Managing stress benefits health. Family physician Kenford Nedd, MD, realized that crucial truth 20 years ago. “About 90 percent of my patients came to me with something precipitated or aggravated by stress,” he says. The author of Power Over Stress teaches people how to dial down their anxiety and relieve stress symptoms such as heart palpitations, pain and headaches. But a busy practice and international speaking engagements mean that even Nedd isn’t immune to tension. “Stress can sneak up on you, but daily diligence can help keep it at bay,” he says. Here’s how:
1. Start the day right
“I meditate on something positive for the first 10 minutes of the day.” A calming start can pave the way for a less stressful day. “Read something rich and beautiful, take a minute to appreciate your body, greet everyone in the household, or exercise,” Nedd suggests. Here’s another tactic that he preaches and practices: taking a brief, daily mental inventory of your body. Think about the sensations in your knees, neck, arms and body—what feels good and what feels off? Better awareness can build inner harmony and help you take preventive health steps.
2. Create positive exchanges
“I shut up and listen.” Nedd uses a system called EAR—explore, acknowledge and hold back response—that helps him and his patients change the way they handle interactions with others. (The more positive your interactions are, the less tense your day will be.) Start by “exploring”: Ask your child/partner/friend what happened in their day, and say, “Tell me more.” Then “acknowledge”: Compliment them for something they did. The final and most important step is to “hold back your response.” Says Nedd: “Just let them talk. That person will feel they have had a great conversation, even though you didn’t say much.” Listening more reduces miscommunication, which can trigger stress.
3. Relieve stress in your body
“I identify physical tension and dissolve it instantly.” When Nedd feels tightness in the trapezius muscles at the base of his neck and across his shoulders—a common place for tension to occur and a source of tension headaches—he raises the tops of his shoulders up to his ears while breathing in through his nose. Then he relaxes and lowers his shoulders as far down as possible while exhaling out of his mouth.
January/February 2009 issue of Best Health magazine