Mind-Body approaches reduce stress, improve health

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By Mara Benner

If you are similar to others living in the greater Washington metropolitan area, then you are likely stressed by a hectic schedule.  For many, there are an array of deadlines, scheduling issues, planning and traffic to consider as we plow through the day. Consider for just a moment. What are your three biggest stressors? As you think about each one, do you notice any physical tension? For instance, as you thought of your biggest stressor, did you also begin to feel a headache or your shoulders tightening?

Mara Benner (courtesy photo)

In a recent poll, Monster.com found 42 percent of workers changed jobs recently due to stress at work. The poll also concluded that four out of five workers suffered serious illness due to work-related stress. Work stress is just one component in our hectic lives, yet it is causing employers to pause and rethink their approach to employee wellness programs, seeking to incorporate mind-body practices.

Healthcare providers are also seeing the impact of stress on patients. Stress is being associated with a wide-ranging list of illnesses, not solely work-related. In 2011, the American Hospital Association found that 42 percent of its responding hospitals were incorporating one or more complementary and alternative medicine approaches, up from 37 percent in 2007. Of the CAM approaches, hospitals indicated that they were including techniques such as acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, Reiki, Tai Chi, Yoga, spiritual care, meditation and more.

Similarly, 83 percent of Military Treatment Facilities are utilizing one or more CAM techniques as outlined in the October 2017 Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Of the report’s findings, three-fourths of MTFs offer stress management and relaxation techniques. Two-thirds provide acupuncture and half offer guided imagery and mindfulness meditation. While it helps to lessen physical ailments, MTFs are adopting the new approaches to help reduce pain and mental health issues too.

Why are employers and healthcare facilities seeking such alternative approaches?  It all relates back to your Autonomic Nervous System and the balance needed between your sympathetic (fight or flight state) and parasympathetic (rest and digest state). For your body to be working optimally, the body needs balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic. If you become stuck in fight or flight too long, the continual tension impacts the person physically as well as mentally. 

Consumers pursuing mind-body services

Employers and healthcare facilities are not the only ones seeking to adopt mind-body practices.  Individual consumers are seeking new approaches too. Yoga and meditation are two popular techniques. As with any mind-body practice, it requires the individual’s own practice – just like exercise. Your results will likely not happen overnight but you should begin to feel more relaxed and more peaceful as you progress.

If you are interested, please remember that it is important to find the right fit between you and a practitioner.  Request a complementary phone consult and ask about the practitioner’s training.  Inquire as to what you should expect during the sessions.   Ask if you may speak to one or two of his or her clients and be sure to read reviews.  If they have limited experience or are requiring exorbitant prices, you may wish to seek another practitioner with good credentials. 

Mara Benner is the founder of Four Directions Wellness, connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit. The organization is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine. Benner is also a member of the Del Ray Business Association’s Well Ray community.

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