- Deep breathes – How many of us actually sit down and take the time to breathe in and use the full capacity of our lungs? Really draw in that air until you can’t any more. Deep breathing can calm you down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Here are my tips for deep breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable position, cross-legged or in a chair.
- Straighten your back for easier breathing.
- Close your eyes as it helps you focus on your breaths
- Inhale slowly through the nose
- Take five seconds to fill the lower part of the lungs, by expanding the ribs and pushing the abdomen out.
- Concentrate on filling the top of the lungs for the next five seconds. This will expand the chest and tighten the abdomen slightly.
- Hold the breath for 1-5 seconds.
- Exhale slowly through the mouth until you have emptied the lungs.
- Repeat 5-10 times
- Calming teas – Who doesn’t like tea? There are so many options to choose from and they all have health benefits. When you are running around with anxiety over buying the perfect gifts, instead of grabbing this seasons festive drink filled with caffeine and sugar (which only add to anxiety) a lot of coffee shops carry herbals teas, so grab a chamomile or a peppermint tea instead. These herbs are anxiolytics meaning they decrease anxiety.
- Exercise – What a great way to let out built up anger, frustrations and other emotions that are causing you stress. Sports like kickboxing, running and lifting weights are great for this. Other, more calming forms of exercise include yoga and Tai chi.
- Journal – Similar to exercise, journaling is a great outlet to release emotions. It allows you to reflect on the events of the day by writing down the roller-coaster of emotions you may have experienced, and gaining insight into your daily moods and behaviours. It allows for problem solving which can reduce stress, and can enhance self-esteem, which is important for mental health. Tip: journaling doesn’t have to be perfect, just start writing, no need to edit your thoughts and feelings, just get them out.
- Make time for yourself – You are running around trying to do everything and for everyone. But you won’t be much use to anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. Invest in yourself and don’t feel guilty for it. Stick to your hobbies, schedule a time to read, listen to music or take a bath, and the quality of everything you do afterwards will be better because of it.
- Try acupuncture – Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system causing the release of neurochemicals that have biochemical effects on the body and mind, to better your overall well being.
- Spend time, not money – One of the biggest stresses of the season is around money. A lot of people would prefer spending valuable time with you instead of receiving a gift. Spend time by going for walks in nature, or having tea together. Cities always have free events going on that you can partake in and have a lot of fun with, such as ice-skating, and music festivals.
- Help out your host - Constricted eating habits such as food allergies or sensitivities, can weigh on your mind when you are invited for a holiday meal. Some of your thoughts include “what am I going to eat!” or “I don’t want to be a burden”, and although most hosts don’t mind accommodating, it is nice to help them out. It reduces the stress for you and them. If you have constricted eating, let them know ahead of time so that they can prepare for you, bring a dish so there will be at least one thing you can eat, and don’t arrive hungry; fill up a little before you go as it is likely you won’t be able to eat every dish that is offered.
- Reduce caffeine and sugar - It is well known that these two ingredients can add to an agitated state, so try to keep these to a minimum.
- Meditate – Try to be quiet and present in the moment (I know, easier said than done). Start with 5 minutes a day if you can, if not, try a minute and just work your way up. You tube is a great place to start! This short Guided Meditation will help to get you started:
The holiday season is upon us; it’s crazy how it just sneaks up like that! So much so that it is a week before Christmas and you haven’t started your shopping, your annual family holiday cards are still in a box waiting to be signed, sealed and delivered, and don’t forget that holiday potluck or two…. what to bring?! The little stressors of the season add up and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and ready to take a vacation after your Christmas vacation. Here are some ways to minimize the stress and help you through the holidays.
This blog post comes from guest writer, Dr. Alison Chen, ND. If you are new to naturopathic medicine, Dr. Chen explains what you can expect from our services. Enjoy!
