Stress Less and Discover Your Inner Superhero
We love to talk about it. It’s the “S” word I hear the most in my practice. It spares no one and it comes in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s at work, about money or at home, IT is usually present.
S.T.R.E.S.S is a six-letter word that evokes negative feelings for most. But did you know, that stress is a healthy response to an otherwise unhealthy situation? The body’s stress response is an evolutionary process that we have adapted to cope with perceived threats or danger.
Stress can come in physical, chemical or emotional forms and can involve a recent change or a daily pressure. It can be motivating and productive or negative and destructive. Chronic stress will eventually affect all of us physically. Tension, pain, anxiety, depression and illness are frequent negative consequences of stress.
Women are socialized to be the caretakers of others. More women than men have a career outside the home and continue to juggle traditional responsibilities after hours. Women find it harder to say no to others’ requests and often feel guilty if they can’t please everyone. We often spend more time nurturing the emotional and physical needs of others at the expense our own needs. Women are Superheroes, but even Wonder Woman knows that an apple a day is not enough to keep the doctor away.
Get in touch with your innate balance and fight the negative effects of daily stress by incorporating the following tips into your daily routine:
Diaphragmatic Breathing- Deep, belly breathing is a fine art that is lost in adults, but one you can retrain with practice. Children and babies naturally breathe using their bellies. Diaphragmatic breathing ensures slow, deep, regular breaths that help with stressful situations and anxiousness. Improper breathing techniques can contribute to neck, chest and back pain.
- Lie down on your back or sit upright. Slouching decreases the capacity of your lungs to fill with air. If sitting, take the weight off your shoulders by supporting your arms with armrests or on your lap. If lying down, place your arms by your side with the palms facing up.
- Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds). Relax the neck and chest and focus on letting the belly rise.
- Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds
- Exhale slowly through the mouth (for about 4 seconds)
- Wait a few seconds before taking another breath. Repeat this process 10-20 times.
- Begin to incorporate belly breathing into your normal breathing during usual every day activities.
Sitting- Improper sitting while at work is the most common cause of neck and back pain.
- Avoid low back pain by adjusting your chair so it supports your lumbar spine. More importantly, ensure you are using your chair properly and sit with your lumbar spine against the back of your chair.
- Try using a footrest instead of crossing your legs while sitting. Using a footrest changes the hip angle and will ensure you sit with your lower back supported against the backrest. This creates less work for your body while sitting and less of a need to fidget with your legs.
Pelvic tilt- The key to improving your posture and keeping the body balanced while moving efficiently starts with pelvic alignment.
- Stand with feet about 6 inches apart. Put your thumb on your belly button and cough. Notice how your lower abs contract and your pelvis shifts. Your waistline tips horizontally and is parallel to the ground when you engage your abs. (Think of your pelvis as a bowl of soup―if you tilt it too far forward or back, the soup will spill.)
- Don’t clench your glutes while doing this exercise. Just isolate and work your lower abs. It should feel like you’re doing a crunch except that you are standing up.
- By keeping your abs engaged when you walk, you prevent your pelvis from shifting side to side, which puts extra stress on your pelvis and lumbar spine.
Handbag syndrome- Don’t get carried away with poor purse ergonomics! Big purses mean extra weight, which leads to increased neck, shoulder and arm pain.
- Handbags, shoulder bags and laptop bags should not weigh more than 10-15% of your body weight.
- Shoulder straps should be wide, adjustable and padded if possible. Poorly designed shoulder straps can dig into muscles and strain nerves.
- Avoid carrying purses at the elbow. The extra strain can cause elbow problems and pinching of nerves to the wrist and hand.
- When carrying a purse, be sure to alternate shoulders frequently to avoid undue strain.
These tips are just a few solutions to allow the body to cope with the postural stressors we face in a day rather than succumb to injury and illness. The mind and body are directly linked and stress reduction must be seen as a whole body approach. Body awareness and active health engagement inform us of our emotional and physical needs and limits before we lose our balance and our health becomes compromised. Start today and unleash your inner Superhero!
Dr. Sasha Hamid is a Chiropractor at the ByWard Chiropractic Clinic and Massage Therapy Centre. Dr. Hamid has been a proud member of the WBN since 2009 and is the current Chair of the Membership Committee. She was voted 2012 National Capital Fit Day People’s Choice for Best Chiropractor. Dr. Hamid is an advocate for healthy and active living and frequently lectures within Ottawa on a variety of wellness based strategies. www.bywardchiropractic.com