When the pressures of everyday living are taking a toll on your health, you need to make a 180-degree turn for the better. You must find ways to slow down, take it easy, and release the pressure by engaging in relaxing activities. Otherwise, you will become susceptible to various lifestyle diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart ailment, and stroke. Different factors may cause such non-communicable illnesses, but stress is often the culprit.

 

To reverse the potential risks of stress to your well-being, you must regain control of your life, learn to tame your emotions, and start a relaxation practice that works best. Here are some tips you can follow:

 

  1. Meditate

If you can devote a portion of your time each day to mindfulness meditation, you will be able to handle your emotions and control your anxieties better. In addition, it helps put you into a deeper state of relaxation, gradually improving your stress levels as you go along.

 

  1. Try the CBD flower magic

Cannabidiol (CBD) gained popularity in recent years, thanks to the significant studies showing its potential benefits, including stress relief. Today, CBD products in topical forms, CBD flower, and edibles are easily accessible online. You can use them in different applications to enjoy their supposed health benefits.

 

  1. Use heat therapy

A holistic solution to stress is heat therapy. It helps relieve muscle tension and improve blood circulation. You may either apply a warm compress to your tight spots or soak in a warm bath for 15 minutes up to two hours to enjoy a deep sense of rejuvenation and relaxation. Do this regularly a few times each week as part of your pampering program. It will help put you back to your senses.

 

  1. Commune with nature

Another thing that could help ease your daily pressures is going out and communing with nature. Spending time outdoors or, at least, breaking the monotony of your routine is an excellent way to keep your focus and stay calm. If you do not have the privilege of a vacation getaway too often, you can go outside and enjoy your backyard or a charming garden. Walking along paths covered with greenery helps you breathe easy, so you do not feel overwhelmed even if you are bound to face a pile of things to do once you are again behind your office desk.

 

  1. Take deep breaths

Deep breathing could impact your stress management efforts. When things seem to go out of hand, take time to breathe slowly and mindfully. You will be amazed at how this simple act could change your perspective. After just a couple of minutes, you will feel refreshed and ready to face your situation calmly.

Stress is a significant factor in contracting lifestyle diseases. Do not let yourself become a victim when there are simple and easy means to manage your stress and keep the blues away. Take time to relax to be more than equipped to work your way through difficult times.

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Katie Guttenberg, MD

With rising costs for gas and food, 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, global uncertainty, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, it is hardly a surprise that more than 70% of American adults report feeling stressed.

The Stress in America survey, which was conducted by the American Psychological Association in partnership with The Harris Poll, also found that a growing number of Americans report money as a source of stress, peaking at two thirds of adults in 2022, the highest reported level in 7 years.

Confronted with multiple stressors, many Americans have adopted unhealthy behaviors. More than half of Americans report weight gain, with an average of 26 pounds in the past year.

Stress affects our emotional and physical well-being. Let's examine the body's response to stress and review techniques to reduce cortisol, known as the stress hormone.

The Stress Response

In 1953, Lewis and colleagues developed the first protocol for the perioperative management of patients with adrenal insufficiency. We now have a more nuanced understanding of cortisol production and the effects of stress on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

A 2020 study sought to determine the best treatment modality for patients with adrenal insufficiency exposed to major stress. The authors measured cortisol production in nearly 300 participants with normal adrenal function exposed to a variety of stressors, including sepsis, major trauma, elective surgery, and the war in Afghanistan.

Serum cortisol was highest and most variable in patients with sepsis. Cortisol levels were elevated in military personnel within 4 weeks of deployment, and production appeared similar to that of surgical patients, illustrating the body's response to both emotional and physical stress.

Cortisol and the Sleep-Wake Cycle

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and our sleep. Cortisol production is closely tied to the sleep-wake cycle. Levels increase in the early morning and decrease in the evening. This pattern is often disrupted in shift workers, with a blunted response upon waking and increased cortisol production in the evening.

This may have implications for long-term health. One study found higher levels of cortisol in the hair of young shift workers compared with their day worker peers. Cortisol levels correlated with BMI. Levels were lowest in participants with a BMI < 25 and highest in participants with a BMI > 30. This highlights the important relationship between disrupted sleep at a young age, cortisol production, and obesity, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.

The Impact of Stress on Health

The Whitehall II study, a large, prospective cohort study in the United Kingdom, explores the relationship between the work environment, stress, and health. A subset of participants was selected to evaluate the relationship between stress and hypertension. Salivary cortisol was measured after participants completed stress-inducing activities. Approximately 40% of participants demonstrated a significant increase in cortisol production, highlighting variability in the stress response. Participants with a heightened stress response were more likely to develop hypertension during the 3-year follow-up period.

A separate study found that Whitehall II study participants with higher evening cortisol levels were more likely to develop diabetes.

What can your patients (and you) do to combat stress?

Get Active — Exercise Builds Resilience

Like many Americans, physicians report high rates of burnout. Many medical schools have tried to address this issue by developing curricula that teach skills to cultivate resilience, particularly among postgraduate trainees.

Exercise is key to maintaining physical and emotional well-being and has been shown to moderate the body's response to psychosocial stress. Engaging in regular exercise leads to a reduced stress response to physical activity.

Repeated activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis appears to prime the body for future stressors.

Martikainen and colleagues explored the relationship between physical activity and the stress response in healthy 8-year-old children. Children participated in the Trier Social Stress Test, which reliably induces stress with storytelling and mental arithmetic activities. Children with the highest levels of physical activity exhibited the smallest increase in salivary cortisol in response to stress. These findings appear to persist across the lifespan.

College students and older adults who participate in high levels of physical activity develop an adaptive response to stress, producing lower levels of cortisol compared with their less-active peers (Gerber et al; Pauly et al). These studies highlight the role that exercise plays in moderating the stress response and building emotional resilience.

Be Mindful — Meditation Reduces Stress

Practicing mindfulness in everyday life has been shown to reduce stress, but the effects of mindfulness on the body's physiologic response, including cortisol production, is unclear.

Most medical schools in the United States offer mindfulness-related activities, according to Barnes and colleagues. Nearly a third of schools embed these activities in their curriculum.

A 2021 study assessed the impact of two mindfulness-based interventions on heart rate and cortisol secretion. In focused-attention meditation, participants were instructed to center their attention on their breath. This activity improved concentration and reduced distraction.

In open-monitoring meditation, participants were instructed to be aware of their physical sensations and explore the impact of distracting thoughts and emotions on the body. These mindfulness-based interventions appear to have affected the body in different ways: Salivary cortisol levels decreased significantly following open-monitoring meditation, and heart rate decreased significantly following focused-attention meditation. In contrast, there was no difference in salivary cortisol levels following focused-attention meditation and no difference in heart rate following open-monitoring meditation.

Looking Ahead

In the past 70 years, we've gained a better understanding of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the impact of stress on health. How can we apply this knowledge in daily life?

A group of researchers at UCLA developed a smartwatch that can measure cortisol levels in sweat. A growing number of Americans use smartwatches to monitor their activity, sleep, and a variety of health parameters, including heart rate and function as well as oxygen saturation. Expanding these capabilities to include cortisol levels has implications for patient care and possibly for everyday life, allowing us to gain insight into our body's response to stress and learn techniques to effectively manage the stress hormone.

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Improving physical fitness requires putting stress on your system during vigorous workouts. But the quest for peak performance often backfires—the psychophysiological distress caused by excessive exercise isn't good for you. Finding a "Goldilocks zone" where your daily workouts put enough stress on your body to improve fitness without overdoing it can be tricky.

 Chris Bergland

Chris Bergland finishing a Triple Ironman in the early 2000s.

Source: Chris Bergland

For example, when I was trying to get in shape for extreme events like the Triple Ironman (7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike, 78.6-mile run), the risk of injury and burnout was extremely high. Monitoring fluctuations in my heart rate variability (HRV) was a way to make sure I wasn't overtraining.

The vagus nerve's ability to counteract the sympathetic nervous system's fight-or-flight stress response is reflected by higher HRV.

In addition to keeping tabs on how my nervous system responded to the previous day's stress load by using HRV, I also kept tabs on day-to-day mood changes. Through trial and error, it became clear that if I was really cranky and in a foul mood the morning after an intense training session, it meant I was on the verge of getting burned out from overtraining and needed to take it easy for a day or two.

As a retired extreme-distance athlete, I know from lived experience that doing too much exercise can be harmful to your psychological and physical well-being. Overtraining is every endurance athlete's Achilles heel. It's so easy for one's passion for sports and competition to become exercise fanaticism, which often leads to injuries or overwhelming psychological distress.

Overtraining, Low HRV, and Negative Moods Go Hand in Hand

New research (Alfonso and Capdevila, 2022) from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain gives us fresh insights into the link between HRV, overtraining, and mood states. Their peer-reviewed findings were published on March 30 in the PeerJ journal.

Carla Alfonso and Lluis Capdevila of UAB's Laboratory of Sport Psychology found that if a bike workout was very intense and put too much stress on a cyclist's body, HRV plummeted the following morning. Alfonso and Capdevila also discovered that HRV levels correlated with cyclists' moods. Low HRV was correlated with negative mood states; higher HRV was associated with better mood states.

"The objective of the research was to explore the relation among three aspects: training, heart rate variability, and mood," Alfonso said in a news release. "With this study, we aimed to know when an athlete must rest, because their system is saturated, and when an athlete can train, with more or less intensity, because their body is ready to assimilate the training load."

The main takeaway from this pilot study is that HRV and mood states seem to rise and fall in tandem. For example, if a "weekend warrior" overdoes it on Sunday, odds are that they'll be cranky or in a bad mood Monday morning. Negative mood states the day after putting too much stress on your body by overtraining correlate with lower HRV.

 Axel_Kock/Shutterstock

This illustration shows the human brain and "wandering" vagus nerve. In the 1920s, a German-born researcher named Otto Loewi discovered that electrically stimulating the vagus nerve released a parasympathetic substance that slows heartbeats and calms the nervous system. Today, we refer to this vagus substance as acetylcholine. Loewi called it "vagusstoff."

Source: Axel_Kock/Shutterstock

Heart Rate Variability Reflects the Vagus Nerve's Response to Stress

The vagus nerve secretes an inhibitory substance directly onto the heart, slowing it down. Heart rate variability measures how effectively vagus nerve activity is creating healthy fluctuations between heartbeats. Higher HRV indicates that the body has a robust ability to tolerate and recover from stress. Conversely, lower HRV means that the vagus nerve is "frazzled" and isn't effectively inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system's fight-or-flight response, which revs up heartbeats and reflects a lower stress tolerance.

Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize in 1936 for his discovery that stimulating the vagus nerve releases an inhibitory substance that slows heartbeats and calms the nervous system.

