Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments

This content is sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medicine

Nearly 50 percent of women reported a rise in stress levels over the past five years. Chronic stress contributes to a range of health problems, including mental health disorders, heart disease and obesity.

Integrative treatments like meditation and acupuncture can help reduce stress and related problems. These techniques are gaining mainstream acceptance as research demonstrates their positive health effects.

Several studies show that relaxation helps improve gene expressions that control the flight-or-fight response in the body and activate the “rest-and-digest” part of the brain (parasympathetic nervous system).  Even during the busiest day, we can find micro-moments where we use gratitude, deep breath and enjoyable music to bring relaxation response.

Below are a few of the ways we recommend dealing with stress.

Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are therapies proven to help manage anxiety and depression.

Meditation helps you relax by focusing on breathing and awareness of the body in the present moment.

MBSR is a program that draws on the principles of meditation to help people become more aware of how negative thoughts impact physical feelings. Research has shown that benefits of MBSR include:

  • Reduced stress and worrying
  • Improved memory and focus
  • Fewer emotional ups and downs and greater resilience
  • Improved relationships

MBSR is an incredibly effective tool for decreasing stress and anxiety. Through phone apps and introductory courses, mindfulness training is more readily available and affordable.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice involving the use of tiny needles to stimulate the nervous and immune systems. During the procedure, a licensed acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body. Acupuncture is painless, and research shows that it helps support conventional treatment for a range of problems that include stress, chronic pain and digestive disorders.

Therapeutic Massage

While many of us think of massage as a rare, indulgent treat, studies indicate massage helps treat a variety of stress-related disorders, including anxiety and insomnia.  In addition to general wellness, massage is used for a variety of health-related conditions, including chronic pain relief, reducing stress, increasing relaxation and boosting mood.

It is important to talk to your doctor about whether massage is right for you. It may not be appropriate for people with certain conditions, such as bleeding disorders or osteoporosis.

Massage is found to be helpful both physically and emotionally. The rubbing soothes sore muscles and releases tension in the body and mind. Massaging muscles and soft tissue stimulates the nerves, increases blood flow and relieves stress in the muscles.

Massage is incredibly useful, particularly when facing a health challenge.

Yoga Therapy

 Yoga helps improve quality of life in physical areas like flexibility, strength, balance, stamina and joint health, including relief for people with arthritis. It also has mental health benefits, including stress reduction, body awareness, improved sleep, self-confidence and relaxation.

Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the teachings and practices of yoga.

Yoga therapists create a personalized and evolving yoga practice that not only addresses illness but works to alleviate suffering in a progressive, non-invasive and complementary manner.

The Most Effective Approach

Managing stress is one of the most important ways to decrease inflammation and positively affecting long-term health. Unfortunately there is not one magic bullet that reverses stress, but a comprehensive mind-body plan is the most effective approach.

Rosanne Sheinberg, MD, and Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC, direct the Integrative Medicine Center at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Their mission is to help treat both the physical and mental health of their patients in order to manage the brain and how it contributes to symptoms of stress.

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