News/Blog

What Aphasia Looks Like, and What to do About it

Last week we learned about a patient who had Aphasia, and what it was like for him and his family. Each patient is different when it comes to rehabilitation, but every patient can benefit from a family member that is aware of their condition. Aphasia Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn more about this condition. When a patient experiences damage to the parts of the brain where language occurs, we call this “aphasia.” Aphasia can cause a person to lose their abilities to process language, be it in expression or comprehension.  Most often, the left side of the brain is the one responsible for aphasia and causes the affected person to encounter difficulties with speech and comprehension.

Many of our aphasia patients are stroke survivors. Although things like brain tumors and traumatic brain injury can also be responsible, stroke is most-often the culprit for the language struggles that we help our patients work through.

Common symptoms of aphasia:

Patients with aphasia often display issues with both comprehension and expression.

When most of the problems lie in the comprehension or reception of language, this is often classified as “Wernicke’s Aphasia.” While a sufferer can sometimes pick up on the melody or cadence of a sentence (determining if it’s a command or question, for example), they might have problems understanding the specific words that are being said. Since a person’s vocabulary is housed in the left side of the brain, understanding of words can sometimes be affected, as well as the concept of stringing words together to form a full thought.

When the issues mostly lie in the survivor’s ability to express themselves, it usually falls under the category of “Broca’s Aphasia.” In this case, the symptoms are more outwardly visible, as the patient struggles greatly with speech and the construction of sentences. Aphasia, in this case, can present itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes a patient will create something that sounds like a sentence, but is comprised of gibberish-like words. Other times, they might be able to get out enough words to get an idea across, but leave out small connecting words like “the” or “and.” When all areas of language are hindered, it is referred to as “global aphasia.”

Support

The range of symptoms that can occur during aphasia is wide and varied, but the factor that stays constant is a need of support. Through the support of family members, friends, and rehabilitative therapists, a person suffering from aphasia has a better chance of getting back on the road to understanding and function.

What can you do?

The word “aphasia” can be intimidating. While it is definitely a serious condition, it is one that can be worked with and, to some degrees, overcome.

Recognize… that aphasia has not affected the patient’s intelligence. It has altered their ability to communicate and understand language, but their personality, memories, and knowledge remains. Remembering that the same person you’ve always known resides behind this communication disorder can be grounding and encouraging.

Take the time… to learn your suffering family member’s struggles and specific communicative needs. After a period of routine, you’ll be able to discern how to understand and communicate with your loved one, bringing a sense of comfort and progress to the both of you.

Create… an environment that is conducive to focus and treatment. When a person has difficulty understanding the simplest of words, even the simplest of distractions can be a deterrent to progress. Eliminate extra sounds and excessive visual stimulations, so that your loved one can focus on the task at hand. Simplifying your questions to yes/no and slowing down your rate of speech can encourage success.

Explore… different methods of therapy. Sometimes drawing, writing, and even the encouragement of socialization can stimulate progress in a stroke survivor’s language. It is important to keep communication with your loved one’s therapist open so that you can learn about techniques that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

We understand that recovery is a process that can take its toll on not only the patient but their support systems as well. To alleviate some of the pressure, we encourage you to seek help from rehabilitative professionals, Speech-language pathologists being an ideal option, to make this process as successful as possible.

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Utah Valley Specialty Hospital encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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How Men Handle Stress

Everyone deals with some stress, and we can sometimes shrug it off as just being part of day-to-day living. But dealing with too much stress has become a serious issue for a lot of men, who can experience several serious health issues as a result. Here’s a look at the dangers of stress, but also healthy ways to deal with it.

Stress and its Dangers

Stress is hardly a modern phenomenon; our ancient ancestors found it helpful for prompting fight-or-flight responses that came in handy when dealing with the physical dangers of their day. While that sort of response isn’t usually necessary in today’s world, it’s still an instinctual part of us, releasing hormones that trigger an increased heart rate and breathing, constricted blood vessels, and the tightening of muscles. And that’s what stress is all about, which in turn is linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • A weakened immune system
  • And a variety of other issues, such as insomnia, depression, and fatigue. 

