Category Archives: Stress Management

“Do these genes make me look….?”

Dis-ease is a result of the interplay between our genes and our lifestyles, or, perhaps more accurately, our “stress – styles.” We are both susceptible and resistant to a wide variety of diseases, dependent upon our genetic makeup. Researchers who study epigenetics have found, however, that most diseases occur only when susceptible people make lifestyle choices that trigger the expression of a genetic tendency. These diseases include cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes among others.

Dr. Mark Hyman, a Functional Medicine practitioner notes that “What we eat, think, or feel; exercise; stress; toxins in our environment – all of these influence our genetics.” Holistic/integrative practitioners are concerned with preventing disease through lifestyle evaluation and alteration, thus reducing the negative impact of stressful behaviors. Some of the more basic strategies we can employ to reduce both stress and the risk of serious disease include:

•Exercise – daily physical activity is mandatory. Find something you enjoy doing so it won’t be viewed as a chore. Prioritize this as you would any other self-care practice such as brushing your teeth!

•Breath! Walking in nature while being mindful of deep breathing can provide a number of benefits such as fresh air, exercise, and a respite from daily stress.

•Eat a plant-based diet and avoid processed and genetically modified “foods.”

•Drink lots of filtered water and avoid plastic bottles which leach chemicals out of plastic and into your body.

•Learn to manage stress and develop positive attitudes – this requires practice! There are many self-help books, classes, and support groups available to help with this. Remember that life is a process – stay connected to your health goals.

•Consider Wellness Paths for your health and wellness education and coaching! Call for info: 508.862.6395

Burnout and the Professional Caregiver

Professional caregivers, including nurses and social workers, often suffer burnout from becoming overly attached to client outcomes while neglecting their own needs. Taking responsibility for another’s well- being rather than simply providing them with the tools for self-healing is one of the most common causes of professional caregiver burnout.
Other causes of burnout include unrealistic goals – self or other imposed, unrealistic expectations, unreasonable rules, violation of personal values, boredom/lack of challenge, and feeling trapped due to financial concerns. Signs and symptoms include depression, anxiety, cynicism, self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or food, detachment and isolation, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, and irritability.

What can be done? True collaboration with the client, rather than assuming responsibility for their well-being is necessary. Deep listening, genuine caring, authenticity, and providing education and feedback are effective skills that can facilitate your clients’ healing. Also, as the professional caregiver assumes increased responsibility for her/his own health and wellness through deliberate self-care activities, they become a role model for their clients, providing another tool for their self-healing.
Some of the benefits of self-care include the professional becoming more empathetic, authentic, and available to their clients, as their own needs are met. Self-care may include hobbies, vacations, journaling, exercise, meditation/prayer, pleasure reading, improved nutrition, therapy, and time spent in healing environments such as nature.
Burnout is one of many topics covered in an upcoming class “Holistic Care & Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit” which provides 4 CEs for nurses and social workers. Professional caregivers will learn many self-care strategies including stress management that they can apply to their own lives and share with their clients. Registration is now being accepted for a workshop on August 12th at Thirwood Place in So. Yarmouth. For more info call Amanda at 508.862.6395 or register at


Stress Management 101

Woman Receiving Massage at SpaStress management is a basic daily requirement in this age of faster, busier, more competitive, plugged in, and dis-connection. Stress has been defined as any change requiring adaptation by the body-mind. If acute, the fight or flight syndrome kicks in to protect us; if chronic, however, stress hormones lead to disease.

The flight or fight response refers to the state of hyper arousal that occurs with an acute stressor – the perception of danger. While evolutionarily designed for our survival, allowing effective reactions to physical threats, its overuse, due to thought patterns which continuously perceive threat, leads to chronic stress with resultant negative health effects.

Stress hormones, released into the blood stream during a real or perceived danger cause elevation of blood pressure which can become chronic. Cortisol causes increases blood sugar, making us prone to insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity while depressing the immune system, leaving us prone to a wide variety of diseases.

The science of psychoneuroimmunology demonstrates how our minds and bodies are intimately connected, allowing the immune system to “hear” everything we think. Our beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and values, all of which are often formed and conditioned in childhood, affect the release of stress hormones with their deleterious effects on the immune system. Taking steps to effect positive change through challenging our thoughts and beliefs can reduce our risk of illness. Research has found that some people, scoring high on standard stress rating scales, remain healthy while others succumb to disease. It was discovered that those with a “stress hardy personality” remained healthy due to three attributes which can be developed in all of us: commitment, control, and challenge.

Also, changing one’s attitude can be an enormous benefit to health as we perceive events in a different light. Seeing crisis as opportunity, for example, is a major shift away from the “awfulizing” that often occurs when we perceive events as catastrophic. (Studies have shown that it is the meaning we ascribe to an event that determines our response and our ability to cope.) Other stress reduction techniques include the use of laughter, diet, music, exercise, presence, journaling, “venting,” and massage or bodywork. Stress management, undertaken with these and other techniques, can be quite enjoyable as we learn to decompress while engaging in activities we love!