Flourishing Through the Ups and Downs of Life: Personal Stewardship Practices from 3 Key Wellness Categories

 

August 19, 2017

In the last article, we left off with the fact that decades of lifestyle medicine research has scientifically proven that a large portion of our overall physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is related to how we eat, how we sleep, how we move, and how we cope with stress.

 

So, in this article, we want to explore a few of those key categories and leave you with a powerhouse practice that you can implement today. 

 

Sleep

 

In addition to its impact on mood, low sleep...

 

  • increases whole-body inflammation

  • suppresses the immune system

  • causes powerful food cravings

  • increases fat storage

  • muddles our thinking

  • increases our risk for accidents and disease

 

...to name just a few of the negative consequences. 

 

As a culture, we simply aren't sleeping enough. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

 

“Getting enough sleep is not a luxury—it is something people need for good health”.

 

The CDC goes as far as to say that "insufficient sleep is an important public health concern".

 

Now, the fact that we need sleep isn’t new information, but it’s worth mentioning because we often need to hear something several times before it really sinks in.

 

Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Getting a healthy amount of sleep improves quality of life, productivity, and energy but is also linked to the reduced likelihood for hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer.

 

We encourage you to create a sleep-building regimen that works for you and meet with your medical provider to seek solutions to medical barriers to getting a good night’s sleep.  

 

Movement

 

When we say “movement”, we are not necessarily referring to exercise. We are talking about how much you actually move throughout the day—that is, baseline activity.

 

Baseline activity is absolutely essential due to the known link between physical inactivity and serious illness—often referred to as Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS).

 

Sedentary muscles release inflammatory factors that are associated with cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, accelerated aging, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and so on.

 

When we move our muscles, they release anti-inflammatory factorsMuscles in motion promote health. There is benefit with any increase in activity.

 

At PHA, we’re big fans of wearing pedometers because they give us an objective measure of activity.  We consider 6,000-10,000 steps per day to be a good foundation for baseline movement.

 

Once you’ve got a good baseline, it’s beneficial to layer in exercise. Exercise has to do more with increasing your performance from a strength, flexibility, speed, and endurance standpoint.

 

This kind of activity contributes to...

 

  • increased energy

  • a brighter outlook on life

  • help with weight loss/maintenance

  • less pain

  • stronger muscles

  • increased metabolism

  • improved insulin sensitivity

  • fewer incidences of serious disease

  • stronger bones

  • better balance

  • longer life

 

In fact, Dr. Robert N. Butler, Director of the National Institute on Aging says,

 

“If exercise could be packed in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

 

We gain tremendous health benefits from having an adequate baseline physical activity level, however, these benefits increase with endurance exercise and strength training.

 

Stress

 

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in our body. It can...

 

  • raise blood pressure,

  • suppress the immune system,

  • increase the risk of heart attack and stroke,

  • contribute to infertility, and

  • speed up the aging process.

 

It has also been known to cause or exacerbate...

 

  • pain

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • digestive problems

  • autoimmune diseases

  • skin conditions (such as eczema) 

 

The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on us.

 

We get used to it. It starts to feel familiar – even normal. 

 

Over time, this insidious process can be lethal.

 

Because of the widespread damage excess stress can cause, it’s important to know one’s limit. The definition of “too much stress” differs from person to person.

 

Our ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including

 

  • the quality of our relationships

  • our general outlook on life

  • our past experiences

  • whether or not our basic needs are being met (for food, water, shelter, safety)

  • genetics

 

It’s important to learn how to recognize when our stress levels are out of control. 

 

The most common signs and symptoms of stress overload are poor concentration and memory, a lack of joy, a negative outlook on life, a wide variety of physical symptoms, and negative behavior changes.

 

The bottom line is this: there’s a good chance that we’re experiencing too much stress if we don’t feel emotionally or physically well.

 

Situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. Stressors are typically divided into two categories; internal and external

 

External stressors are events and circumstances, while internal stressors relate to our thoughts and our perceptions and our interpretation of events.

 

Our ability to cope with stress stems in large part from our internal mindsets and attitudes.

 

By cultivating practices  such as...

 

  • mindfulness

  • meditation

  • relaxation exercises

  • reflective time alone 

  • gratitude

  • positivity 

 

...we can build resources that help us to flourish.

 

We may or may not be able to eliminate specific external stressors, but by nurturing these practices, we steadily expand our internal stores of resilience.

 

Take a Step

 

Incorporating personal stewardship practices into our lives is a constantly evolving process and the best thing we can do is take small, consistent steps in the right direction.

 

In the last article, we asked some reflective questions and offered a brief quiz. What were your answers?

 

Based on your lowest score, consider implementing one of the following suggestions:

 

  • Sleep: Develop a sleep-building regimen. Name one thing you think you could adjust in your routine to optimize sleep and commit to doing it for the next three to four weeks. See how it goes.

 

  • Movement: Develop a healthy baseline activity level of 6,000 steps per day. Consider purchasing a pedometer and discover your baseline daily rate. You might be surprised. In our experience, most people believe they’re more active than they actually are. Consider asking a friend to join you for a daily walk of 20-30 minutes.

 

  • Stress: Incorporate one of the resilience-building practices. For example, begin and end each day with five minutes of genuine, thoughtful reflection on things about which you are thankful.

 

But you could also begin by incorporating an activity—a wellness powerhouse—that hits not one, but all three categories mentioned today.

 

A Wellness Powerhouse

 

Yoga is a powerhouse personal stewardship practice.

 

The most obvious benefits are physical—flexibility, strength, endurance and cardiovascular health to name a few.

 

But it’s also packed with resilience-building tools that reduce the effects of stress, such as meditation and mindfulness training, and has been shown to improve sleep.

 

Through the physical postures, movements, and mental focus, yoga induces the relaxation response, a physiological change in the body that counters the negative consequences of the body’s stress response.

 

Taking advantage of this rich resource by developing a new yoga practice, or reviving an old one, is a great next step. 

 

To give you a simple place to start, our Yoga Wellness Coach, Roxie Sweikar, helped us create a free PDF guide to lead you through 3-5 minutes’ worth of yoga postures beneficial for all experience levels.

 

 

Click here to subscribe for your guide!

Check out the next article where we explore this wellness powerhouse further...

Physicians HolisticHealth Alliance (PHA) is a medical practice dedicated to caring for the whole you. We specialize in equipping people to harness the power of HolisticHealth™—our unique approach to integrative holistic medicine.

 

Our primary medical focus is a whole-person approach to women’s health and pregnancy care. We also provide education and resources for, not just our patients, but men and women throughout the community through our HolisticHealth Services™.  Explore our website or call (574) 273- 3880 for more information.

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