from art therapy at Sick Kids in the past, but this is the first year the new program, which is entirely funded by donations, has been extended to medical patients.
“Art therapy is taking the language children already speak and meeting them at that level,” Bassin said. “You don’t have to be good at art to participate in art therapy. It doesn’t have to be about the painting or about the drawing. It’s more about finding something they enjoy that we can use as a tool to explore how they’re feeling.”
One patient, who had recently been in a traumatic boat accident, sculpted a vessel out of clay — and then smashed it against the wall in a moment of catharsis. Some enjoy the physicality of painting big murals, and some like to rip up what they’ve drawn. Another drew a landscape so she could imagine herself outside the hospital, at a picnic.
“When you create something outside of you, you can really treat it like it’s at a distance, and it makes it safer for us to explore a little bit.”
Making art helps young patients take back some control in their lives, if only for an hour. Some patients are content with their creation, and others want to delve deeper into their feelings, Bassin says.
Nathan’s family hopes he can go home in late September, when he can rejoin his classmates in Grade 6 and go back to being an annoying older brother to his sister Emma, 7. He’s still quiet, but less withdrawn after a session, his mom says.
As he paints a mask green, with blue lips and black eyes, Bassin asks Nathan if he has a plan.
“Nope,” he says. “Just going step by step.”
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s
|Change the situation:
Avoid the stressor.
Alter the stressor.
|Change your reaction:
Adapt to the stressor.
Accept the stressor.
1. Avoid unnecessary stress
Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed.
Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them.
Avoid people who stress you out –Limit the amount of time you spend with people that cause you stress.
Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off.
Avoid hot-button topics –If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.
Pare down your to-do list –If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.”
2. Alter the situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.
Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same.
Be more assertive. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them.
Manage your time better. Plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself.
If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective.
Look at the big picture. Will it matter in a month, or a year?
Adjust your standards. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”
Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts.
4. Accept what you can’t change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable, in such cases; the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Look for the upside. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth.
Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.
Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes.
5. Make time for fun & relaxation
You can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for healthy fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.
Healthy ways to relax and recharge
|Go for a walk.
Spend time in nature.
Call a good friend.
Write in your journal.
Take a long bath.
Light scented candles
|Play with a pet.
Work in your garden.
Get a massage.
Curl up with a good book.
Listen to music.
Watch a comedy
Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule..
Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself.
6. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.
1. Become emotionally literate. Label your feelings, rather than labeling people or situations.
Use three word sentences beginning with “I feel”.
Start labeling feelings; stop labeling people & situations
“I feel impatient.” vs “This is ridiculous.” I feel hurt and bitter”. vs. “You are an insensitive jerk.”
“I feel afraid.” vs. “You are driving like an idiot.”
2. Distinguish between thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts: I feel like…& I feel as if…. & I feel that
Feelings: I feel: (feeling word)
3. Take more responsibility for your feelings.
“I feel jealous.” vs. “You are making me jealous.”
Analyze your own feelings rather than the action or motives of other people. Let your feelings help you identify your unmet emotional needs.
4. Use your feelings to help make decisions
“How will I feel if I do this?” “How will I feel if I don’t?”
“How do I feel?” “What would help me feel better?”
Ask others “How do you feel?” and “What would help you feel better?”
5. Use feelings to set and achieve goals
– Set feeling goals. Think about how you want to feel or how you want others to feel. (your employees, your clients, your students, your children, your partner)
– Get feedback and track progress towards the feeling goals by periodically measuring feelings from 0-10. For example, ask clients, students, teenagers how much they feel respected from 0 to 10.
6. Feel energized, not angry.
Use what others call “anger” to help feel energized to take productive action.
7. Validate other people’s feelings.
Show empathy, understanding, and acceptance of other people’s feelings.
8. Use feelings to help show respect for others.
How will you feel if I do this? How will you feel if I don’t? Then listen and take their feelings into consideration.
9. Don’t advise, command, control, criticize, judge or lecture to others.
Instead, try to just listen with empathy and non-judgment.
10. Avoid people who invalidate you.
While this is not always possible, at least try to spend less time with them, or try not to let them have psychological power over you.
A study of students in California universities showed that those who practiced a bit of meditation in their personal lives performed better on tests. This applied to students who practice the art of Zen, as well as those who simply meditate for a few minutes before class.
The research, published in the journal Mindfulness, showed that meditation worked best for first year students, which led researchers to speculate that younger students tend to struggle with concentration more.
Professor Robert Youmans, of George Mason University in Virginia, co-lead the study with University of Illinois doctoral student Jared Ramsburg. According to Professor Youmans:
“One difficulty for researchers who study meditation is that the supposed benefits of meditation do not always replicate across different studies or populations, and so we have been trying to figure out why. This data from this study suggest that meditation may help students who might have trouble paying attention or focusing. Sadly, freshmen classes probably contain more of these types of students than senior courses because student populations who have difficulty self-regulating are also more likely to leave the university.”
The researchers said that coaching students on proper meditation could improve academic results. Ramsburg’s own personal experiences inspired him to undertake the study (he is a Buddhist).
“I think that if mindfulness can improve mental clarity, focus and self-discipline, then it might be useful in a variety of settings and for a variety of goals.”