VISITING YOUR FAMILY MEDICAL DOCTOR IS NOT the same as seeing a Naturopathic doctor (ND). The medical models of care that MDs and NDs use to treat their patients can be very different. MDs tend to focus on reactive healthcare; utilizing pharmaceutical prescriptions or surgeries when appropriate. Reactive healthcare is imperative in emergent, life threatening or severe physical injuries or poisonings. We need Medical doctors for this type of care.
However this type of medicine supports our current reactive healthcare system and puts a massive burden on our hospitals and emergency departments.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) on the other hand are primary care physicians who specialize in preventative healthcare, chronic disease management and optimal living strategies. We are detectives for your health, combining your history, symptoms, lab tests and physical examinations to understand the patterns of imbalance.
Where reactive care can no longer safely suppress symptoms or cut out a diseased organ, we can provide empowering lifestyle changes to reverse the cause of distress and improve quality of life. We give patients back autonomy and responsibility for their health.
But this is more challenging than we thought. Lifestyle changes take time and effort. Unfortunately, many people are not ready for this.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is the merging of Western science with Eastern traditional philosophies to promote healing of the whole person (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) from the root of the issue.
The body is capable of healing itself given the proper support and removing obstacles to heal. Naturopathic doctors call this the vis – the body’s innate ability to cure and maintain homeostasis (balance). The vis is the foundation for the 6 Naturopathic principles:
Naturopathic medicine is founded upon medical sciences. NDs take great pride in studying Western medicine and applying the science of natural remedies to heal the body:
With all of our tools, most patients of Naturopathic doctors will tell you there is nothing more valuable than having someone listen to you with an empathetic ear and give you actionable and practical health advice to build into your daily life. Nowhere else can you find an evidence-based practitioner with extensive safe and effective tools who practice patient-focused healthcare.
Naturopathic doctors pride themselves on their high standards of patient quality care, medical responsibilities and ethical conduct.
Who are Naturopathic Doctors?
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are also sometimes referred to as Naturopathic medical doctors (NMDs). Regardless of their title, make sure they have a license displayed in their office from one of the following accredited medical schools:
Having this license ensures that the ND has the following education:
Some health practitioners call themselves “Naturopaths” or even “Naturopathic doctors” without this extensive training. Even if they are effective at what they do, remember that they are not primary care physicians.
Accredited Naturopathic doctors are regulated by a governing body for the public’s safety. Always ask about the education of your doctor before booking in your first appointment.
Because Naturopathic doctors work synergistically with MDs, I don’t encourage an either/ or approach. Our skills compliment each other. Having both an ND and an MD who can work together to provide holistic medical health care is ideal.
How Should I Choose My ND?
What Can I Expect From an Initial Visit?
How Should I Prepare for My First Visit?
It’s important to enter your ND appointment with an open mind. Many patients have seen multiple practitioners without success. Naturopathic doctors are different. We are evidence-based practitioner with extensive safe and effective tools who practice patient-focused healthcare. We have a holistic approach and empower our patients to take back control of their health.
Your health is a process and a journey. It requires your time and effort to get the greatest results for preventative medicine. You are worth the time, energy and commitment.
About the Author
After graduating from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) Dr. Chen decided on a different path. Armed with her education, she ventured to Asia in an attempt to continue her learning and merge Western medicine with the wisdom of Eastern traditional philosophy for stress reduction, elimination of chronic pain and increased vitality. Trained in a wide variety of areas ranging from primary care assessment and lifestyle counseling to acupuncture and botanical medicine, Alison believes that the path to healing comes from within and requires viewing the body as a whole.
We’ve all heard of the immune system; that very important invisible part of the body that makes it so that we don’t have to live inside of a bubble. Because it is invisible to us, we often forget that we have one, we take it’s powers for granted, and we push it to the max…especially this time of year when stress is high and bacteria and viruses are lurking everywhere waiting for us to let down our guard. It’s not until we are laid out in bed coughing, sneezing, aching, sweating that we say “maybe I could have done a little more to prevent this”. As a ND I’m all about prevention, so here are some of the best every day ways to aid your immune system and prevent yourself from getting sick. How many of these are you doing on a daily basis?
