When we ask our naturopathic doctors what is the most common cause of the many health issues they see, their answer is often stress.
While many people would benefit from improving their diet and getting more exercise, the quickest way to better health is often implementing some stress management techniques in your life.
That’s especially important in a big, busy city like Toronto.
The goal isn’t to get rid of stress entirely, but using a couple of stress management strategies are often all that’s needed to reduce your stress to the point where many of your other health issues are reduced substantially as well.
Below, two of our naturopathic doctors and our registered massage therapist share their stress management tips…
Dr. Tehseen Meghji, Naturopathic Doctor
- Stress symptoms. Many people feel chronic, low-grade stress that stays under the radar for awhile, but can eventually lead to palpitations, difficulty breathing, headaches, insomnia, and fatigue.
- Left nostril breathing. Breathing through the left nostril will help activate your parasympathetic system. You close your right nostril and breathe through your left one for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, and then release the breath through the left nostril again for four seconds. You can do that for anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes as long as you’re not getting lightheaded, and it’s very good for relaxing the nervous system.
- Naturopathic treatment. Naturopathic care strives to provide relief to the mind and body through holistic methods. Dietary changes, herbs, nutritional supplementation and acupuncture can make a big dent in reducing stress.
- Conventional versus naturopathic medicine. Conventional medicines can be addictive and cause side effects, whereas naturopathic medicines such as herbs aren’t addictive, don’t have adverse side effects, and actually promote health in your body.
Stress Management Toronto Video Transcriptions
Phil: How does that impact your patient’s lives? Where do they really feel stress?
Tehseen: Stress, I think, on some level is present with most people especially in our society that puts a lot of emphasis on that go-go- go mentality. Many people might not have any symptoms when it comes to stress. It’s more like a chronic, low-grade stress that their body is under most of time, but a lot of people when that gets out of control will experience acute symptoms of stress for sure and those can be things like palpitations, difficulty breathing, headaches, insomnia, and fatigue. Those are some of the common things we see when people are stressed out.
Phil: What are some of the things that you find yourself telling a lot of people who are coming to you with stress that they can do themselves to start mitigating that?
Tehseen: There’s a breathing technique that I usually tell my patients to do. I can talk about that today. It’s something that you can easily do at home and it actually allows the parasympathetic response to be activated. A lot of the times we’re in our fight-flight basically response because that’s the sympathetic nervous system and that’s usually an overdrive. We’re not giving enough attention to the parasympathetic response which is our rest relaxation type. Each of those is mediated by one side of the brain. The left side is the rest and digest and relax. Breathing through the left nostril primarily is going to help activate that. Something you can do at home is left nostril breathing, basically closing your right nostril and breathing through your left one. Breathing in through the left for four seconds, holding it for four seconds, and then releasing the breath through the nostril again for four seconds. You can do that for anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes as long as you’re not getting lightheaded and it’s very good for relaxing the nervous system for sure.
Phil: That’s fascinating. I know it’s one of the yoga breathing techniques I do is similar, but it goes back and forth.
Phil: I think that’s going for some kind of balance.
Phil: I never knew why, so it seems like the left is for this parasympathetic system or at least partially.
Tehseen: That’s right, yeah.
Tehseen: The alternate nostril breathing is more to balance both hemispheres of the brain which is very beneficial as well.
Phil: Cool. Going beyond that, if someone were to come in and see a naturopathic doctor, what would you be doing that they couldn’t do themselves and maybe that conventional medicine wouldn’t do for them?
Tehseen: Right, for sure. Stress is actually a good thing. Without stress, we wouldn’t actually be able to be alive or be motivated to do anything. It’s when stress gets out of control because we’re not coping with it in healthy ways that we notice chronic stress symptoms and then chronic disease. As a naturopathic doctor, it’s really important for me to help my patients recognize where they’re not coping with stress well and helping them learn about healthy coping strategies and be more mindful of their stress for sure. That’s definitely somewhere where we take the time to understand and make connections for where things might be out of balance. There’s also some excellent botanical herbs and diet changes and nutritional supplementation that can be helpful in coping with stress short term while we’re still trying to make those changes for long term success. I’ve noticed that acupuncture is really excellent for patients. Treatments with acupuncture reduce stress significantly.
Phil: Yeah. It’s so interesting. We talked in the last video about digestion which obviously has a nutritional component in the other body components but very much a stress mind component to digestive issues as well often, right?
Phil: I think it’s interesting with stress which we think of as being a mental and emotional component and certainly is also has a nutritional component as well.
Tehseen: That’s right.
Phil: That’s where naturopathy comes in by doing mind, body, holistic approach in a way.
Tehseen: Right, exactly. A lot of the supplements or botanical herbs that we do prescribe are usually side effect-free and non-addictive and the goal is not to use them forever but more short term. That differs from anti-anxiety medications which can be addictive and generally you’re staying on it for quite a while. It’s generally very beneficial to the person and the system quite a bit.