How to Deal With Stress

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal with the natural responses of stress. Your mental outlook is part of it, but so are things you can do physically that will help relieve stress and prevent it from becoming a hazard to your health.

1. Exercise

There’s not much that exercise won’t cure, and that certainly applies to stress. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that can give you a sense of ease and contentment, plus it removes you from the place/situation of stress and worry. Moreover, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within the next five years. And that’s not to mention the positive effects exercise has on your physical health.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Some things, like bad weather, can cause stress, but they’re things that you have no control over. Accept the things you can’t change but look for ways to make the best of your circumstances. Spend a rainy day reading, or go outside and play in the snow like you did as a kid.

3. First Things First

Determine your most important tasks of the day and tackle those first. Those are usually the things that cause the most stress, and saving them for later, when you may not be as physically or mentally sharp as you were earlier in the day, can create undue stress. 

4. Laugh

When you continually treat stress with the over-serious attitude, chances are you’re only going to make it worse. It’s OK to laugh it off instead of getting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and potentially defuse the situation.

5. Avoid Stressful Situations

Recent studies show that men’s stress levels rise significantly in situations such as traffic jams. If possible, figure out different routes, or time your driving to avoid rush hour. Similarly, shop at times when stores are less crowded and spend less time with people who aggravate you.

6. Schedule Wisely

Stress is usually a consequence when you over-schedule yourself or have a hard time saying no. Only take on what you can handle, and always give yourself time to finish the things you’ve promised to get done.

7. Deal With Stress Directly

A sure way to build stress is to do nothing about it. Deal directly, and quickly, with the cause of your tension. If you’re having problems at work, talk to your boss about possible solutions. If you have a noisy neighbor, talk to them rather than simmering in your stress.

8. Meditate

Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is the positive affect it has on dealing with stress. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in contemplation to help clear your mind. Yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are other great ways to cut the tension.

9. Savor Victories

Do something nice for yourself if you finish a major project or meet a personal goal. No matter what you choose, it’s important to celebrate before moving on to the next big task.

10. Be Positive

Having a negative outlook can turn minor annoyances into major ones. Try to always look at the sunny side of things instead.

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Advantages of Adding Walking to Your Routine

With the temperatures beginning to rise slowly, and the sun showing its face for longer each day, there couldn’t be a better time to start a new exercise plan.

This doesn’t mean that you have to begin a rigorous weight-lifting regimen or start training for a marathon; it simply means that you’ve got more opportunities to get your body moving and breathe in some revitalizing fresh air.

One of the best ways to get active without causing too much stress or taking a large chunk of time out of your day is to go for a walk. The benefits of walking extend far beyond weight loss, and can contribute to significantly raising your quality of life.

Lift your mood.

Going for a walk, especially outside, is a great way to boost your spirits. Once you step out your front door, you’re improving your quality of life… even before you start your walk. The energizing effects of clean, fresh air coupled with the Vitamin D boost that comes from being out in the sunlight have been known to have revitalizing results.

Endorphins, the pain-blocking hormones that can sometimes produce a euphoric effect, are also released during exercise, making walking a low-impact way to experience those “feel good” chemicals.

Burn calories.

If weight loss is your goal, walking (in addition to healthy diet changes) is a fantastic way to burn calories and work toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. The amount of calories you burn will depend on your weight and speed, but the general rule of thumb states that a 160-pound adult is likely to burn 100 calories per mile.

Improve your overall health.

When it comes to exercise, there are, of course, more strenuous options than others. Fitness classes, jogging, and weightlifting, while different, all have at least one important thing in common: the benefit of movement.

When you get your body moving on a regular basis, you get to enjoy the benefits of better circulation, strengthened bones, and improved balance and coordination. This movement also supports the prevention and management of certain diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Socialize while you exercise.