In the 1970s, my neurosurgeon father taught me about Loewi's vagus nerve research in the context of maintaining grace under pressure. My dad knew that "vagusstoff" was released during the exhalation phase of the breathing cycle. So, he used breathing exercises to stay calm during brain surgery and on the tennis court. (See "How 'Vagusstoff' (Vagus Nerve Substance) Calms Us Down.")

When I was a young tennis player, Dad coached me to take a quick inhalation through my nose followed by a long, slow exhalation through pursed lips to calm my nerves before every serve. A recent study found that one five-minute session of deep, slow-breathing exercise (four seconds in, six seconds out) increases vagal tone and reduces anxiety. Personally, I prefer an inhale-exhale ratio of four-second inhalations followed by eight-second exhalations.

On the basis of evidence-based research and lived experience, I know that longer exhalations are an easy way to hack your vagus nerve by triggering the release of vagusstoff. But, I also understand that the calming effect of these breathing exercises tends to be short-lived.

When the sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated by too much exercise, diaphragmatic breathing is just a bandage that gives you temporary relief. Rest is the best remedy for giving your vagus nerve and parasympathetic system a chance to bounce back.

To Sum Up: Excessive Exercise Reduces Vagus Nerve Tone as Indexed by Low HRV

HRV is an indispensable tool for keeping tabs on how your vagus nerve responds to exercise-induced stress and ensuring that you don't overtrain. Low HRV indicates that the fight-or-flight mechanisms of your sympathetic nervous system are in hyperdrive and that vagal tone is weak. Conversely, higher HRV shows that vagus nerve activity is robust and that your parasympathetic nervous system is handling stress well.

The latest research (2022) on HRV and overtraining reaffirms that low HRV is a warning sign that your vagus nerve may be "frazzled" from too much psychophysiological distress. If you don't have access to an HRV monitor, experiencing negative moods the day after exercising vigorously may be a sign that you should take it easy for the next 24 hours and give your system time to recuperate.

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  • Getting enough sleep
  • It is well known that lack of sleep can make us feel moody and irritable, therefore inducing the state of anxiety. So, keeping a healthy and organized sleep schedule can do wonders for you.

    1. Working out

    Working out is also a very good way to chase away the unpleasant effects of anxiety. Physical exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which are known as feel-good chemicals, which flood your system and give you a sense wellbeing post-exercising.

    1. Journaling

    Although it might not work for everyone, putting your feelings on paper can have a therapeutic effect if you are battling with anxiety. After writing down your worries and concerns, you can also try writing a short list of things you are grateful for, which can help shift your perspective and make you focus more on the things worth appreciating in your life, giving you a pleasant feeling.

    1. Meditating

    You don’t have to go to an ashram or a retreat in order to make meditation your ally. Although it is perceived as a hip millennial concept, in reality, meditation can mean focusing on you breath and deep-breathing for a few minutes, or taking some time to just relax and let your mind wonder, really anything that can make you reach a state of mindfulness.

    These are just a few examples of what you can do to minimize the effects of anxiety. However, in the end, you need to sit down with yourself and find out exactly what works for you. Once you identify one or more methods which enable you to reclaim your calm, then you can start practicing them regularly, so you can fully benefit from the results.

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    This article discusses the importance of self-care for nurses and is the third in a series on professionalism in nursing

    Abstract

    Nursing is a rewarding career but it is also demanding physically, emotionally and psychologically. This article is the third in a series on professionalism, and discusses the need for undergraduate nurses to look after their own wellbeing by adopting and embedding self-care practices. It is important that nursing students can recognise the signs of stress, both in themselves and their colleagues. Breathwork, meditation, movement, sleep hygiene and nutrition are some of the self-care strategies that can be explored.

    Citation: Smart A, Creighton L (2022) Professionalism in nursing 3: the value of self-care for students. Nursing Times [online]; 118: 6

    Authors: Alison Smart and Laura Creighton are lecturers in education, Queen’s University Belfast.

    Introduction

    A popular saying among those who promote self-care is: “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. The proverb – which means you must take care of yourself before you can take care of others – is important for nurses to remember as their professional and personal lives become increasingly busy.

    Nurses must strive for positive wellbeing so they can meet the standards of patient care and work as set out in the code of conduct published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in 2018. Nursing can come at a significant cost to mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and, in addition to their professional workload, nurses are often also supporting family and friends; over time, this can take a toll on both mental and physical wellbeing.

    It is important to develop and embed coping strategies as a student nurse to ensure you recognise when you are feeling stressed and understand how to deal with negative stress. Self-care is mandated by the NMC’s (2018) Code and, each year, student nurses are asked to complete a declaration of good character and health before they continue with the next stage of their course.

    What is self-care?

    Self-care is self-initiated behaviour that people incorporate to be proactive in promoting good health and general wellbeing (Sherman, 2004). It relates to activities that are done with the aim of:

    • Enhancing energy;
    • Restoring health;
    • Reducing stress.

    This can help people gain a greater capacity to manage stress, increase resilience and reduce symptoms of mental health problems (Jiang et al, 2021). It is important that student nurses take the time to identify self-care practices that enhance their wellbeing.

    Student nurses and stress

    High stress and anxiety in nursing students affects learning and raises attrition levels (Turner and McCarthy, 2017), and student nurses have been shown to have higher stress and anxiety compared with those on other professional undergraduate courses (Crary, 2013). Many factors can contribute to this, not least the fact that they are required to complete 2,300 hours of clinical placement to be eligible to join the NMC register. This means working shift patterns that can result in a lack of routine and structure.

    Other common triggers of stress are around:

    • A fear of the unknown;
    • Working with unfamiliar equipment or practices at different trusts;
    • Worries about a gap between theory and practice and the possibility of making a mistake;
    • Issues around communication with staff, students and peers (Nelwati et al, 2013; Pulido-Martos et al, 2012).

    Stress can lead to disease, deterioration in health, poor academic performance and, in some cases, students withdrawing from their course. Many sources of stress are unavoidable and need to be proactively managed. However, if nurses take care of themselves, they will be more effective in their capacity to care for others (Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 2015).

    Recognise the signs of stress

    It is important to be self-aware and recognise signs of stress. The body has a physiological response to acute stress, triggered by the ‘fight-or-flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system, which is often experienced by health professionals on a daily basis. Prolonged or chronic stress can be harmful to health and wellbeing and left unmanaged, can impact a person’s capacity to care as a professional nurse.

    Chronic stress can present itself in many ways, including physical manifestations as well as thoughts, behaviours and feelings (RCN, 2015). Each person will react differently to stress but symptoms may include:

    • Pounding heart;
    • Sweaty palms;
    • Headache;
    • Nausea;
    • Trembling;
    • The mind racing or going blank;
    • Plummeting self-esteem and confidence (RCN, 2015).

    An activity that can be done to help a person recognise how stress manifests in themselves is outlined in Box 1.

    Box 1. Stress recognition activity

    • Draw a person on a page
    • Think of a time when you felt stressed, perhaps at university or on clinical placement
    • Look at the body image on the page and identify the different ways in which your body responded to stress

    Self-care strategies

    Student nurses should take responsibility for their own wellbeing to ensure continued safe practice. Practising self-care is a great first step. Nurses must give themselves permission to care for themselves as well as others, and to create time for that (Andrews et al, 2020).

    Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is the art of letting your mind be still in the present moment; Box 2 details an exercise aimed at helping you to be in the present.

    Box 2. Mindfulness activity

    Close your eyes, breath in deeply for a count of five and breathe out for five. Repeat three times. Open your eyes and identify the following:

    • Five things you can see
    • Four things you can reach out to and touch
    • Three sounds you can hear
    • Two things you can smell
    • One thing you can taste

    Van der Reit et al (2018) found that mindfulness meditation can improve nurses’ and student nurses’ wellbeing. Positive effects include a restructuring of the brain; Hölzel et al (2011) found that mindfulness is associated with changes in grey matter concentration in brain regions involving “learning and memory processes, emotion, regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking”. In addition, Chiesa et al (2011) demonstrated that the constant practice of meditation demonstrates neuroplasticity and improves cognitive functions. Further positive effects include helping the processing of emotions and decreasing blood-pressure and stress hormones, such as cortisol (Green and Kinchen, 2021).

    Certain apps, for example Headspace and Calm, can help with a daily meditation practice. The RCN’s website also includes details of mindfulness activities.

    Breathwork

    Intentional, or diaphragmatic, breathing is an efficient tool for body/mind training. Xiao et al (2017) described diaphragmatic breathing as involving the:

    • Contraction of the diaphragm;
    • Expansion of the belly;
    • A deep inhale and exhale.

    Compared with the normal breathing processes, this technique can have a noticeable impact on calming the autonomic nervous system (Zaccaro et al, 2018). By taking time to focus on breathing, it is possible to reset the fight-or-flight response when experiencing stress.

    The US Navy’s Sea, Air and Land teams – commonly known as Navy SEALs – implement intentional breathwork as a tool to help with stressful situations (Nazish, 2019). This takes the form of ‘box breathing’, a multistaged breathing exercise in which a person visualises travelling around the sides of a box (Box 3). This exercise can be done anywhere at any time; it is taught to student nurses at Queen’s University Belfast and informal feedback from those who have used the technique during their placement suggests that they find it helpful in dealing with stressful situations during a shift.

    Box 3. Box-breathing exercise

    The idea of this multistage breathing exercise is to imagine breathing while travelling around the sides of a box:

    • Close your eyes and visualise one surface of a square box, then:
      • Inhale slowly to a count of four as you visualise travelling up one side of the box
      • When you reach the top, hold your breath to a count of four as you imagine traveling across the top of the box
      • Exhale slowly to a count of four as you visualise moving down the other side of the box
      • Hold your breath for a count of four as you imagine travelling along the bottom of the box.

    Physical activity

    The World Health Organization (WHO) (2020) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Most of us are aware that physical activity is good for us and improves physical and mental health; obvious examples of such activities are walking, running, cycling, yoga and Pilates, team sports and other exercise regimes of varying intensity. In a study of student nurses, Hawker (2012) found a correlation with physical activity and mental wellbeing through improved mood, reduced anxiety and depression, and increased self-esteem and life satisfaction.

    For those who find it hard to stay active, big changes start with small steps; something as simple as a walking challenge – perhaps done with family, friends or colleagues – can be a good place to start (Smart and O’Neill, 2021).

    Sleep hygiene

    Sleep problems are common among health professionals because of shift patterns; Stimpfel et al (2020) found that nurses’ short sleep duration was associated with poorer quality of care and reduced patient safety. Those who want to improve their sleep can do a sleep assessment to help identify what strategies may be effective; a sleep assessment tool is available on the NHS website.

