Touro Infirmary

FALL 2013

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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T raffic was excruciating, your family is crabby—and to top it all off, you have a throbbing headache, back pain and all the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Although the physical pain may seem like just more layers atop your mental misery, don't shrug it off as coincidence. Realizing the connection between the physical and the psychological could be a step to better overall health. MIND-BODY CONNECTION "There's definitely a relationship between stress, mood and physical factors," says Robert N. Jamison, a professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. Being in a relentlessly bad mood, whether it's an overwhelming funk, anger or hyperventilating stress, may set you on a downward cycle to insomnia, susceptibility to infection, high blood pressure and high LDL ("bad") cholesterol, say health experts. But fortunately, you have the power to improve your mood and your health, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Volunteers who attended a program to help develop feelings of love and compassion for themselves and others enjoyed better social connections, which researchers suggest could lead to better health, according to the study. CHANGING MOODS There's more to changing your emotional state, however, than simply telling yourself to "think positively," according to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a California-based integrative medicine pioneer who also holds patents for several of his unique herbal dietary supplement formulations. "The first step in having a negative mood is acknowledging it and being honest about it," he says. "The second step is realizing that every mood is changeable. By understanding that it's changeable and not holding onto it, not dwelling on it, we can start to actually work with it, and begin to feel better." Stress and anxiety often feed on themselves, in fact, leading to catastrophizing. "You go round and round with recurrent worry thoughts," explains Jamison, who suggests using mindful meditation to improve the situation. "[Then] you're able to challenge some of those thoughts." If you have difficulty making these changes on your own, ask your physician about referring you to an appropriate mental health practitioner. Our bodies, our stress Your body has mechanisms for dealing with stress, whether you're facing a wild beast or a family crisis. Your brain releases hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol, to help deal with the situation. Your brain also releases a protein that instills a sense of urgency, keeping you alert, not restful. But these responses are designed for acute and very time-limited stress, according to Susan S. Girdler, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Requiring your body to ramp up its response system nonstop isn't healthy either physically or mentally, so protect yourself by fnding benefcial ways to lower your stress levels whenever possible. THE SOCIAL SCENE When your unpleasant moods lead you to avoid friends and family, that's another vicious cycle you should work to break, say psychology experts. "Social support—close relationships with people— is very good for stress buffering and has a positive effect on your health," says Susan S. Girdler, professor and director of the Stress and Health Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "And the need women have to be with other women is important." EXERCISE YOUR EMOTIONS In addition to being good for your physical health, exercise also benefits your bad moods. "Just getting out of the house and walking helps stress," says Jamison. And exercise also may counter poor eating habits triggered by mood. "When we have negative moods, we are not as interested in taking care of ourselves," says Dr. Eliaz. "Our diets change. Either we stop eating, or we eat a lot of stimulants, such as sugars, which give us a high, then a crash." Following a healthful diet and exercising regularly as you learn to be more mindful of the connections between your moods and your physical health is the best way to improve your wellbeing, say the experts. • SHUTTERSTOCK w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m FA L L 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN 27

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