Because walking is an exercise that can be done at your own pace, it has the potential to be a fun social activity as well as a way to improve your health. Try getting a group of friends together a few times a week for walking; you’ll be able to catch up with each other and get your body moving, all at the same time. An additional benefit to walking with other people is the accountability factor: there’s a better chance that you’ll stick to your exercise plan if you have others depending on you. Boosting your energy levels, mood, and social life? That’s definitely an exercise win/win.

As always…

Walking is typically a very low-impact exercise option for those who are just beginning in the world of exercise or who have physical restrictions that keep them from other activities. This doesn’t mean, however, that a walking regimen is right for everyone. If you have concerns or questions about the way a walking plan can benefit or affect your life, please talk to your doctor. Together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan that gets you moving and directs you toward better health.

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Which Workout Routine Works for You?

We all understand the importance of exercise for our health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. But, it can be easy to put off an exercise routine or to get into a rut. The changing of the seasons is a great time to incorporate new activities into your exercise regimen and try some exercises that you might not have considered.

With any start or change into an exercise regimen, it’s important to consult with your physician to make sure the changes you make will help and not hurt you. Below, we share some activities to help change up your workout routine, as well as some things to keep in mind to stay safe!

YARD WORK/GARDENING:

The growing grass and weeds of the season can be an excellent opportunity to get some extra exercise. The action of mowing not only provides an excellent cardio workout, but it also helps to build up muscles in the arms that might not normally get as much attention. Taking time to take the weeds out of your yard can be satisfying, relaxing, and be a great source of exercise to your core and arms.

Things to keep in mind: Make sure you’re mowing safely. Take breaks often, and make sure you stay hydrated. Mowing or weeding your yard can strain your back, making it a priority to listen to your body while doing this our back safe and allow you to still get a good workout. Make sure that you keep your body square as you reach for the weeds, and never reach behind to pull weeds. This will also help to protect your back and spine from injury.

WALKING/RUNNING:

If you have not tried walking or running, you’re in for a treat. It’s a great opportunity to burn some calories and enjoy being outside in the fresh air. Walking and running are also great ways to keep your back and spine healthy and strong, especially for those that have a job that requires you to sit throughout the day. To help give your calorie burn an extra boost, try running or walking in intervals: start at a comfortable speed for a minute or two, and then go faster for 30 seconds to a minute.

Things to keep in mind: Proper shoes will help protect your feet and spine, so choose to invest in a good pair. Practice proper running form to keep your body healthy as you exercise: keep your back and head straight, and keep your arms loose at a 90-degree angle. Don’t “pound” the pavement, but let your feet hit in the middle and then roll to the toes. You can also protect your knees by sticking to a pace that is within your range and gradually working up to faster speeds.

YOGA:

Yoga is one of our favorite exercise routines to help rehabilitate the body after a week of strengthening and cardio workouts. Yoga not only promotes stretching, strengthening, and flexibility, it also improves balance and coordination and helps to release any stress or tension. You will be surprised to see the results you gain from just one class/session a week.

Things to keep in mind: While yoga tends to be rehabilitative in nature, be careful not to overdo it. If you can’t complete a position correctly, consider using a yoga block to help you until you’re ready.

CYCLING:

Indoor and outdoor cycling has gained momentum as a fun way to get a heart-pumping workout. It also helps to take some pressure off the knees, which can be a downside to running. After one spin class, you’ll be surprised to see how many calories you have burned.

Things to keep in mind: As with walking and running, it’s important not to overdo it too soon. Part of what makes cycling such a great workout is that it boosts your heart rate very quickly. Work int a more rapid pace gradually, giving your body time to adjust. You also want to practice proper form: avoid “hunching” your shoulders as you hold the handlebars. It can put unwanted pressure on the neck and back.

KETTLEBELLS:

Kettlebells are another workout that has begun to gain popularity. One reason so many people like working with kettlebells is their diversity of use and exercises, and that they provide both a cardio and strength workout.