    Walker (2018) offered these tips to help improve sleep quality:

    • Find a bedtime routine: as an example, drinking a cup of herbal tea, reading a book, taking a warm bath (the dip in your core body temperature afterwards signals to your body that it is time to sleep) will help to programme your body to understand that it is bedtime;
    • Avoid screen time an hour before bed: the blue light emitted from the screens of digital devices such as computers and smartphones reduces sleep time, quality and depth by fooling your brain into thinking it is still daytime;
    • Ensure your bedroom is cool (around 18°C), so your body experiences the drop in core temperature to initiate sleep;
    • Restrict caffeine and nicotine: avoid both in the four to five hours before bed.

    Hydration and nutrition

    Dehydration in nurses is common and is not helped by a culture of it being hard to take drinks breaks; a report on safe and effective staffing found that 59% of nurses had not managed to take enough breaks during their previous shift (RCN, 2017). Dehydration alone can reduce concentration and cognitive function, and lead to fatigue (RCN, 2018). Nurses should always:

    • Hydrate before starting a shift;
    • Keep a water bottle with them and make sure to top it up when on a break;
    • Look out for signs of dehydration, such as a sore head, feeling tired/lethargic and having difficulty concentrating.

    Good nutrition is vital, but long shifts, working nights and starting early mean this can get lost. Emotional eating as a form of comfort is not sustainable, and leads to overeating and unhealthy food choices, which can store up future health problems (Liu et al, 2017).
    Tips to maintain good hydration and nutrition are outlined in Box 4.

    Box 4. Tips for good hydration and nutrition

    • Be equipped for a shift with water and nutritious snacks; try not to rely on vending and coffee machines
    • Opt for high-protein meals and snacks
    • Try not to give in to cravings for sugary snacks while at work
    • Prepare nutritious meals in batches at home if doing a few shifts in a row

    Find what works

    Student nurses can adopt various other activities that can help with self-care. Examples include:

    • Connecting with others;
    • Journaling;
    • Gratitude (Sansone and Sansone, 2010).

    For the more adventurous, evidence suggests that open-water swimming or cold-water therapy has mental and physical health benefits by stimulating endorphins to improve mood (Oliver, 2021). It is important to find what works for you and make it part of your life.

    Conclusion

    Student nurses can experience high levels of stress; this can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, reduce the quality of patient care they can provide, and compromise patient safety. Stress can present itself in physical, psychological and emotional ways. Student nurses should embed self-care into daily routines and recognise stress in themselves and in others. Various effective strategies – including movement, meditation, breathwork, positive sleep hygiene, and ensuring optimum nutrition and hydration – can be used to boost mental and physical wellbeing.

    Those working in nursing education should direct students to wellbeing activities when discussing professionalism and the NMC Code. It is important to embed, early in a nurse’s career, an awareness of wellbeing and supportive strategies that can be adopted.

    Key points

    • The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s code of conduct places an emphasis on nurses prioritising their own wellbeing
    • People who work in positions of care tend to provide care for everyone but themselves
    • Student nurses experience high levels of stress because of the nature of their course
    • Proactive approaches to self-care should be adopted early on in a nursing career
    • It is important to find the strategies that work for individual people
    References

    Andrews H et al (2020) Needing permission: the experience of self-care and self-compassion in nursing – a constructivist grounded theory study. International Journal of Nursing Studies; 101: 103436.

    Crary P (2013) Beliefs, behaviors, and health of undergraduate nursing students. Holistic Nursing Practice; 27: 2, 74-88.

    Green AA, Kinchen EV (2021) The effects of mindfulness meditation on stress and burnout in nurses. Journal of Holistic Nursing; 39: 4, 356-368.

    Hawker CL (2012) Physical activity and mental well-being in student nurses. Nurse Education Today; 32: 3, 325-331.

    Hölzel BK et al (2011) Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging; 191: 1, 36-43.

    Jiang X et al (2021) A systematic review of self-care measures for professionals and trainees. Training and Education in Professional Psychology; 15: 2, 126-139.

    Liu Y et al (2017) Eating your feelings? Testing a model of employees’ work-related stressors, sleep quality, and unhealthy eating. Journal of Applied Psychology; 102: 8, 1237-1258.

    Nazish N (2019) How to de-stress in 5 minutes or less, according to a navy SEAL. forbes.com, 30 May.

    Nelwati et al (2013) Indonesian student nurses’ perceptions of stress in clinical learning: a phenomenological study. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice; 3: 5, 56-65.

    Nursing and Midwifery Council (2018) The Code: Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses, Midwives and Nursing Associates. NMC.

    Oliver B (2021) Cold water swimming for well-being. Journal of Public Mental Health; 20: 2 105-110.

    Pulido-Martos M et al (2012) Sources of stress in nursing students: a systematic review of quantitative studies. International Nursing Review; 59: 1, 15-25.

    Royal College of Nursing (2018) Rest, Rehydrate, Refuel: A Resource to Improve the Working Environments for Nursing Staff. RCN.

    Royal College of Nursing (2017) Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds. RCN.

    Royal College of Nursing (2015) Stress and You: A Guide for Nursing Staff. RCN.

    Sansone RA, Sansone LA (2010) Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry; 7: 11, 18-22.

    Sherman DW (2004) Nurses’ stress & burnout: how to care for yourself when caring for patients and their families experiencing life-threatening illness. American Journal of Nursing; 104: 5, 48-56.

    Smart A, O’Neill D (2021) Steps in the right direction. blogs.qub.ac.uk, 26 February (accessed 19 April 2022).

    Stimpfel AW et al (2020) Nurses’ sleep, work hours and patient care quality, and safety. Sleep Health; 6: 3, 314-320.

    Turner K, McCarthy VL (2017) Stress and anxiety among nursing students: a review of intervention strategies in literature between 2009 and 2015. Nurse Education in Practice; 22: 21-29.

    Van der Riet P et al (2018) The effectiveness of mindful meditation for nurses and nursing students: an integrated literature review. Nurse Education Today; 65: 201-211.

    Walker M (2018) Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Penguin.

    World Health Organization (2020) Physical activity. who.int, 26 November (accessed 29 March 2022).

    Xiao M et al (2017) The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative effect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Psychology; 8: 874.

    Zaccaro A et al (2018) How breath-control can change your life: a systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; 12, 353.

     

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    Research shows that as many as one in eight COVID-19 patients could get Long COVID, which means there are likely hundreds of New Zealanders still experiencing symptoms 12 weeks after testing positive.

    New Zealand physiotherapists have been working closely with their counterparts overseas to find out more about Long COVID and how best to support those suffering long-term effects.

    Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) spokesperson Dr Sarah Rhodes says it is understandable that patients with Long COVID are increasingly frustrated that their recovery is so slow as the symptoms can persist for months and years in some cases. PNZ calls on the government to support people’s access to effective treatment for Long COVID, just as they have supported people through the pandemic.

    “We know that COVID-19 affects people differently and it is the same with Long COVID. It doesn’t only affect those who are hospitalised with an acute COVID infection. It can also affect those whose initial symptoms are mild and even those who are asymptomatic with the acute COVID-19 infection.”

    “The desire to get back to normal life after COVID-19 is understandably important for all of us. With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s often hard to be that person who needs to rest instead of going back to work, getting back into your leisure activities, and looking after children and/or older family/whānau members. However, rest is an essential part of managing an acute COVID-19 infection as it is likely to reduce the risk of developing Long COVID,” says Dr Rhodes.

    Members of PNZ’s Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group have developed some general tips to help guide people through a prolonged period of symptoms.

    Fatigue

    This is the most common symptom of Long COVID. Undertaking daily activities which were easily managed prior to COVID-19, such showering, can be exhausting.

    • Be kind to yourself. Don’t take on too much. Ask for help.
    • Working out which tasks require more or less energy can help you prioritise your time and activities so that you stay within your available energy levels. Keeping a diary of how you feel after each activity can be useful in identifying which activities make you more or less fatigued.
    • Pace yourself by doing small tasks or breaking up activities and allowing yourself to take rests in between. Choose some activities that you give you pleasure to help support your mental well-being.
    • Plan out your week to allow for periods of activity and periods of rest and recovery.
    • Take regular breaks throughout the day and if you need a rest, listen to your body. Don’t push through the feeling of exhaustion.
    • When fatigue is worsened by physical or mental effort, this may indicate you have post exertional symptom exacerbation (PESE). Exercise is not recommended for rehabilitation of people experiencing PESE as it can worsen symptoms. A physiotherapist can help support you in managing your fatigue.
    • Remember that some activities, like being with friends, may contribute to symptom exacerbation. Connecting with others is important for your mental well-being so you may need to reduce the time you spend with others to conserve your energy for other activities in the day.
    • Adapt activities to make them easier. e.g., sitting down to prepare the vegetables for dinner.
    • Getting outside and spending time in nature can have benefits for both your mental and physical health.

    Breathlessness

    Breathlessness is another commonly experienced symptom in those with Long COVID.

    • Feeling breathless can be a frightening experience.
    • Seek support from a physiotherapist about positions and breathing techniques that can help alleviate feelings of breathlessness.
    • It is important to get an individual assessment of your breathing as a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.
    • A physiotherapist can also screen for disruptions in your pattern of breathing that may contribute to some of the symptoms you are experiencing.

    Muscle and Joint Pain

    • Some patients with Long COVID experience muscle aches and joint pain. Gentle stretching and yoga may help relieve these symptoms.
    • Check with your health professional before starting any exercises.

    Return to exercise

    • Exercise is not recommended if it worsens your fatigue.
    • If you are not experiencing worsening symptoms, a cautious approach to commencing exercise is recommended. Your response to exercise should be monitored carefully. A safe return to exercise requires careful clinical decision making and a physiotherapist can support you through this.

    Physiotherapy can help manage symptoms of Long COVID. However, for some patients a multi-disciplinary approach, involving other health professionals, is recommended.

    For more information and interview requests, contact: Dr Sarah Rhodes, 021 210 5270

    © Scoop Media

     

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    When we hear the word health we often immediately think about our physical wellbeing. Being physically fit and healthy is paramount but mental health is no less important. When we are both physically and mentally well we are able to experience positive feelings and enjoy our happy moments in life. In modern life it can be a puzzle to meet all the demands we feel there are in our lives every day and even though more people are aware of the importance of stepping out of our daily stress there are still many whose stress levels are continually too high.

    It is important to take the focus off outward things and listen to our bodies and feel our feelings. In order to do that we need to be peaceful and stop thinking about doing and focusing on being.

