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Fight or Flight

Fight or Flight

Harmful Effects of Fight or Flight

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night? Are you gaining weight despite not overeating or changing your diet? Do you frequently feel unsettled, on edge, or anxious throughout the day? 

All of these are side effects of your body frequently being in the sympathetic nervous system, also known as fight or flight. When we are put in a stressful situation, the body switches to the sympathetic nervous system. This causes increased heart rate, impedes breathing and eyesight as well as inhibits digestion. None of which is good for the body. 

Also, being in constant fight or flight weakens your immune system making you vulnerable to colds and flu. 

What you want to be in, is the parasympathetic nervous system, where your heart rate is normal, you can see and breathe clearly and your food is digesting and providing you with the nutrients you need to go about your day feeling energized. 

If you are like most Americans, you may find yourself living a lot of your life in fight or flight and don’t know a way out. The good news is that it only takes 90 seconds to pull yourself out of fight or flight and into a calm state of mind.

The easiest way to do this is deep breathing. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, try this simple technique.

Breathing Technique:

If you can, close your eyes. Take a breath in through the nose for a count of 3 and slowly breathe out for a count of 5. Repeat this for at least 90 seconds. Or, for as long as you need to feel your body relax.

Note: When calming the nervous system, you should always exhale for longer than you inhale. 

You’ll notice your face softening, your heart rate slowing and your shoulders dropping away from your ears. The fog will begin to clear from your mind and you will experience a sense of clarity and peace. 

This practice can be done anytime or anywhere. The more you do it, the quicker you will feel that sense of calm as your body will become used to the practice and know what to do. 

If you know fight or flight is a constant problem for you, you might want to take up yoga.

Unlike other cardio-based exercises like running, weight lifting, zumba and the like, yoga keeps your body in the parasympathetic nervous system. So you are maintaining a sense of calm, focus and peace while strengthening and stretching the body. You are also burning more calories because your digestive system is functioning normally. Also, over time, your body learns how to better handle fight or flight and is more resistent to it because you have trained it stay calm and focused when stressors come calling. 

Like this blog? Leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you. Try one of our other blogs: Creating your space, Winter Health Tip: Warming Foods, Sound Healing

Winter Health Tip: Warming Foods

Winter Health Tip: Warming Foods

Why eat warming foods? Do you have a difficult time staying healthy during the cold winter months? Or, do you feel cold all the time?

One way to help is eating warming foods. The key to a healthy body is to eat foods appropriate to the seasons. For winter, you should be eating root vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, and beets and winter vegetables such as kale, bok choy, cauliflower, and winter squash.

For stomach health, you should avoid raw fruits and vegetables and cook them instead. Spiced steamed pears are a great accompaniment to oatmeal.

Or, my new favorite warming food…amaranth, an ancient grain with the consistency of cream of wheat. Add a little maple syrup and cinnamon and you have a healthy protein and fiber-packed breakfast.

Soups and Stews are a hearty dinner pairing warming foods with fresh bread, especially for those of you who jumped on the Sour Dough train during COVID. Get creative with your recipes and add barley, quinoa, lentils, and spices like cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and cayenne. Try adding honey and cinnamon to your coffee, hot chocolate or tea. 

A good rule of thumb is to eat in-season foods when possible! Stay Healthy! 

Want more wellness? Try one of our Wellness Events: Self Care Workshops, Healing Workshops or Support Groups

Nurtured by Nature

Nurtured by Nature

Do you want to be happier? Reduce your stress? Improve attention? I have one simple activity that can do all this, for free…be nurtured by nature through walks.   

Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. 

How? 

  1. You aren’t staring at a device; instead, you are looking at nature, which allows the eyes to relax and reduces eye strain. 
  2. You promote blood circulation, increase your heart rate and lung capacity, and flood your body with oxygen. All great things! 
  3. Listening to the sounds of nature calms the body by altering connections in our brain that reduce our body’s natural fight-or-flight instinct. Nature sounds distract us from daily anxiety and worries, redirecting our tensions and stresses outward to outside objects and movements.
  4. If you bring a friend, you can get and give a free therapy session. 

