In fact, all of the top five diseases identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as causing the greatest global disease burden by 2020, have stress as an underlying contributing or complicating factor. They include heart disease, depression, traffic accidents, stroke and chronic lung disease.
Since stress is often at the root cause of many symptoms of ill health, finding new & effective strategies to deal with it is always an essential part of my practice. I attended a fascinating seminar yesterday entitled “Stress Less”, presented by Dr Mark Atkinson who you may remember from GMTV some years ago. Dr Mark Atkinson is an integrative medical doctor who has a very effective holistic approach to treating his patients. Having identified the strong link between mind & body, particularly with regard to stress, he shared some simple, effective strategies which he has devised over the years for use in his practice.
One simple strategy involves focusing on your breathing for a few minutes and is effective for some instant relaxation.
Simply sit down, close your eyes, breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 and out through the mouth for a count of 7. Repeat 3 or 4 times and notice how you feel.
One important message I learned about stress some years ago is that if you are suffering from chronic stress it is key that you start to do something about it. In fact, in some ways to start with it doesn’t really matter what you do, it’s just important from a psychological perspective that you actively do something. Wear brighter colours, use the stairs instead of the lift, take a bath instead of watching the TV, switch from caffeinated hot drinks to herbal or fruity alternatives, do a jigsaw with your kids, meet a friend for a walk or even sit down for 30 seconds and do a simple breathing exercise. Whatever you can think of that might help, even just a tiny bit, do it, now.
Murray CJL, Lopez AD, eds. The Global Burden of Disease Series. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, 1998