    Untreated stress can be the cause of many illnesses. As much as it is a natural response to feel stress every now and then, it can be dangerous to have constant stress in our lives. Stress is now the biggest cause of people having to take sick leave, because it can cause depression, anxiety and a lot of other illnesses. Therefore, it is vital to nip it in the bud and make sure we are not riding the stress wave every day.


    Nature, yoga and yoga nidra

    More people are now using yoga and yoga nidra as a tool to center themselves, look inside and feel a healing calm. There are many schools of yoga that emphasize different aspects, such as poses, meditation, restoration, mantras and breathing techniques. Yoga nidra is an ancient form of meditation which is used to increase balance and wellbeing, but the term yoga nidra means yogic sleep and it can be described as a guided meditation where you are lying down. When we are deep in meditation our brain slows down and we experience a state that is much like deep sleep.

    But nature is also on our side. Most people who regularly hike outside  in nature will tell you about the mental and physical benefits of being active in outdoors. You don’t always have to run up a mountain to feel the benefits, you can also go on long walks to experience the positive effects and the joy that comes with it. Just being outdoors is a healing experience and breathing in the fresh air and being in the beautiful Icelandic nature is a nurturing experience like no other.


    Organized walks in nature

    Edith Gunnarsdóttir is the owner of the Well being Center

    Hugarsetrid

    and she is a yoga teacher, a consultant and a guide with

    The Iceland Touring Associaion

    (Ferðafélag Íslands). For the last few years she has been running a program with organized health walks in nature that combine the outdoors and yoga in order to improve the overall health of the participants. The people in the program meet two times a week and begin the week by going on an easy walk close to Reykjavik and at the end of the week they have a yoga nidra session.

    Edith was one of the first people in Iceland to conduct a research into the benefits of yoga nidra on depression, anxiety and stress. Her findings show that yoga and yoga nidra improved the lives of the participants in numerous ways. They felt less stressed, more relaxed, felt better about themselves, were more positive and felt overall happier.

    Here

    you can read more about the research.



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    I never thought the chaotic carpool lane would become my place of calm. But as it turns out, it’s one of the only times throughout my week when I have ten minutes alone to perfect my grounding breath technique. Truly, carving out the space to simply breathe has the power to transform.

    There was a period when I’d use that time to blast my playlist of the moment before the kids’ pop music madness filled the car or indulge in a podcast instead. But lately, I’ve been turning the volume down (in every sense) and using the few extra moments to concentrate on breathing. For the handful of minutes I’m parked behind the wheel, I cocoon myself in the quiet comfort of the car, giving focus only to the sound of my inhales and exhales. 

    Making space for that intentional breath is one of the best parts of my day. It makes me feel centered, aware and present. And I do it just for me.

    But that practice got me thinking. The art of the inhale/exhale has supported me during some of my biggest milestone moments. Breathwork got me through three versions of childbirth, comforted me in times of grief and loss, and kept my knees from buckling at the wedding altar. 

    Feature image by Michelle Nash.

    Discover How Bringing Intention to Your Breath Technique Can Transform Your Life

    Wanting to dive into the everyday benefits of practicing an intentional breath technique, like stress and anxiety and even potentially weight loss, I reached out to breathwork expert and author of the gorgeous bestselling book How to Breathe: 25 Simple Practices for Calm, Joy and Resilience, Ashley Neese. Below, Ashley shares everything from the best time to practice breathing, the different types of breath techniques, and beginner-friendly tips for making breathwork a part of your everyday wellness routine.

    Breathwork was nearly unheard of a few years ago. What brought you to the practice?

    I came to the breathwork space through meditation and yoga. What I loved about the breath was that it was more accessible than yoga poses and traditional meditation practices. My favorite part of my work is witnessing my clients’ wins and seeing tangible, sustainable results in their lives from the impact of this work. I love cheering them on and celebrating their successes.

    One of the primary reasons people come to breathwork is to relieve stress. How does this work?

    When we are in stressful situations, our sympathetic nervous system is activated which induces our ‘fight or flight’ hormones. If we are unaware of our breath in these moments, our energy can very quickly become depleted. When we’re out of the situation, our hormone levels drop back down which can cause exhaustion. Over time, depleted energy can show up as lack of motivation, extreme fatigue, constant feelings of overwhelm, or even depression. The good news is that a consistent breathwork practice can create balance, peace, and space in the body to offset the energy deficiency.

    Image by Michelle Nash

    Can breathwork improve sleep? And how about digestion?

    Gentle breathwork can greatly support sleep and digestion through downshifting into our nervous system’s ‘rest and digest’ mode. 

    Are there different types of breath techniques?

    There are many different types of breathing and different methodologies for teaching breathwork. The breathwork practices that I teach are effective for everyday situations such as grounding your energy at work and reducing anxiety, as well as more long-term practices that focus on cultivating resilience or strengthening intimacy. 

    Image by Michelle Nash

    How do different breath techniques affect our well-being?

    One of the great things about breathwork is that you can start with a very simple practice for general nervous system regulation, or you can practice a specific practice for a certain outcome. In my book, How to Breathe,I cover a range of breathwork practices that support anger, sleep, connection, grief, and focus. 

    When is the best time of day to practice breathwork?

    I always tell my clients that the best time to practice is the time of day that’s the easiest to schedule. I have clients with small children who like to practice either before the kiddos wake up or with their children at the end of the day. I also have clients with more flexibility in their lives and they practice before work or in the late afternoon. There is no perfect time of day or evening, rather, it’s the consistency of your practice that matters most. 

    For beginners, what’s the best way to start practicing breathwork?

    Choose a simple practice to start, like the Ocean Breath or Extended Exhales. Whatever you choose, practice for just a couple of minutes a day. My clients have the best success establishing a practice when they build their practices into something else that they’re already doing each day. This is called ‘habit stacking’ and it takes much less effort than trying to carve out time from an already-packed schedule. Try stacking your practice before or after you brush your teeth, exercise, work, or take the kids to school. I mostly use the timer setting on my iPhone to practice, but apps like Calm can be very helpful too. 

    The key is to make it simple for yourself in the beginning. We all have so much going on and we don’t want our practice to feel like one more thing on our to-do list. You can always lengthen the duration of your practice in the weeks ahead!



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    For some people, stress can be more than just a little bit stressful—it can actually interfere with their daily activities and even get in the way of their relationships and enjoyment of life.

    When you're in a stressful situation, your body creates a surge of hormones. These hormones cause your heart to pump quicker and your blood vessels to narrow, therefore raising your blood pressure.


    How Exercise Affects Stress

    One of the most effective strategies to deal with and overcome stress and anxiety is to exercise. Endorphins, which are natural painkillers, are released by your brain when you exercise. Exercising on a regular basis, whether every day or three times a week, promotes your brain to create endorphins, which can help you feel better.

    Working out reduces stress hormones like cortisol in the body. To summarize, exercise helps you feel peaceful and in control of your life by releasing endorphins while also decreasing stress chemicals.


    Here are 5 stress-busting ways to exercise:

    The best way to combat stress is to start by lowering your levels of cortisol. Cortisol affects the release of a number of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin.

    When levels are too high, these neurotransmitters can decrease, leading to stress and anxiety. Exercise has been proven to help keep cortisol production low, so try some of the workouts mentioned in this post or one of your own design.

    1) Yoga

    Yoga helps your body to be relaxed and calm. (Image via Pexels / Elina Fairytale)
    Yoga helps your body to be relaxed and calm. (Image via Pexels / Elina Fairytale)

    Yoga is a form of strength training that makes you more resilient and flexible, relieving physical tension. It also promotes deep breathing, which triggers the body’s relaxation response.

    Yoga has also been shown to lower blood pressure in studies. Yoga helps you to focus your thoughts, which is important for stress management.


    2) Tai Chi

    Tai Chi improves flexibility &amp; vitality. (Image via Pexels / Hebert Santo)
    Tai Chi improves flexibility & vitality. (Image via Pexels / Hebert Santo)

    Tai Chi (also known as tai chi chuan) is a Chinese martial art that combines physical movement with breathing. Also known as "meditation in action," it encourages a mental absorption that allows everyday anxieties to fade away.

    Tai Chi also improves flexibility and vitality, resulting in a better overall sense of well-being. Other advantages include improved balance, comfortable sleep, and cardiovascular fitness.

    Unlike yoga, tai chi consists of over 100 gentle, fluid motions that are linked to each other and your breath; there are no pauses between poses. There are various types of tai chi, similar to yoga, that vary in intensity.


    3) Qi Gong

    Qi Gong enhances your sleep &amp; digestion. (Image via Pexels / Hebert Santo)
    Qi Gong enhances your sleep & digestion. (Image via Pexels / Hebert Santo)

    Qigong, along with acupuncture and herbs, is regarded one of the cornerstones of Chinese medicine, similar to tai chi. Regular qigong practice can help you feel more calm, enhance your sleep and digestion, and boost your vitality.

    Qigong, like tai chi, helps you to be more present in your body. Its slow, smooth motions and emphasis on moving in sync with the breath are incredibly soothing to the neurological system.


    4) Walking

    Walking calms your neurological system. (Image via Pexels / Noelle Otto)
    Walking calms your neurological system. (Image via Pexels / Noelle Otto)

    It's simple to do and requires no extra training or equipment. Walking frequently can reduce a number of stress-related illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. People who walk regularly report lower stress levels and more self-confidence as a result of taking an active role in their health.

    Walking relieves stress in major muscle groups, improves respiration, and calms the neurological system. It also enables us to spend healing time in nature.

    If you're new to walking for exercise, start with two 10-minute walks each week. Increase the frequency and duration of your walks after two or three weeks. To stay healthy and reduce stress, experts say it's a good idea to take five or six 30-minute walks each week.


    5) Pilates

    Pilates strengthens your core. (Image via Pexels / Alexy Almond)
    Pilates strengthens your core. (Image via Pexels / Alexy Almond)

    Pilates is a set of exercises that focuses on developing body awareness, core strength, and good alignment. Pilates develops a bodily equilibrium that makes it difficult for tension to take hold. It focuses equally on strengthening and lengthening muscles.

    Pilates, like yoga, demands attention to "blast you into the now," leaving little mental space for stress. Finally, Pilates is known for lowering back and neck pain, which is a common stress side effect.

    Pilates can be done on a reformer machine (usually only found in Pilates studios) or on a mat on the floor (logically termed "mat" or "floor").


    Bottom Line

    There is no single perfect workout for reducing the effects of stress, but a consistent exercise program is better than one that gets abandoned after just a few tries.

    There really are no negative side effects to adding exercise to your life, and you will certainly feel better if you take efforts to improve your overall health and fitness. So if you really want to reduce your stress levels, consider adding 20-30 minutes of physical activity every day to your schedule.

    As long as it's something that can become part of your regular routine, you'll be well on your way.


