Fitness Magazine

Using Stress Management Techniques for Medical Conditions

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Baxter and Nina

Using Stress Management Techniques for Medical Conditions

Dandelion by Melina Meza

If you're suffering from a stress-related disease, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and digestive disorders, reducing chronic stress can be very beneficial. Stress management can also help with emotional disorders—including anxiety and depression—that are caused by or worsened by stress.Because stress management helps reduce inflammation, reducing chronic stress can also help with inflammation-related problems, including most forms of arthritis, as well as certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease and leaky gut syndrome. In general, yoga stress management techniques can be preventive medicine, as lowering overall stress levels may reduce your chances of even developing stress-related illnesses. They could also be curative because spending significant amounts of time in Rest and Digest keeps your immune system and repair systems functioning optimally. Finally, you can use stress management as a palliative technique to help you cope with the stress of living with a chronic illness, improving the quality of your life.This provides some basic tips for practicing stress management when you have a medical condition. We'll address physical disorders first and then discuss emotional disorders. See The Relaxation Response and Yoga for general information about using stress management when you're healthy. Cautions: Generally stress management techniques are very safe. However, meditation is generally not recommended for depression or anxiety, because sitting alone with your thoughts can cause you to spiral downward. So avoid meditation unless you have a teacher experienced at working with your condition who can guide you. People who have uncontrolled high blood pressure should not practice full or partial inverted poses. For Physical DisordersFor digestive disorders, for periods without active symptoms, practice a well-rounded stress reducing sequence, combining active poses, both dynamic and static, and restorative poses, as well as meditation and breath work. For periods with active symptoms, stay with gentle poses, including easy dynamic poses and restorative poses, that do not create pressure on your abdomen (for example, no Cobra or Locust pose), and avoid twists. But you can practice any stress management techniques that work well for you, including focused relaxation, quieting breath practices, and meditation. For most digestive issues, you can include supported inversions. However, for hiatal hernias and gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), symptoms will often worsen with inverted poses, so you should avoid them. For inflammation-related conditions, for the non-asana part of your practice, you can practice whatever stress management techniques work best for you. For arthritis of the lower back on down to the feet, supported inverted poses can be particularly helpful. For cardiovascular disorders, all of the stress management tools can be helpful, particularly meditation, calming breath practices, restorative poses, and focused relaxation. Just be aware that for certain conditions, such as congestive heart failure, lying flat in Savasana may bring on symptoms. In such cases, elevating your head and chest may relieve the symptoms. the head and chest may permit you to do Savasana safely. For cardiovascular diseases for which your doctor has warned you about situations that may increase your blood pressure, such as coronary artery disease and risk of stroke, practice supported inversion only if they do not cause an increase in your blood pressure. (Check your blood pressure with a home monitor immediately before trying a short hold of supported inversion and check again immediately afterwards to see if your numbers go high. Discuss with your doctor if you are uncertain how to proceed.)One of the significant issues for people with just about any chronic is that the illness itself if a significant daily stressor. Examples are cardiovascular disease, diabetes and related conditions (metabolic syndrome), autoimmune diseases such as and rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few. For all these conditions, you can use whichever stress management techniques make you feel better and do not aggravate your symptoms. Obviously, if you are seriously ill, practices that are physically undemanding, such as meditation, breath work, and focused relaxation (which you can do lying down as well as sitting) will be more accessible to you.For Emotional DisordersBecause emotional disorders, including depression and anxiety, are either caused by or worsened by stress, practicing stress management for these medical conditions is extremely beneficial and may make you feel better, either immediately or with consistent practice over time. However, many stress management practices, such as restorative yoga, focused relaxation, and mediation are typically practiced with closed eyes. If this causes you to become more depressed or anxious, try practicing with your eyes open instead, keeping them softly focused. If trying to concentrate on your breath or physical sensations causes your symptoms to worsen, try using a mantra, a formal meditation practice, or a recorded relaxation practice that employs vivid imagery.Anxiety. Because people with anxiety often have a hard time staying still, we recommend that you begin with a strong asana sequence to tire yourself out a bit before trying stress management techniques. Supported Inverted poses are particularly beneficial for anxiety, as the physical orientation of the poses triggers the Relaxation Response and concentration isn’t as essential. But if you find other techniques effective, use whichever ones you prefer. Lying on your back with your front body exposed can increase anxiety in some people, so for you prone restorative poses, such as Child’s pose, may be better than supine poses, such as Reclined Cobbler’s pose. If Savasana on your back creates anxiety, try lying on your belly or on your side instead, or skip the pose entirely and do Legs Up the Wall pose instead. Depression. For clinical depression, which has symptoms of lethargy and despair, if lying or sitting still causes symptoms to worsen, try a mindful asana practice with either short holds in static poses or slow dynamic poses. For restorative poses, choose backbend shapes, such as Reclined Cobbler’s pose, which can be uplifting, rather than forward bend shapes. In Savasana, try a supported version, with your torso lifted and your chest open, rather than lying flat.For agitated depression, follow our suggestions for anxiety, adding in restorative backbends if those work for you.
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