You don’t need to travel to the Poconos or Delaware Water Gap to get the benefits. Although, those are great day trips to take with your kids, especially now with the beauty fall brings. Walking around your neighborhood or a local park has just as many benefits. 

As I recover from spinal surgery, one of the only things I can do is walk, and you had better believe I do. My husband and I walk our son to school with our dog each morning. We do about a mile, and at night, we do another with the dog in the dark, which I love! Walking at night is so therapeutic. Everything is muffled and quiet, and I feel so at peace afterward. 

Don’t believe me? Lisa Nisbet, Ph.D, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies the effects of being nurturing by nature, states, “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being. You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even urban nature. And your connection with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”

It’s supposed to be beautiful this weekend, so carve some time for yourself and your family to walk. It doesn’t have to be long. 15 minutes will do. Perhaps you can turn it into a daily activity and improve your family’s overall health. They will thank you for it. 

The Brain Health Benefits of Meditation

The Brain Health Benefits of Meditation

Brain Health Benefits of Meditation

From a wellness standpoint, the best way to improve brain health is meditation—now more than ever. Each generation alive today is bombarded with information and has fallen victim to the “Have Now” culture. 

In the recent past, people would have to wait to get music, books, movies, and consumer products. Today–Amazon gets it to you within hours if you want. Think about your life 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. When you were bored, what did you do then compared to now? How often did you sit in quiet contemplation because there wasn’t any other choice? 

Today, as soon as we are bored, out comes a device. Waiting in line at the market… Commercials on TV…Waiting at the doctor’s office… I know I fall victim to this as well. When I cook, I listen to an audiobook. When I run, I listen to music. However, when I feel really stressed, I try to switch everything off and enjoy the simple act of cutting an onion or listening to the leaves rustle, and my feet pound the pavement. It is important to train our brains to fight the “Have Now” culture, and remember how to sit in quiet contemplation again. 

This is where meditation comes in. Meditation comes in many forms, but it all serves the same purpose: to quiet the mind, increase self-awareness in your emotional, mental, and physical self, and improve your overall life. 

Research has shown that daily meditation strengthens areas of your brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and self-awareness.

Not only that, a daily meditation practice can also help calm the sympathetic nervous system, keeping you out of fight or flight and putting you into a state of calm. 

What is meditation? Well, that is a big question because there are so many types. One type that many of you may have tried or at least are familiar with is prayer. It doesn’t matter to whom or what you pray, but you are using quiet contemplation to work through your emotions and give yourself to a higher power. 

I’m not saying that meditation is religious. It is not. It is merely a tool to help you calm the body and quiet the mind, which is exactly what prayer does for most. 

A popular form of meditation is moving meditations like Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong, which all match breath to movement, allowing the mind to relax and help you become more in tune with your body. Anyone can do these styles of meditation, and have tons of variations to accommodate any age or ability. 

Another meditation is chanting. Using one’s voice is a powerful tool. With chanting, the vibrations in the throat and nondescript sounds act like white or brown noise. Brown noise differs from white noise by using lower frequencies to affect our emotional state and help improve sleep and anxiety. 

Yet another form of meditation is visual or guided meditation. In this type of meditation, a practitioner guides you to a meditative state through visual description and cues to help you relax. Imagine you are in a cool forest under a canopy of trees. Feel the springy grass beneath your toes…

Lastly, is breathwork, which is simply consciously controlling your breath. This is my favorite and has gotten me out of many tough situations. I use it for migraines, pain control, insomnia, memory, and to soothe. Recently, I underwent a cervical spinal fusion, and instead of dipping into the opioids, I used breathwork. Sadly, chanting was out since they went through my throat—which is my preferred pain control.

To sum up, meditation helps us to stop and take the time to reflect on our day and give our brains the chance to absorb and retain those events, feelings, words, or thoughts for the future. In this fast-paced world, we don’t take the time each day to sit with our thoughts; meditation gives us that opportunity. The effects on the brain are one more added perk to the many other benefits meditation can have on your life. 