    Q. How often do you workout?



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    Rock me Amadeus?

    I should say so. A breathing and wellbeing programme developed by the English National Opera with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, called ENO Breathe, that uses singing as its focus has been found to significantly reduce breathlessness and improve quality of life for people with long covid.

    But won’t singing get me into treble?

    It might have done during lockdown when choirs were broken up and forced to harmonise online. But even though choirs can meet …

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    Mental health apps have been in demand for a while now, but since the pandemic, their popularity grew by over 500%. I downloaded and used a few myself — mainly to help me fall asleep after a stressful day at work. 

    However, these apps aren’t as trustworthy as you think. Mental health apps secretly pass on your data to their business partners behind your back. It’s not just a few basic facts either: the shared data often contains your address, full name, occupation, marital status, symptoms you’re experiencing, daily moods, and a lot more.

    Talk about trust issues, huh? Luckily, there are some ways you can limit what the apps know about you and still get the help you need. We’ll show you how.

    How Mental Health Apps Work and Why They Matter

    Mental health apps can improve your psychological well-being. Their services range from breathing lessons and guided meditation, to one-on-one chats with volunteers or therapists. This lets you get help for anything you need, whether that’s PTSD, depression, anxiety, or addiction.

    The most appealing aspect of mental health apps is their price and comfort of use. You don’t have to leave the house to see a psychologist — they’re right there on your phone! 

    Best of all, they cut the cost of therapy by a huge margin. Many mental health apps are even available for free, which makes therapy accessible to those who would never be able to afford it otherwise.

    The Change in Mental Health After the Pandemic

    If you thought the queues to see a therapist were long before 2020, it’s nothing compared to the post-pandemic mental health crisis. 

    Country-wide lockdowns forced us to stay at home and made meeting up with loved ones a chargeable offense. A Statista study showed that this led to an increase of 20% in the number of people reporting a decline in their mental health. 

    The strain of COVID-19 also pushed suicide as the second cause of teenage deaths. This put the already-suffering mental health industry under a tremendous amount of pressure. 

    The suffering of mental health impacted the global economy too, costing over $1 trillion every year in lost productivity (according to WHO). This is due to low motivation, self-doubt, lack of energy, substance abuse, and increased demand for sick days, which reduces the workforce in businesses.

    Before You Sign Up: Main Privacy Issues With Therapy Apps

    I often don’t bother reading through Privacy Policies if my mental health is suffering and I need help. I simply assume I can trust the developers, considering I give them access to my private thoughts. I was wrong. 

    Mental health apps don’t fall under the supervision of any governing body, despite providing medical help. This means that nothing stops them from storing your personal information and sharing what you’re struggling with among partners. A recent “Privacy Not Included” guide created by Mozilla shows that mental health apps make the most of this situation by blurring the privacy line in their policies.

    Mozilla found that over 75% of mental health apps don’t satisfy basic security requirements. This includes:

    • approving weak passwords.
    • giving business partners free access to your data. 
    • sending targeted ads.
    • poorly-written T&Cs. 

    Surprisingly, the research named leading therapy apps, like Calm and Headspace, as the main perpetrators. As you probably guessed, the apps themselves purport to be privacy-conscious.

    I also analyzed multiple findings from studies published in Consumer Reports’ Digital Labs, Wall Street Journal, JAMA Network Open, and PsychReg. Each one showed similar results, proving that a majority of seemingly private therapy apps monetize your struggles.

    What Data Do Mental Health Apps Log?

    Mental health apps actively collect all kinds of information, including:

    • 🚩 Full name.
    • 🚩 Address.
    • 🚩 Current location.
    • 🚩 Age.
    • 🚩 Gender.
    • 🚩 Nationality.
    • 🚩 Phone number.
    • 🚩 Device type.
    • 🚩 Mood diary.
    • 🚩 Mental state.

    It doesn’t stop with data collection though. I was concerned to see that therapy apps cooperate with Facebook and Google in user data exchange

    While Facebook maintains that it never looks into specific details, it’s enough for the platform to see that you’re using a mental health app in the first place. The social media giant then uses that information to target you with tailored promotions, like prescription-free sleeping pills or herbal anxiety relief. The same goes for Google — even though it has slightly less compromising privacy policies than Facebook.

    Aside from sending your data to advertisers, mental health apps work with other third-party businesses, like data analysts, marketing companies, and data brokers. Any information you put in is automatically circulated between all partnered companies with access to the app’s database.

    Why HIPAA’s Regulations Don’t Apply To Mental Health Apps

    HIPAA (aka Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law that requires all healthcare providers to keep your information secure and private. So, when you visit a psychologist and ask for help with managing your depression, you can be sure this information will stay just between the two of you.

    You’d think mental health apps would also fall under the HIPAA umbrella… they don’t. The act doesn’t apply as therapy apps aren’t considered a part of the medical field. Because of that, it comes down to the developer’s choice whether they want to comply with data protection laws or not.

    How to Stop Therapy Apps From Invading Your Privacy

    Even though it’s impossible to fully stop mental health apps from collecting your data, you can limit what they get:

    1. Use a throwaway email. Very often, therapy apps need you to provide an email address and/or a name before you can access resources. To protect that information, you can sign up with a throwaway email that’s not linked to any other account. That way, you’ll avoid linking your mental health disclosures with your social media profiles and main email address. 
    1. Be stingy with your details. Never offer more information than absolutely necessary. Pay attention to which fields are mandatory to set up an account and leave anything else empty. This will reduce the amount of data mental health apps collect and share.
    1. Check the terms. As you’re signing up, take a quick scroll through the app’s Privacy Policy to get an idea of who the therapy app might be working with. You don’t have to read it word for word — just skim through to figure out how they use your data. 
    1. Opt out. Before you start using the app, see if you can adjust the privacy and security settings. Many apps actually let you opt out of certain data collection points. The setting might be tricky to find as it goes against the app’s interest, but it’s worth looking for.
    1. Use a VPN. While VPNs can’t prevent apps from tracking you once you log into a service, they do encrypt your traffic while in transit, which protects you from surveillance and hacking attempts.

    Can You Stop Mental Health Apps From Collecting Your Data?

    The only way to protect your data as you use therapy apps is with a VPN. Without a VPN, any data you send to mental health apps stays visible to prying eyes, like advertisers or even hackers. 

    Connecting to a VPN server applies heavy encryption to your traffic, making your personal information unattainable to third parties. 

    In other words, a VPN’s job is to make you invisible. That way, mental health apps can’t see your real IP address or your location, which already protects you a great deal. It’ll also stop any lesser-known dodgy therapy apps from making their way into your device to steal additional information.

    Get Private Internet Access to increase your privacy when using mental health apps. 

    PIA comes with the toughest encryption protocols that are even used by the military and the government. This gives you truly unbreakable anonymity whenever you want to meditate in peace. The VPN also stops your traffic from leaking your details, even if you’re using unstable public Wi-Fi. Better still, you can test PIA with therapy apps risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.

    To Use Mental Health Apps or Not — That Is The Question

    Knowing how mental health apps take liberties when it comes to data protection, it may seem like an obvious choice to ditch them altogether. That’s most definitely not the point. If Headspace or Happify helps you get through your days, carry on using them — but tweak your privacy settings and get a VPN to keep your data safe.

    FAQs

    What apps are good for mental health?

    There’s no right or wrong answer here — any app that you find helpful is good for your mental health. With such a huge selection on Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and Amazon’s marketplace, you can always find something for your struggles. 

    The most popular apps include Headspace, Calm, BetterHelp, Finch, InnerHour, iBreathe, Better Stop Suicide, Happify, and 7Cups. Each app claims to help you become your better self by providing various management techniques. These include meditation, breathing exercises, minigames, journaling, CBT, tackling addiction, and more. All you need to do is test drive them and see which one suits you the best.

    A word of caution though — don’t take anything these apps say as the be-all, end-all. Even though some were developed in cooperation with experts, they don’t deliver the personalized care and treatment you may require. They also don’t have the ability to analyze your symptoms, so you shouldn’t use them to reach a diagnosis. 

    Are there any free mental health apps?

    Yes, there are hundreds of free mental health apps you can take advantage of without spending a cent. From browsing through forums and app charts, 7Cups, What’s Up?, Quit Now!, Better Stop Suicide, and iBreathe are the most popular.

    Don’t be discouraged if the app you wanted to use isn’t free. Many paid therapy services (such as Headspace or Calm) let you set up a free account or offer a free trial, so you can still try their features without a charge.

    What is the best app to manage stress?

    The most recommended (and my favorite) stress management apps are: 

    • iBreathe: Offers simple and short deep breathing exercises that help you minimize the effects of stress. It’s so easy you can do it at home, work, restaurant, or even on the go. 
    • Headspace: Teaches you how to make the most of meditation to find the calm in the middle of the storm. Whether you need quick breathing help or a longer course to manage stress, you’ll find many exercises geared towards your needs.
    • Calm: Has meditation lessons aimed at specific issues you might be struggling with like insomnia, stress, or low self-esteem. You’ll also find bedtime stories read by many popular celebrities, like Harry Styles, Regé-Jean Page, and Stephen Fry. Better yet, it has a whole section dedicated to kids and teens.
    • Personal Zen: Offers a series of minigames to take your mind off stress and help you breathe. With regular use, the app claims to equip you with the resilience needed to focus on the positives instead of the negatives and avoid stress altogether. 
    • Squeeze and Shake: Lets you take out your frustration on a rubber duck in your phone. It’s satisfying and very effective at getting it all out. Just make sure to not break your phone in the process!

    Is Headspace a good mental health app?

    Headspace is an award-winning meditation app that uses various mindfulness techniques. Its aim is to reduce stress, encourage being in the present, improve sleep quality, and increase focus. It’s very easy to use and, with a pair of earphones, you can use it anywhere.

    However, keep in mind it collects a large amount of your data. A PsychReg study found that Headspace actually has access to your most vulnerable information, like physical location, social media profiles, and marital status. It’s one of the most privacy-invasive among the tested apps. 

    Luckily, you can opt out of (most of) the data collection through the security settings — and remember to keep app permission to the bare minimum if you’re planning on using it. You can also rely on Private Internet Access to increase your privacy when using mental health apps. 

    VPN Service

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    Registered Kingston charity, Voices of Hope, has offered hope and support to people facing challenges in their daily lives through community choirs and well-being projects since 2019.

    The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the charity rise to the occasion and quickly change direction. As it became clear that the virus was leaving many people suffering with the Long COVID symptoms of breathlessness, disordered breathing, fatigue and anxiety, they established the Active Breathing Course (ABC). The course helps attendees recovering from Long COVID or long-term respiratory conditions to restore lung function and capacity, as well as muscle support, using breathing and singing techniques.