Things to keep in mind: As with any strength routine, it’s important to practice proper form. Make sure your feet are square, shoulder-width apart. Keep your head, neck, and back in line to avoid any problems. Stay within your weight limit and gradually work up to the heavier kettlebells.

The value of changing up your workouts is that it not only gets you out of rut but also helps your body exercise and stretch different muscles that you haven’t been working. As you try new and different classes and exercises, you’re likely to find something new that you love and enjoy.

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Making a Fitness Plan for You

Whether you’re beginning a therapy routine or revamping your New Year’s Resolution, the truth is the same across the board: exercise is beneficial. Exercise is good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles, and your mind. It contributes to better lifelong health and self-esteem. It’s simply a good idea all around, as long as you approach it the right way.

Exercise covers a broad landscape of options. From jogging or weight lifting to swimming or walking, there are many opportunities to find both what you love and what you should avoid.

FOCUS ON YOU.

The world of exercise and fitness can be full of expectations and deceptive successes. An exercise plan or nutritional change may have worked wonders for a celebrity or family member, but that doesn’t mean it’ll do the same for you. It’s important to isolate your needs and preferences and create an exercise plan that will complement your lifestyle.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.

Talking to your doctor before you start a new exercise plan is always a good idea. This can help prevent negative outcomes and help you achieve more satisfying results. Not only can a doctor tell you what to avoid to prevent injury, but they can also offer exercise suggestions based on your height and weight. This expertise will assist you in being as successful as possible in your endeavors.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. The exercise options available nowadays are practically endless. If you enjoy working out in solitude, walking or jogging can provide some much-needed alone time. If dancing is a favorite activity, try a dance-based workout like Zumba or Jazzercise. Many gyms offer a variety of weight-lifting options, and water-based activities like swimming or water aerobics provide a low-impact workout for people with weak knees or other limiting conditions.

If you can’t afford the gym, or simply aren’t interested in going to one, purchasing a workout DVD or streaming exercise videos online can provide you instruction within the comfort of your home.

SET REALISTIC GOALS.

Be kind to yourself. Remember the fact that any exercise is usually better than no exercise, and that you’re probably not going to be able to run 10 miles right off the bat. Setting impossible goals or unrealistic expectations often leads to failure. Finding a fitness partner or family member who can help motivate you can be extremely helpful, especially in times of discouragement.

Talking to your doctor is a good way to get a realistic view of what you can accomplish based on your current physical ability.

NOURISH YOUR BODY.

If a healthy lifestyle is your goal, then an exercise plan must be paired with a healthy diet. Filling your body full of sugar and saturated fats will counteract the progress you’re making and can produce discouraging results. This, however, does not mean that you need to deprive yourself. Simply eating more fruits and vegetables while cutting down on rich and sugary foods will not only help you to feel better but will also provide your body with the necessary nutrients that it needs to carry out your exercise plan.

Proper nutrition during exercise is another great reason to talk with your doctor before you begin, as he or she will be able to counsel you on a diet that is right for you.

If you’ve come to the decision to adjust to a more healthy lifestyle, you’re already on the right path. Remember to drink plenty of water, be aware of your abilities and limits, and ask for help if you’re unsure of the right course of action.

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The Best Way to Make Goals

We would be hard pressed to find one person who can honestly say that he or she has kept every New Year’s resolution they have made. That’s because resolutions tend to be broad, general wishes rather than planned, attainable targets. 

The month before the summer season is a great time to recommit to your resolutions and make them into thoughtfully planned goals. Preparing for your goals is the best way to equip yourself to achieve them. We’ve listed a few tips that will help your goals be more attainable and realistic. 