For anyone uncomfortable with meditation (even though it is not necessarily a religious practice), Ramsburg says that taking long walks in the morning before you start your day could inspire the same outcome.
“Basically, becoming just a little bit more mindful about yourself and your place in the world might have a very important, practical benefit – in this case, doing better in college.”
You know you should do it. And you know why: Exercising — simply put, moving instead of sitting — is critical for safeguarding your health and setting a good example for your kids. So why does it seem so hard to get yourself moving?
The truth is: You can. But knowing how and why to exercise isn’t enough. You need to develop the right mind-set to get and stay motivated.
“Change is hard!” says certified health behavior coach Shelly Hoefs, fitness supervisor at the Mutch Women’s Center for Health Enrichment in Sioux Falls, S.D. “When we try to start exercising, we think of all the excuses for not doing it and all the things that have gotten in the way before. Getting fit starts to seem overwhelming. And that makes it feel stressful. Before long, we don’t want to do it anymore.”
Here are five steps to get you moving in the right direction — and keep you going.
- Find Personal Motivation to Exercise
What you need to get you up off the couch is a reason that’s important to you. At first, that may be some external factor, says Cal Hanson, director of the Sanford Wellness Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. It could be a number on the scale that surprises you or your doctor’s recommendation that you need to move more to stay healthy.
There are all kinds of benefits to getting fit. Which matters most to you? Something as simple as taking a walk after dinner every night helps to:
- control your weight
- strengthen your bones
- enhance your muscles
- reduce your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
Plus, by becoming active, you’re being a good role model for your children.
These benefits may get you started, but they may not cut it when it comes to keeping you moving day after day, Hanson says. To keep up your motivation to exercise over time, you also need to find your internal motivators. Maybe taking a yoga class leaves you feeling more energized or less stressed. Maybe a run or walk every day helps you let go of stress. Hanson says these are the kind of rewards that are meaningful to you on a personal level and that can help keep you motivated.
- Set Realistic Goals to Get Fit
CDC guidelines call for adults to do 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. That’s a 30-minute walk five days a week. If you kick it up a notch — jogging or running, for example – it can be 15 minutes a day, five days a week.
You can aim for these exercise guidelines, but don’t try to meet them at the start. “People lose their motivation to exercise when they try to do too much too soon,” says Hanson.
So instead of walking for 30 minutes a day right off the bat, start out doing 15 minutes a day, two or three days a week.
Set weekly goals, gradually adding more time and intensity. At the end of each week, take a look at how you did. If you reached your goal, celebrate! “And if you didn’t reach your goal,” Hanson says, “think about what went wrong and how you’re going to respond differently next time.”
- Stop Thinking of It as Exercise — Do Something You Enjoy
You don’t have to go to the gym to get a good workout. It’s all about moving more — however you do it. For some people, going to the gym provides structure that helps them focus and a sense of accomplishment when they’re done. For others, it’s a chore — one they wind up avoiding as often as they can.
What else can you do? Almost anything that gets you — and your family — moving:
- Walk the dog, or walk a neighbor’s dog. They’ll be grateful for the help!
- Have dance contests with the kids instead of watching TV.
- Go to the park and play hide-and-seek.
- Shoot hoops with the kids.
- Walk or bike to the store instead of driving, or park far away from the entrance.
- Get off the train a stop early and walk the rest of the way to your office.
If you think about it, you’re surrounded by opportunities to get more active. Find the ones that you get excited about. You’re more likely to keep doing them if you’re having fun.
- Plan How to Fit Exercise Into a Hectic Schedule
For busy parents, a major obstacle to getting fit is lack of time. If you wait for time to open up, chances are you won’t be able to squeeze in a walk or a dance class very often. To avoid getting sidetracked by the daily demands of life, try these tips:
- “Sit down with your schedule and really carve out blocks of time,” says psychologist Susan Bartell, PsyD, author of Susan’s Fit and Fun Family Action Plan.Put it in your calendar like any other appointment.
- Add physical activity to things you already do. For example, pedal a stationary bike while reading or watching TV. Or take a walk with a friend to catch up instead of calling each other on the phone.
- Plan activities you can do with your kids, such as going for bike rides or skating. Not only will you find more time for fitness, you’ll help inspire your kids to move more.
If you plan ahead for potholes on the road to fitness, you’re more likely to stay on course, Bartell says. “When you think through solutions to problems in advance, you’re less likely to give up when a pothole comes along.”
- Bounce Back from Setbacks
You’ve set a reasonable fitness goal. You’ve prepared for potential problems. Yet somehow you still didn’t make it to the gym today as you had planned. Don’t let that be your downfall.
“For many people, this is a slippery slope,” Hanson says. “It reminds them of times when they failed before, and they begin to think of themselves as exercise failures.”
When this happens, it’s time for an attitude adjustment so you don’t completely lose your motivation to exercise. If you miss the gym on Monday, that doesn’t mean your whole week is shot, Hanson says. It simply means you need to hit the gym on Tuesday or take the dog for an extra-long walk tonight.
Knowing how to exercise isn’t just a matter of learning how to use your body to hold a yoga pose or swing a racquet. It also involves learning how to use your mind to propel yourself into action and stick with a fitness routine.
“Start thinking of yourself as someone who exercises,” says Hoefs. “Eventually, that will become your identity”.