Airmid’s Meditation Offerings:

New to meditation? Try Jesse’s Meditation for Beginner’s Workshop on Fri. November 7th from 7p-8p. 

Having difficulty sleeping? Try Radiant Rest Meditation on Sundays at 9:30a. 

Need a lunchtime pick-me-up? Try Get Grounded to Manage Stress on Tuesdays at 12p. 

Need to relax and pamper yourself? Try Self Care Healing Workshop on Sunday, December 3rd, from 4p-5:30p.

Check out our Movement Classes.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Late Summer Season

Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Late Summer Season

By: Gurnett Signh

“The only constant in life is change.” Heraclitus 

One of the many things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the strong belief in change and adaptation.  TCM holds that everything in nature is in flux and evolving yet still maintains balance.  It is easy to observe these changes in the natural world around us, but this is not only something that is occurring outside in the environment.  We are a part of nature and influenced by its changes.  We are also constantly in a state of change. 

TCM teaches us to adjust along with the seasonal changes as it is believed that the body, mind, and spirit are affected by the season and our environment since we are connected and not separate from nature.  By aligning with the natural cycles of the seasons, we are given the opportunity to nourish and support ourselves to stay healthy and in balance.  In short, TCM promotes practicing seasonal living.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the calendar year is divided into five seasons rather than the typical four (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer) that we think of.  This fifth season is Late Summer, the short time from the end of August until the Autumn Equinox.  Although the days are still long, and we can continue to gather from the abundance of growth in our gardens, a noticeable shift can be felt in the subtle softening of the intensity of the sun as well as a crispness in the night air.  This current season of harvest is when we return to the middle or center, from the expansive and fullness of the Summer (which is ruled by yang energy) toward the inward and storing energy of the Autumn (which is ruled more by yin energy).  According to TCM, this is a time to accept the abundance of Summer and allow that to nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits, offering stability as we prepare for the surrendering and letting go that will happen in the Autumn season. 

According to TCM, each season has specific associations that can help direct our habits to encourage a more balanced life.  Each of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) corresponds to a season.  In late Summer, the Earth element is the most active, as well as the most vulnerable.  The Earth element is all about nourishing and cultivating that will help us thrive.  The other associations unique to the Late Summer season include: 

ELEMENT: Earth

YIN ORGAN: Spleen

YANG ORGAN: Stomach

EMOTION: Worry

SPIRIT: Yi or Intellect

CLIMATE: Humidity

COLOR: Yellow

TASTE: Sweet  

SENSE ORGANS: Mouth

TISSUES: Muscles  

VIRTUES: Empathy and Nurturing

To support a healthy Earth element and the Late Summer season, it is particularly important for nourishing the digestive system and optimizing the immune system. According to TCM, the Spleen and Stomach are related to digestion.  The Spleen transforms food into nutritive qi/energy and transports this qi to the body.   The Spleen also contributes to blood production and helps keep the blood in the vessels.  Our thoughts and mental capacity are related directly to the spirit of the Spleen or Yi  (intellect), which influences our ability to concentrate and memorize.   This is a wonderful time for grounding, quieting our minds, reflecting, and “digesting” our experiences by recognizing what activities/experiences/company is nourishing for us, which we can learn from, and which we can prepare to let go of.

Some potential health issues that might be more likely to manifest during this time of year include digestive weakness, such as IBS, fatigue, and muscle weakness.  Due to the connection with the mind and thinking, the spirit of the Spleen is prone to worry, overthinking, and anxiety. 

By attuning to the Late Summer season and aligning with the natural rhythms of the world around us, we can learn how best to support our body, mind, and spirit. It allows us to cultivate optimal health and vitality within as well as experience a more fulfilling time as we transition from Late Summer to Autumn.  


To learn more about Acupuncture and how it can help support you move more harmoniously through these seasonal changes, please get in touch with Gurneet Singh, LAc, ND, at (267) 356-4949 or Gurneet@MettaAcupuncture.com.