FOUR AREAS FOR GOAL SETTING

  • Nutrition. Many people use the turning of the New Year to try a new diet; however, most of these diets don’t make it past January. That’s because they are often based on gimmicks and promises of quick results. If you truly want to make lasting changes in your health levels, first speak with your doctor(s) about what is safe for your current health status. Then, look for a wellness program that emphasizes a well-balanced nutrition plan appropriate for you. Starting a food journal, or using a food logging app can help you stay on track. Summer is a great time to find fresh fruits and vegetables and learn creative ways to prepare them.
  • Fitness. After nutrition goals, the second most common goal for the New Year are fitness goals. In January, it’s easy to believe that you can dive into a high intensity workout time that requires a hefty time commitment. Although it’s good to challenge yourself, statistically you’re more likely to keep up with your commitment if you choose to set your goal as something that’s only a step above what you’re already doing. For example, if you don’t usually do any physical activity it may be realistic to make your goal to take a 15-minute walk every day instead of signing up for your local HIIT Training Class 5 times a week. As the weather is warming up, try something that you would enjoy outdoors.
  • Emotional. Most of us can make a point to try to be less stressed, however, without a plan this goal can actually make us more stressed. Whether you decide to start a journal or take up walking, make sure that the solution is something that can realistically fit into your schedule regardless of your season of life. Emotional goals can give you the opportunity to “bundle” your other goals. If cooking or walking serve as a tool for your relaxation, you’re not only fulfilling your emotional goals but also your fitness and nutrition goals. 

Your goals might not fall into any of the categories listed above, but that doesn’t mean that the same methods don’t apply. The strategy is the same for whatever goal you set – make a detailed plan with specific steps, set a realistic timeframe (for realistic goals), and stick to a deadline. And perhaps the most important of all is to get others involved. Have close friends, family, and or colleagues help keep you accountable. 

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Taking Steps to a Calming Routine

Patients from all walks of life come through the doors of UVSH, and we get the extreme privilege of experiencing their varying personalities, hopes, fears, and knowledge. While the differences are always distinct, we have noticed that there is at least one factor that is common among the lot: stress.

Whether the stress is minor or extreme, it’s a feeling we see written on the faces of team members and patients alike. Last week we talked about Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress, and one of our tips was creating a calming routine. The following tips can be incorporated into anyone’s routine, and may help relieve a stressful schedule.

Nourish Your Body

“Stress-eating” is a term that gets heard more and more these days, and is a sneaky pitfall when it comes to taking care of yourself. A recent study by food scientists at Cornell University has shown that, when experiencing a period of negative emotion, pleasurable foods become even more appealing than usual, and unappealing foods become exponentially more distasteful.

This information makes it even more important to adopt a healthy diet. By planning ahead and making nourishing foods easily accessible, you’ll be better prepared for those times when you’ve had a rough morning, and a box of doughnuts shows up in the hospitality room. The simple act of eating a satisfying, nutrient-packed breakfast can set the atmosphere of your whole day, removing the need to reach for an unhealthy snack.

Making an impulse-eating decision can often cause guilt or physical discomfort later on—which will only further contribute to your stress levels.

Go for a Walk

One of the best ways to ease your mind is to get moving. Exercise triggers the production of endorphins, which are the neurotransmitters in your brain associated with “feeling good.” By focusing your mind on the movement of your body, you’ll be able to give yourself a break from your worries, creating a small, meditative escape from stress. Walking, specifically, is an ideal form of stress relief, as it is more accessible to people of differing athletic abilities. In addition to endorphin production, regular exercise promotes better health and self-esteem, which can drastically decrease stress levels.

Any exercise is an effective way to cope with stress, but it seems to be especially so when it is taken outdoors. Being able to remove yourself from your typical environment and take a few moments to connect with the outside world can be a good way to hit the reset button.

Talk to Someone

Stress can be very overwhelming when faced alone. Finding a close friend, support group, or therapist to share your feelings and fears with can help put your stress in perspective. Whether it’s the very basic act of hearing your feelings out loud or the relief of discovering that you’re not alone, finding a person or group to talk to is a powerful way to bring about some emotional relief.

Find a Healthy Distraction

While analyzing your stress is important and helpful, it’s equally important to give your mind a break. When feelings of anxiety and burden become too overwhelming, a brief, pleasurable escape can allow your body and mind to relax.