    Sarah Clay, founder and CEO of Voices of Hope, explains: “Voices of Hope aims to help anyone who might be struggling, whether recovering from violence and abuse, dealing with long-term mental and physical health challenges, facing financial hardship or breaking the destructive cycle of isolation and social anxiety. In all of these things, we believe that hope is the seed of change.

    “As the pandemic arrived, we had to put all of our projects on hold and think about how we could continue best serving our local community. One way was by setting up the ABC, which in one year has helped almost 360 UK and 140 Kingston-based residents gain relief from some of their COVID-19 symptoms and other respiratory conditions such as asthma. It has also proved to be helpful for people struggling with anxiety.”

    On the six-week ABC attendees learn valuable breathing and singing techniques to help manage symptoms as well as receiving support from course tutors and other attendees. The course takes self-referrals but people are also referred by GPs, clinicians at Kingston Hospital and physiotherapists due to its successful impact on people’s breathing capacity.

    Kingston GP, Dr Annette Pautz, said: “So many people have had COVID-19 and have been left with on-going symptoms. It will be so important for these people, once they have had any necessary medical investigations and treatment, to be able to attend courses like the ABC programme. As GPs, the programme provides a valuable local service for us to be able to refer patients into to offer them further support in a non-medical environment and to help them get the best possible outcomes.”

    Paul Cox, a local resident who has completed the course, added: “Even though I had been extremely fit and active, COVID had a severe effect on my life in that I couldn’t exercise; I struggled even to ascend the stairs. I was unsure whether attending the course would help me or not because it had been so long since I developed the virus, but the first thing I found was that I very much enjoyed being on the course because there was interaction with people in a similar position to mine. To my delight, I experienced change on a weekly basis.”

    “I certainly have more hope for my condition since I did the course because all the symptoms have gone except for some of the shortness of breath which does persist. I hope that many people may enjoy the benefits from the course that I have.”

    To find out more about the course, visit: Voices of Hope (voh.org.uk)

    To access the course fill out the form here. Once it is submitted you will be sent an email with a referral code that can be used to login to the course.

    Voices of Hope is just one of the local services that can help if you have Long COVID. To find out more about the condition and a range of local services, visit: Long COVID recovery – South West London Health and Care Partnership (swlondon.nhs.uk)

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    Safe Sleep is an investigative series examining what risk factors were present in more than 1,300 incidents of infant death over an 11-year span in Canada.

    When Jodie Nazvesky's son, Sterling, was born 18 months ago, he wasn't breathing.

    Although he began drawing breath shortly afterward, in the days that followed, he had two apneas — incidents when breathing temporarily stops.

    He was discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax four days after he was born, but it took a long time for Nazvesky to let go of the fear of another apnea episode.

    She had another worry, too.

    "I was very anxious when it came to SIDS because I had consumed so much stuff online. I knew too much about that and the risks."

    Jodie Nazvesky of Halifax used a smart monitor when her son Sterling was an infant. She says it offered 'incredible peace of mind.' (Submitted by Jodie Nazvesky)

    To help ease her concern about sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, a relative gave her a baby monitor that tracks an infant's oxygen level and heart rate and sends an alert to a caregiver's wireless device if either falls outside an acceptable range.

    The Owlet Smart Sock "offered incredible peace of mind," Nazvesky said. "I don't think we would have slept without it."

    Parents today can choose from a wide variety of options ranging from simple audio monitors to those that track breathing, heart rate, oxygen, skin temperature and sleeping position and promise to notify parents if something goes awry, such as if the baby's nose and mouth are covered or if the baby rolls over.

    Others even vibrate to rouse a baby if they don't detect breathing for a certain number of seconds.

    Some monitors can also measure air temperature and humidity, play lullabies, take photos and record data about how many hours a baby has slept.

    More and more parents are choosing these smart monitors despite their cost, which can exceed $500. According to ResearchandMarkets.com, a market research company, the global market for smart baby monitors is expected to grow from nearly $1 billion US in 2020 to $1.8 billion US by 2028, driven in part by increasing concerns for child safety.

    Questions about accuracy

    But guidance from the federal government, the Canadian Paediatric Society and Baby's Breath Canada — a foundation focusing on SIDS and sudden and unexpected infant deaths — cautions caregivers about using home cardiorespiratory monitors for babies, saying there is no evidence they reduce the incidence of SIDS and can provide a false sense of reassurance. 

    A 2017 study by researchers who were all paid by Owlet touted the Smart Sock's success, saying that out of 47,495 newborns using the product, Owlet had received more than 80 reports from parents that it helped prevent a critical incident or diagnose an overlooked condition, including the common respiratory virus RSV, erratic heartbeat, breathing disturbance, obstructed airway caused by unsafe sleep practices, congenital heart defect and apnea.

    Of those, 49 appeared clinically significant and were verified by a health-care provider, the study said.

    But a 2018 study of 30 infants at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia comparing the accuracy of two consumer monitors — the Owlet Smart Sock and Baby Vida — to a reference monitor "revealed concerning findings." The Owlet was found to "perform inconsistently" and the Baby Vida didn't detect low blood-oxygen levels and also reported false low pulse rates.

    The lead author of that study, Dr. Christopher Bonafide, also published a 2017 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluding "until they have been thoroughly evaluated and guidelines for use established, the recommendations physicians should give to parents who ask about these products is simple. There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them."

    Monitors can increase anxiety

    Such products can sometimes heighten parental anxiety about their infant's well-being, said Jennifer Doering, an associate dean in the college of nursing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

    "It increases the risk of parents getting post-traumatic stress," said Doering, who has studied infant safe sleep and postpartum sleep disruption and fatigue.

    "If you're … woken up in the night by an alarm going off and you think your baby is dying and then you have that experience over and over and over again in your home, how are you going to trust that your baby is going to be OK?"

    Jennifer Doering is associate dean at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee's college of nursing. She is also a member of ASTM International, an organization that creates safety standards for manufacturers, and has studied infant safe sleep and postpartum sleep disruption and fatigue. (Troye Fox)

    Alanna Stockley of Middle Sackville, N.S., thought her smart monitor would help her feel more at ease when her son Charlie was born 2½ years ago.

    "Sudden infant death syndrome is terrifying, of course, and we thought that anything that could help us prevent that or not have to go through that experience was going to be something that we were going to do."

    But the monitor, which tracked the baby's breathing, exacerbated Stockley's postpartum feelings of anxiety.

    "I felt overwhelmed. It felt like there was just too much information, and I could not settle my mind when we were using it. It was just constant worry that something was going to go wrong and I wasn't going to be notified."

    Alanna Stockley says using a smart monitor made her more anxious when her son Charlie was a baby. (Diane Jardine)

    At the suggestion of an IWK Health Centre counsellor, Stockley stopped using the breathing monitor after just a few weeks, relying instead on a video monitor. She said after that, she wasn't constantly on edge, listening for alarms on the monitor.

    Smart monitors are "incredibly popular" and highly recommended by parents in online groups — particularly to ease concern about infant death, said Kelly Pretorius, a pediatric nurse practitioner who analyzed mothers' social media posts about SIDS as part of her PhD research at the University of Texas.

    "Most mothers are saying, you'll be OK, you just need to buy this. This product will help appease this," she said.

    But Pretorius said for some parents, using a monitor can be like "putting a Band-Aid over a lot of other issues," and lead to serious diagnoses like postpartum anxiety being overlooked.

    Unsafe sleep practices

    Pretorius saw evidence in her study that some mothers may be influenced by the monitors to choose unsafe sleep practices for babies because they feel they have reassurance from the product.

    The 2020 study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, analyzed 912 comments about SIDS in a Facebook group for mothers.

    Kelly Pretorius is a pediatric nurse practitioner who has researched mothers' social media posts about SIDS, including their use of baby monitors. (Submitted by Kelly Pretorius)

    Pretorius cited one example of a mother who noticed that her weeks-old daughter had "the best nap ever" when she fell asleep during tummy time one day, so "I got the Owlet immediately so I could then get some sleep at night."

    The guidelines say parents should prioritize safe sleep practices, such as placing a baby to sleep on their back, alone, in a crib or bassinet free from sleep items or clutter, in the same room as the caregiver. 

    None currently licensed

    In Canada, smart baby monitors that track breathing, heart rate or oxygen levels are regulated as Class II medical devices — the second-lowest of four tiers of risk to health and safety.

    But there are no at-home cardiorespiratory monitors for babies currently licensed as medical devices, and in the last five years, Health Canada has received six complaints about baby monitors being sold without a medical device licence. 

    Health Canada does not routinely review their safety and effectiveness before they are licensed, but manufacturers are required to have evidence showing that their product is safe and effective.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received three reports about problems or adverse events associated with Owlet products, including that they malfunctioned or caused a burn or blister on a baby's foot. 

    Nazvesky holds her son Sterling's foot, which has a blister from using a smart baby monitor that straps onto the foot. (Submitted by Jodie Nazvesky)

    Nazvesky said her son's foot also appeared to be burned or blistered after using the Owlet Smart Sock, but he never seemed hurt or bothered by it, although he still has a small scar from it.

    "I've no idea what it was, but it 100 per cent looked like a burn," she said.

    In a statement to the CBC, Owlet said the safety and accuracy of the Smart Sock have been tested and validated, and that the sock products "have been worn by babies for hundreds of millions of hours. We are confident in the safety of our products."

    Health Canada, FDA concerned

    Both Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have in recent months ordered Owlet to stop selling and advertising its Smart Sock until the company obtains a medical device licence for the product.

    Although a disclaimer on Owlet's website says the product does not "diagnose, cure, treat, alleviate or prevent any disease or health condition," the FDA said the company's marketing suggests otherwise. 

    Most smart baby monitors contain some version of this disclaimer, specifically mentioning the products' inability to diagnose or prevent SIDS.

    An FDA spokesperson told the CBC it could not disclose whether the agency was investigating other baby monitor products.

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    Respiratory trainer is commonly known as breathe exerciser is a device that aims to improve function of the respiratory muscles through specific exercises.

    This device increases the amount one can breathe in and delivers a high mixture of oxygen and air.

    Respiratory trainer strengthen the muscles of those who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

    There are variety of respiratory trainers are available in the market which include Ultrabreathe, Powerbreathe, PowerLung, and Expand-A-Lung.

    Get a Sample Copy of Report @

    www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/sample/rep-gb-2246
    Respiratory trainer- Usage

    To give daily workout to the lung, one should inhale through respiratory trainer for a few minutes twice a day in a simple breathing pattern. Respiratory trainer works on the principle of resistance.

    As patient inhale, the resistance created which makes the muscles work harder and the harder they work the stronger and more durable they become.