#1 Hygiene – wash your hands! This cannot be stressed enough. This is the best-known way to prevent you from transferring bacteria and viruses to yourself and to others. It’s inevitable that we have to touch things that are contaminated; in the words of Jimmy Fallon: “Thank you, bathroom doorknob, for undoing everything bathroom soap just did”! However, a little soap and water can go along way, and since we do come in contact with surfaces teaming with microbes – door knobs, railings, every square inch of the bus, try not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth as these are the perfect gateways for microbes to gain entry into your body.
#2 Catch those Z’s – Sleep! Listen to your body when it tells you it needs to rest. No, this does not mean lying in bed looking at your phone, watching TV, or even reading, this is still not resting. When we sleep this is a time of recovery for our bodies, and when you are exhausted its your body telling you it needs more time to regenerate. Not getting enough sleep can suppress the immune system by lowering our T-cells, an important white blood cell that can destroy cells that are inhabited with germs, and help other immune cells to ingest germs, overall decreasing your chances of getting sick.
#3 Don’t sweat the small stuff – Stress! I know, easier said than done, especially this time of year as we head into the holidays filled with worries of what to buy for our family and friends, how to pay for those gifts, eating way more than we were planning on…the list goes on. But it’s a little known fact that stress can lower our immune system as cortisol, the “stress hormone”, rises. Cortisol’s ability to block T-cells from doing their job ultimately leaves you susceptible to infection. So what to do about that stress? Some great ways to relax and recharge include: exercising, spending time in nature, journaling, calling to talk to a friend, reading, or listening to music. Overall, try not to get so caught up in the hustle of the holiday season that you forget to take time for your own needs.
#4 Eat Healthy foods. These include foods that you can find on the outside perimeter of your local grocery store; organic fresh fruits and vegetables, grass fed local meats, whole grains such as quinoa, and brown rice, nuts and seeds. Not packaged foods that you typically find in the center isles. Processed foods contain sugar, high amounts of salt, artificial flavours, colours and ingredients that you just can’t pronounce. You want to give your body a fighting chance by feeding it healthily with foods that it recognizes and can use to build it better and stronger.
Eating healthy includes avoiding your food sensitivities as they weigh heavily on your body’s ability to defend itself from invaders. Take me for example, my food sensitivity is gluten. I know when I have been “glutened” because not only do I feel as though my brain is trying to navigate through fog, I get a tickle in my throat and that feeling of weakness you get right before getting sick. Many times (especially during my school days of high intensity stress) I have easily caught a cold within the days following a gluten experience. So, to be on the safe side it is important to recognize and stay away from your sensitivities.
Also limit your sugar and alcohol intake. I know, your eyeballs are rolling right now, what are the holidays without spiked eggnog and fruit cake!? But alcohol can increase cortisol, and sugar has an osmotic effect on the throat and mouth meaning it attracts water from the cells lining this area, damaging them.
#5 Fluids – Stay hydrated. The best way to keep your mucus membranes wet during this very dry season is with water or herbal tea. Keeping a water bottle handy or sipping on warm teas such as ginger or Echinacea are great at making sure all of your body’s functions are supported, including your immune system. Considering drinking soups and broths (preferably from scratch!), and avoid juice and drinks high in sugar.
Incorporating these methods on a daily basis can help to ensure that you are giving your immune system a fighting chance this season!
If you want more health tips and tricks please feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or sign up for my Monthly Newsletter for more health education!
Godfrey, A. (2005) Deep Immunity: Understanding your body’s immune system
I am an Edmonton, Alberta Naturopathic Doctor with a desire to help others, a passion for life, a heart for nature, and a curiosity to try new things!
This blog is not intended to give specific medical advice. Always seek the recommendations of a qualified healthcare professional for your specific health needs.