In addition to exercise, there are many ways to do this. Finding a new book to read or carving out some time to listen to your favorite music can help release some more of those endorphins and better prepare you to tackle your stress later on.

Be careful, however, to avoid distractions that are harmful, such as drugs, alcohol, or stress-eating. These are deceptive escapes that ultimately result in more stress for you.

Just Breathe

A tried-and-true method of stress relief and relaxation is the practice of deep breathing. While causing extreme emotional strain, stress can also affect a person physically. Practicing deep breathing exercises can help reverse some of the effects that stress has on the body by relaxing your heartbeat, increasing oxygen to your brain, and even lowering your blood pressure. We encourage you to visit this link for a fantastic resource on deep breathing information and exercises.

Cross Things off Your List

While all of the above activities can help reduce your stress, sometimes the only way to find relief is to remove your stressors. Make a list of factors that you can change, control, or accomplish, such as necessary duties and overwhelming tasks that need to be finished. You’ll find your relief grow dramatically as you remove these stressful items from your list, allowing more room for the things that bring you happiness.

Those on the team here at UVSH are no strangers to stress. We want to provide a source of comfort and knowledge so that our patients and their families receive the best possible care. Adding just one of these tips to your everyday routine may seem like too small a task to make a difference, but being more aware of being stressed helps you make a step in the right direction.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709093313.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/reduce-stress-journaling

 

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Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress

It’s important to give yourself the permission to relax every once in awhile, whether that quiet moment is spent with a steaming cup of tea or an indulgent massage. Stress and exhaustion can cause long-term health issues if allowed to remain severe for too long. We’d like to share a few tips for relaxation to help you take care of yourself.

PUT ON THE KETTLE.

We’ll start with a cup of hot tea. Some studies suggest that an amino acid found in tea, L-theanine, causes the brain to relax. While this statement is still mildly debated, the fact remains that tea is the second-most-consumed liquid in the world, next to water. Many people attribute the simple ritual of sipping a cup of tea to a calming, familiar feeling that is brought on simply by the action of drinking it.

Other herbal teas, such as chamomile and lavender, are said to have calming properties as well. When dealing with herbs, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have any conditions or take medicines that react badly with the herb blends… but if you’re in the clear, what’s to lose? Put on the kettle and see if those shoulders loosen up.

CREATE A COMFORTING ROUTINE.

If you find yourself regularly feeling stressed out, you might benefit from a calming routine. It can be something small-scale to help you calm down in a pinch, or a longer ritual to help you wind down before bed. Either way, it’s important to examine your needs and feelings to establish a routine that will be right for you. Do breathing exercises help? Do you enjoy reading? Is a long, hot bath a surefire way to ease your worries and turn down the thoughts in your head?

Routine provides something to look forward to and creates a consistent set of actions that you can depend on. You can always add a nice cup of tea to that ritual, of course!

EXERCISE

For some people, the act of movement allows the body to burn off energy and the mind to find focus. While more strenuous activities like running and weight-lifting provide a release for some, it’s often the case that a more gentle form of exercise allows a stressed-out individual to calm both their mind and body. Long walks, yoga class, and low-impact swimming are all ideal examples of using exercise to release stress.

JOURNALING

Stress often results from a buildup of responsibilities and negative emotions. Keeping a journal can provide a much-needed space into which you can release some of those fears and concerns. According to a 1986 study on expressive writing, students who wrote about traumatic and stressful events reported an almost immediate decrease in distress. Those who continued the practice over time reported an increase in the quality of their physical health as well.

Bottling up your feelings can lead to stress. Releasing those feelings can relieve that stress. A journal is a wonderful way to disclose your emotions and thoughts in a safe, controlled environment.

MAKE IT ABOUT YOU.

Whether you love tea or hate it… whether you’d rather run a mile than get a massage, the point of this post is to encourage relaxation that works for you. A mind that carries stress and tension for a prolonged period is also a body carrying that stress and tension. Finding techniques that help ease both physical and mental stress will allow you to focus on the things that you love.

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