    As the breathing power improves, lung exerciser can be gradually adjusted to provide more resistance with just the twist of a knob.

    These days’ doctors are also prescribing respiratory trainer for post-surgery patients to increase their lung power. Respiratory trainers are now also used to increase sports performance.

    Respiratory trainer- Benefits

    Respiratory trainers are compact, convenient and safe. They improve cardio-pulmonary status of the patient, enhancing the overall fitness and wellbeing.

    Respiratory trainers are best lung exercisers that improve oxygenation of blood and reduce fat levels by burning calories.

    These trainers are good for athletes which boost their performance. Respiratory trainers also help in achieving optimum lung capacity and restoring disrupted breathing patterns.

    It also increases circulation of hormones in the blood which increase the blood blow to the heart, brain and lungs.

    Now-a-day doctors prescribed respiratory trainer post-surgery, especially after bypass surgery to restore and maintains lung capacity.

    The most important advantage of respiratory trainer is it can be used by anyone. Considering the ever increasing pollution, even healthy person can use respiratory trainer to strengthen the lungs.

    Request Report Methodology @

    www.futuremarketinsights.com/askus/rep-gb-2246

    Respiratory trainer- Trends

    Presently, respiratory trainer market is driven by rising incidence of respiratory disorder. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma.

    Besides, technological advancement such as low perfusion and motion tolerant in pulse oximeter, increasing government expenditure, growing patient awareness about various respiratory diseases and rise in demand for better healthcare services is also driven the growth of respiratory trainer market.

    Some of the common factors that affect the rate of respiration are age, internal temperature, disease such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and angina is creating robust development in respiratory trainers’ market.

    However, critical regulatory compliance procedures inhibit the growth of the respiratory trainer market.

    Respiratory trainer- Region

    North America dominates the global respiratory trainer market due to technological advancement and increasing incidence of respiratory cases, rising popularity of portable devices and growing demand for home health care devices such as respiratory trainer.

    For instance, The American Lung Association states that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the third leading cause of death in the US. While, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, asthma is estimated to grow by more than 100 million by 2025.

    Asia-Pacific is the fastest emerging market for global respiratory trainer market because of rising number of patients with respiratory diseases.

    Respiratory trainer- Forecast

    The respiratory trainer market in Asia Pacific offers large opportunities and is projected to expand at the highest CAGR in the next few years.

    This growth is mainly due to factors such as untapped opportunities, improving health care infrastructure, and increasing awareness about the available diagnostic procedure.

    Improving health care scenario, rising prevalence of respiratory diseases, and growing investments by market players are the major factors fuelling the growth of global respiratory trainer market.

    The research report presents a comprehensive assessment of the market and contains thoughtful insights, facts, historical data, and statistically supported and industry-validated market data.

    It also contains projections using a suitable set of assumptions and methodologies. The research report provides analysis and information according to market segments such as geographies, types and applications.

    Ask Us Your Questions About This Report @

    www.futuremarketinsights.com/ask-question/rep-gb-2246

    Regional analysis includes

    • North America (U.S., Canada)
    • Latin America (Mexico. Brazil)
    • Western Europe (Germany, Italy, France, U.K, Spain)
    • Eastern Europe (Poland, Russia)
    • Asia Pacific (China, India, ASEAN, Australia & New Zealand)
    • Japan
    • Middle East and Africa (GCC, S. Africa, N. Africa)

    The report is a compilation of first-hand information, qualitative and quantitative assessment by industry analysts, inputs from industry experts and industry participants across the value chain.

    The report provides in-depth analysis of parent market trends, macro-economic indicators and governing factors along with market attractiveness as per segments.

    The report also maps the qualitative impact of various market factors on market segments and geographies.

    About Future Market Insights (FMI)
    Future Market Insights (ESOMAR certified market research organization and a member of Greater New York Chamber of Commerce) provides in-depth insights into governing factors elevating the demand in the market. It discloses opportunities that will favor the market growth in various segments on the basis of Source, Application, Sales Channel and End Use over the next 10-years

    Contact Us:

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    Claim

    An image shows a new "yoga Barbie," introduced in May 2022.

    Like this fact check?

    Reporting

    AdvertisementsOn May 3 2022, a Facebook user warned that “yoga Barbie” poses a spiritual threat to innocent children:

    “Yoga Barbie” is at Target on the shelf. Satan always comes as appearing innocent. He will never come with horns and a pitchfork. This Barbie has 5 guided meditations. Remember, Yoga IS Hinduism. You cannot separate the poses from the religion. Each pose is designed to invoke a hindu deity in the spirit realm. I have seen children get possessed by demons. This Barbie also teaches you deep breathing(pranayama). Her pet is also involved. Satan is after the children. He wants to use them and indoctrinate them for his glory. Then, when he is done, he will destroy them. As your kids grow, they will get rebellious, depressed and many will be suicidal. You won’t understand what’s happening as a parent. God forbids all practices of eastern religion as a Christian. You must remove all toys and clean your children’s room of all demonic attachments. Deuteronomy 18:10-12

    The ‘Yoga Barbie’ Facebook Post

    An attached photograph showed a Barbie doll on a shelf at an unnamed Target location. Screenshots of both the image and the Facebook status update were shared to Imgur on May 12 2022, in a post titled “SATAN YOGA BARBIE”:

    SATAN YOGA BARBIE.

    At the bottom of the image, the product’s name (“Breathe with Me Barbie”) was visible. Imagery on the packaging included an illustration of Barbie in a yoga pose:

    yoga barbie deuteronomy

    On May 12 2022, screenshots of the same post also appeared on Reddit’s r/insanepeoplefacebook, titled “Yoga Barbie is the new Satanic panic!”

    Yoga Barbie is the new Satanic panic! from insanepeoplefacebook

    On Facebook, the post was shared nearly 30,000 times as of May 12 2022. Notably, the same individual published a May 2022 Instagram post claiming that unicorns also pose a sincere spiritual risk to small children:

    Many people have contacted me through the years about their children seeing orbs in their bedrooms, spirits or having nightmares in their sleep. Many of them have had UNICORNS in their room. Toys, clothes and obsessions with unicorn is common now. Today, the unicorn is a decidedly more magical, gentle creature, running around on rainbows and inspiring millions with regular appearances in “My Little Pony”. Unicorns have also been said to be the representations of light and good magic. Their horns have been said to be made from diamond, to gold, to silver, and even to pure concentrated magic. These unicorns, as innocent as they look, are occult in nature. Satan come innocently into our children’s lives. ALL UNICORNS must be removed, renounced and destroyed in your home. We are to have NOTHING to do with the OCCULT/WITCHCRAFT.

    Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    Does The Book of Deuteronomy Prohibit ‘Yoga Barbie’?

    The post referenced Deuteronomy 18:10-12, which BibleGateway provided as follows:

    Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.

    Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible’s Old Testament, and chapters four through eleven pertained to “serving gods other than Yahweh.” Additional sections of the Book of Deuteronomy forbade charging interest on debt, commanded the cancellation of debts “the end of every seven years,” mandated giving “generously to [the poor] and do so without a grudging heart,” and directed caring for the “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow”; neither yoga nor Barbie dolls were referenced anywhere.

    Do Yoga Poses ‘Invoke’ Hindu Deities, and Can Christians Do Yoga?

    Yoga poses, also called asanas, represent a practice with a dual purpose — sometimes purely as physical exercise, sometimes as one “limb” of an all-encompassing spiritual practice:

    Since the mid-20th century, asanas have been used, especially in the Western world, as physical exercise. In this context, their “overtly Hindu” purpose is masked but its “ecstatic … transcendent … possibly subversive” elements remain. That context has led to a division of opinion among Christians, some asserting that it is acceptable as long as they are aware of yoga’s origins, others stating that hatha yoga’s purpose is inherently Hindu, making Christian yoga an evident contradiction or indeed “diametrically opposed to Christianity.” A similar debate has taken place in a Muslim context; under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, yoga, formerly banned as a Hindu practice, has been legalised, while mainly-Hindu Bali has held a yoga competition in defiance of a ruling by Indonesia’s Muslim Ulema Council.

    In a secular context, the journalists Nell Frizzell and Reni Eddo-Lodge have debated (in The Guardian) whether Western yoga classes represent “cultural appropriation.” In Frizzell’s view, yoga has become a new entity, a long way from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and while some practitioners are culturally insensitive, others treat it with more respect. Eddo-Lodge agrees that Western yoga is far from Patanjali, but argues that the changes cannot be undone, whether people use it “as a holier-than-thou tool, as a tactic to balance out excessive drug use, or practised similarly to its origins with the spirituality that comes with it.”

    Controversies about yoga as it relates to Christianity were not uncommon on social media. In 2018, Vox.com published an explainer following a controversy initiated on Twitter due to a blogger’s inaccurate opinion that yoga was a “pagan ritual.”

    In 2015, the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan’s “Ask-A-Theologian” addressed the “Catholic position” on yoga. That analysis began with an observation people sought an “outright condemnation” of yoga practices, and added that the Vatican had never discouraged it:

    I have received a couple inquiries about Yoga by e-mail, and heard of others by word of mouth. It seems that a lot of the faithful are wondering what a Catholic is supposed to think about Yoga. Many even desire an outright condemnation from the Church.

    That such a condemnation has not yet occurred is an important factor for anyone seeking to honestly answer this question. Despite registering certain concerns, the Vatican has not felt compelled to tell Catholics that yoga is totally out of bounds. Why not?

    Many arguments Catholics tend to use against the practice of yoga are, in fact, unCatholic – even superstititous. Those who argue that the practice of putting one’s body into certain positions automatically opens one to malign supernatural forces are making the same mistake that St. Paul criticized in 1 Corinthians 8 when he told those in his congregation who were concerned about eating food that had been offered to idols (much of the available meat in Paul’s time would have come from pagan temples) that “we know that no idol in the world really exists.”

    The physical positions of yoga have no more spiritual power of themselves than meat from a pagan temple differs from any other meat. Consequently, there is no problem with a Catholic using various stretches and exercises that may help her or his bad back just because they happen to be yoga poses.

    That analysis went on to note that any Catholic yoga practitioner “needs to be clear that they are merely exercising,” but that there “can be nothing inherently wrong with exercises that enhance our health and wellbeing.” A 2013 BBC article about whether yoga was inherently religious covered concerns from several religions, explaining:

    Yoga classes vary. While some feature the chanting of Hindu sutras, others will make vaguer references to a “life force” or “cosmic energy”. A session might end with a greeting of “namaste” and a gesture of prayer. There will probably be a moment for meditation, at which point participants may be encouraged to repeat the sacred word “Om”, which Buddhists and Hindus regard as a primordial sound which brought the universe into being.

