Quick Tips to Relieve Stress

We all experience stress from time to time. The release of stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) help you cope with immediate challenges. But when your level of stress becomes chronic or goes beyond what your body can handle, it can compromise your physical, emotional, and mental health—which can make it even harder for you to cope with future stress. Did you know you can control how your body reacts to friendly and not-so-friendly stressors? Finding quick and effective “tension tamers” that turn off the alarm response and turn on the relaxation response–helps your body return to normal functioning following a stressful event. Try several of these techniques and find out what works best for you in times of stress. You’ll feel calmer within minutes!

1. Breathe from your belly.  Sit in a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths by expanding your belly (rather than lifting your shoulders). Releasing physical tension and increasing oxygen intake calms you quickly—even if stressful events continue.

2. Take a Short Walk.  Change your scenery and change your perspective—indoors or outdoors. Walking gets your blood circulating and helps you “blow off ” steam so you can return to a new frame of mind.

3. Spring into Action.  Even a short burst of exercise (like running up several flights of stairs, or several sets of push-ups or abdominal crunches) can reduce stress. Exercise helps deliver more oxygen to your brain and distracts you from stress to give you a fresh perspective on things. Even simple stretching can help bring a little relief.

4. Listen to Music.  Softer music can help relax tense muscles or get you “in the zone” when practicing other stress reduction activities—yoga, guided imagery, or soaking in the tub. And upbeat music can help lift your mood or keep you energized.

5. Dance or Sing.  Start moving to your favorite tunes— or just sing along. Bursting into song or a silly dance move can transport you to a stress-free zone.

6. Take a Mental Break.  Steal a few minutes of peace to gaze out your window or visualize yourself in your favorite space, doing your favorite things, or being with your favorite people. It renews the spirit and breaks the stress response quickly.

7. Laugh.  Maintaining a sense of humor reminds us that our stressors may not be as menacing as they seem. Purchase or download a laugh track, cartoons, jokes, or your favorite comedy TV show or movies to enjoy when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

8. Write in Your Journal.  If you like to write, journaling clarifies your thoughts and feelings for increased self-knowledge. Putting the experience on paper gets if off your mind and helps you refocus—and teaches you how to cope the next time it happens.

9. Take a Power Nap.  Mid-day sleep gives you more patience, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency, and better health. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just close your eyes. Even brief rest reduces stress and helps you relax.

Don’t Change Your Life—Change Your Response to Stress

You don’t have to make big changes in your life to reduce your stress—just lessen the impact that stressful occurrences can have on you. These quick and simple tips make it easy for you to change your response to stressors—and live a more positive, fulfilling life!

For more help with living a lower-stress lifestyle, a FirstLine Therapy Coach for a list of eating habits that can help you break the stress cycle. www.fltchicago.com

No Calorie Spicy Grilling Rub Recipe

1/4 cup paprika
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (depending on your “heat” preference)
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme

1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well.
2. Store in a cool, dry place, in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag.

32 servings when you use 1 1/2 teaspoons per serving of meat.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving: 0 calorie, 300 mg sodium.

Weight Loss May Lower Breast Cancer Risk

For postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese, new research offers more incentive to start shedding pounds.

According to a study published in the journal Cancer Research, losing even a small proportion of your overall body weight significantly reduces inflammation in your body and potentially lowers your risk of developing several different types of cancer, including breast cancer.

The more fat one has, the more inflammation-producing cells there are, and the more inflammation produced is sent into the bloodstream.

Dieting Is Essential for Weight Loss

Very few people can lose significant amounts of weight from exercise alone. Several year-long studies testing exercise alone, even large amounts up to an hour a day, and on average it produces about 3 to 4 pounds of weight loss over the year. The strongest health effects are combined diet (FLT program) and exercise program.

Obesity is an inflammatory disease. Diet-induced weight loss is really central to reducing inflammation markers. Women who are overweight should start exercising, pay close attention to what and how much they eat, and keep track of progress to help reach a weight loss goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week. The FirstLine Therapy program helps reduce weight, reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure and much more.

Contact a FLT representative to get started on your new healthy life.

Surprising Reasons for Gaining Weight

If you started taking in more calories than usual or cutting back on exercise, you wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers on the scale crept higher. But what if you’re doing everything the same as you always do and your weight still goes up?

Here are a few surprising reasons for gaining weight

1. Lack of Sleep: If you’re up late, the odds are greater that you’re doing some late-night snacking, which will increase your calorie intake. The other reason involves what’s going on biochemically when you’re sleep deprived. Changes in hormone levels increase hunger and appetite and also make you feel not as full after eating.

2. Stress: When life’s demands get too intense, our bodies go into survival mode: Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is secreted, which causes an increase in appetite. And then of course, we may reach for high-calorie comfort foods in times of stress.

3. Menopause: Most women do gain some weight around the time of menopause, but hormones probably aren’t the only cause. Aging slows the metabolism, so you burn fewer calories, and changes in lifestyle (such as exercising less) play a role. But where you gain weight also may be related to menopause, with fat accumulating around your waist, not your hips and thighs.

4. Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone, you’re probably feeling tired, weak, cold, and gaining weight. Without enough thyroid hormone, the metabolism slows, making weight gain more likely. Even a thyroid functioning at the lower end of the normal range might cause weight gain. Treating hypothyroidism with medication may reverse some of the weight gain.

5. Cushing’s Syndrome: Weight gain is a common symptom of Cushing’s syndrome, a condition in which you are exposed to too much of the hormone cortisol, which in turn causes weight gain and other abnormalities. Cushing’s syndrome can occur if you take steroids for asthma, arthritis, or lupus. It can also occur when your adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone, or be related to a tumor. The weight gain may be most prominent around the face, neck or upper back, or waist.

6. Quitting Smoking: On average, people who stop smoking gain less than 10 pounds.

7. Antidepressants: An unfortunate side effect from some antidepressants is weight gain. Talk to your doctor about making changes to your treatment plan if you think your antidepressant is causing weight gain. But never stop or change your medication on your own. Realize that some people experience weight gain after beginning drug treatment simply because they’re feeling better, which leads to a better appetite. Also, depression itself can cause changes in weight.

8. Steroids: Anti-inflammatory steroid medications are notorious for causing weight gain. Fluid retention and increased appetite are the main reasons. Although weight gain is common, the severity of this side effect depends on the strength of the dose and length of time on the drug. Some people may also see a temporary redistribution of fat while taking the drug — to places like the face, back of the neck, or the abdomen.

If you are gaining weight … Don’t stop taking any medications without first consulting your doctor. Recognize the importance of the drug you’re taking. It may be critical to your health.

Under the direction of Vesna V. Skul, MD, FACP, Medical Director at Comprehensive Center for Women’s Medicine, the FirstLine Therapy (FLT) program addresses all these issues and helps get you body back on track. During the FLT program, you will be taught stress management skills, learn what to eat and not to eat, have your “body composition” assessed — the measurement of body fat in relation to lean body mass, and much more.

Dr. Skul has spoken on a wide range of topics to professional and lay audiences around the country. Her areas of expertise within women’s health include menopause management and integration of alternative and complementary medicine into mainstream medical practice.

Recognized by her peers, Dr. Skul has been among Chicago’s top doctors as reported by Chicago Magazine, for nearly a decade. She was also nationally ranked in 11 specialties by U.S. News. Dr. Skul was listed in U.S. News Top Doctors – the top 1% in the nation in his or her specialty.

She is a founder and the Medical Director of the Comprehensive Center for Women’s Medicine, a multispecialty holistic medical practice for women, where she enjoys empowering her many patients through education and teaches medical students and residents.

For more information on women’s health issues, contact Comprehensive Center for Women’s Medicine at 773.435.1150, or visit their website at www.ccwm.com