    But other classes may make no overt reference to spirituality at all.

    It’s worth noting that many of the post’s claims clearly echoed the long-debunked “Satanic Panic” conspiracy theory that engulfed Americans in the 1980s, an antisemitic disinformation campaign that is perhaps most recognizable in recent history in its most recent iteration, QAnon.

    Is ‘Yoga Barbie’ New?

    A 2012 article on PhillyMag.com described a “Yoga Teacher Barbie,” purportedly part of an “I Can Be …” line from Mattel; many of the page links had since disappeared:

    And so, it happened. Barbie became a yoga teacher.

    Word of the new Mattel-issued doll has been making its way around the internet over the past week [in June 2012]. The Barbie, found at Target stores, is part of the brand’s “I Can Be…” collection, which also includes Barbies pursuing careers as architects, lifeguards, tennis pros and movie stars. Yoga Teacher Barbie comes with a pink yoga mat and tiny dog (for accessorizing, duh).

    Mattel’s “Made to Move” line of Barbies (on Amazon since 2018) featured a “trendy mesh top and colorful yoga pants,” and were seen in yoga-like poses in product photographs. The “Barbie Breathe with Me” doll appeared on Amazon in January 2020, and a March 2020 People.com article reported the line was a collaboration with meditation app Headspace:

    Barbie partnered with meditation company Headspace to create the dolls. The two companies also teamed up to release custom guided meditations for kids “to raise awareness around nurturing overall emotional well-being through mindfulness exercises.”

    The meditation doll (called “Breathe with Me Barbie”) includes a button children can press to play one of the guided meditations. Each meditation session is 4 minutes long, and focuses on themes like kindness, staying positive and settling down.

    Breathe with Me Barbie Isn’t Even a Yoga Doll

    Although Barbie appeared to begin dabbling with yoga as early as 2012, Mattel’s product page for “Breathe with Me Barbie” indicated that the doll’s function was meditation — not yoga.

    A complete product description explained that the doll did included five guided meditations for children, explaining its purpose as “wellness,” “self-care,” and awareness of emotional states:

    Barbie® doll knows the way to be one’s best is to give yourself the best care! This meditation-themed doll celebrates one of her favorite ways to recharge using lights and sound — mindfulness meditation. The set comes with a Barbie® doll, a puppy and four cloud emojis. Kids simply press the button in Barbie® doll’s necklace to activate one of five guided meditation exercises that use light and sound effects to inspire their own practice. Her puppy helps her visualize — insert one of the cloud emojis into its head to represent a meditative thought bubble, then switch it up for new meditation inspiration. Breathe with Me Barbie™ doll is dressed in cozy loungewear and features extra flexibility for realistic posing and active play. Kids can collect all the Barbie® wellness dolls to explore self-care and expand their worlds because when a girl plays with Barbie®, she imagines everything she can become! Each sold separately, subject to availability.

    • Kids can practice self-care as they help Breathe with Me Barbie™ doll with her meditation practice.
    • Barbie® doll has lights and sounds designed to inspire mindfulness — press the button in her necklace to start one of five guided meditation exercises that kids can practice, too.
    • The puppy helps Barbie® doll focus with visualization: place one of the four cloud emojis — Love Rainbow, Sad Rain, Happy Sunshine or Grumpy Red — into its head to express an emotion; switch them up to express a new feeling.
    • Barbie® doll wears inspirational loungewear with a cloud and rainbow graphic on her top and a cloud print on her pants.
    • She also features 15 ‘joints’ for more realistic movement and posing — at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, thighs, hips, knees and ankles.

    Summary

    A May 2022 “yoga Barbie” controversy followed a viral Facebook post, claiming that Mattel’s “Breathe with Me Barbie” was “Satan” in disguise, and that yoga poses “invoke a Hindu deity”; the same poster made nearly identical claims and biblical references about unicorns as a secret indoctrination tool. Barbie dolls with yoga themes dated back to 2012, and the doll in question was released in 2020. As for the “Breathe with Me Barbie” depicted in the post, the doll in question was not yoga themed. Mattel introduced “Breathe with Me Barbie” in a 2020 collaboration with meditation app Headspace, designing it to help children relax and better identify and express their emotions.



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    This week, Newton Community Centre held wellbeing classes as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. 

    On Wednesday, the centre offered a Mindfulness Meditation and Wellbeing class for members of the community to slow down and reflect on their mental health. 

    Following its announcement on their Facebook page, I decided to head down to Newton Community Centre to take part in the mindful activity. 

    Upon arrival, I immediately felt welcomed and disconnected to the outside world.  

    Starting at 1pm, the hour-long session allowed myself and other participants to be in the present moment, whilst Chris Booth, our guide, led us through a series of breathing exercises. 

    As Chris stated, we take breathing for granted, and as it's something our body naturally does itself, it's important for us to recognise its significance.

    Breathing techniques also enable us to focus on our current state rather than be attached to our thoughts. 

    Seated with eyes closed was encouraged, however, participants were also welcomed to move around the room. 

    Following the breathing exercises was a body scan, which involves mentally scanning your body from head to toe to direct your attention from your thoughts to your body parts. 

    The wellbeing class finished with independent meditation, which at this point I was extremely relaxed and content.

    The session certainly allowed me to appreciate the act of meditating as I left Newton Community Centre feeling mindful and light. 

    To follow my experience at the centre, watch the video below:



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    Take regular breaks if you feel overwhelmed (Picture: Getty)

    With recent data from DVSA showing a significant spike in driving test pass rates, there will be a wave of new drivers on the road very soon.

    But, with so many things to remember and safety at stake, driving can be an unsettling experience.

    As a result, driving anxiety is incredibly common.

    It could be an individual is worried about getting into a car or driving to a new destination – there are a number of ways this anxiety manifests itself.

    Counsellor Hilary Sims from Life Balance Counselling says: ‘You feel impending doom and feel that everything is going to go wrong, therefore, if you have driving anxiety, you can believe you are going to crash every time you get in the car. 

    ‘Anxiety also can affect your concentration levels, which can affect your ability to drive properly.’

    Car leasing company Vehicle Contracts have teamed up with Hilary to share some ways individuals can overcome it. 

    Check traffic updates and plan your route 

    More control of a situation should help individuals to feel a little less anxious. So, consider planning your route thoroughly by charging up your phone/SatNav and looking at traffic updates before you set off.

    You could even do practice runs of a route if you have an appointment coming up, or need to visit a new place.

    Take your time and take breaks if needed

    Remember to breathe (Picture: Getty Images)

    Sticking to national speed limits, or even creating a route that avoids potential triggers – like dual carriageways and motorways – can also help reduce anxiety. 

    If you feel tension or worry building up, be sure to pull over until you feel more calm to drive.

    Do breathing exercises

    Breathing exercises are a great way to calm down and regain a sense of control.

    Plus they can be done anywhere – even in a car.

    Hilary says: ‘Initially, when anxiety takes hold, take control of your breathing. Breathe in and out a number of times, while holding your breath for a few seconds at a time. 

    ‘This slows our breathing down which in turn slows down our heart race. Anxiety increases the heart rate and the first step to deal with anxiety is to slow the breathing and heart rate down.’

    Consider why you feel anxious 

    Hilary suggests taking a moment to think about the possible causes for this driving anxiety.

    She adds: ‘Ask yourself, what is the evidence to support my worry and what is the evidence to contradict my worry? Can I see a bigger picture when looking at this worry? And a really good thing to ask yourself is, “what would I say to a friend if they were worried about the same thing?” 

    ‘This is a great way to get you to look at the worry from the outside in.  When the worry has got hold and turned into anxiety, sometimes it is difficult to see that there is another opinion about this worry.’

    Look after your general wellbeing

    Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, cutting back on coffee and alcohol, and generally living a healthy lifestyle, as this can help reduce anxiety, too. 

    However, it’s important to seek professional advice if you feel that anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life.

    Do you have a story to share?

    Get in touch by emailing [email protected].


    MORE : Struggling with ‘out of office anxiety’? Here’s how to break free and actually enjoy your annual leave


    MORE : I thought I knew what anxiety felt like – and then I became a parent


    MORE : Why travel anxiety happens and how to cope



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    With a return to in-person exams, and an extended examination period, we ask the experts how to manage anxiety - of teens and their parents - as we mark Mental Health Awareness week.

    The coronavirus pandemic has meant it’s been two years since Year 11s and Year 13s across England and Wales geared themselves up for in-person exams.

    This year, though, except for some reduction in the curriculum to take into account the disruption these students have faced, the exam period will feel very much as it did in 2019.

    In fact, many fear that the level of stress will be even higher because of the consequences of the pandemic. With papers spaced out over the summer more than usual due to Covid considerations, the exam period will last for longer, too.

    Clinical hypnotherapist and wellbeing practitioner Laura Yates says teens this year are feeling particularly worried.

    “Exam stress is nothing new, but when you factor in the disruption to learning over the pandemic along with other factors, like missed milestones spent in isolation, school trips cancelled, and all those other parts of ‘normality’ that they’ve been missing in their formative years, it’s little wonder that their stress bucket is filling fast and resilience is running low.”

    Keeping the whole family calm and relaxed through an exam summer is a tough challenge, but experts reckon the following simple tips could help.

    Cultivate the right state

    Marilyn Devonish, coach and hypnotherapist, says that performing well in exams is easier if you can get back into the more relaxed state that you were in while revising.

    She says that by practising breathing and other tricks, you can get yourself into a state of “relaxed alertness”.

    “You want to be relaxed and have your brain firing on all cylinders,” she says.

    “A simple starting point is a couple of deep breaths and relaxing the breathing. It doesn’t sound like much, but when people are stressed, they take shallow breaths, which means you have less oxygen flow, which can affect your clarity of mind.”

    Practising that state in advance, either on their own or with their family, can help a child to achieve this when they get into an exam.

    “Practising being in that state a few times starts to hard-wire it into the neurology,” she says. “It means that when you approach your studies and arrive at the exam, your mind and body and brain know exactly what you want them to do, and everything works with and for you, rather than against you.”

    Prioritise sleep

    Sleeping can be difficult when you’re stressed, but research shows that consistent, high-quality sleep in the run-up to an exam can improve performance. In fact, your performance in tests can vary by around 25% depending on how much sleep you get.

    Close your laptop and move it out of sight

    (Faye Lord, Armstrong & Oxford)

    Fortunately, though, one poor night’s sleep before a test won’t blow your scores, since the effect of good sleep is cumulative.

    Faye Lord, from academic services provider Armstrong & Oxford, says that establishing a soothing nighttime routine will help to get you through the summer.

    “Close your laptop and move it out of sight. Create a relaxing music playlist to transfer your mind from exam time into leisure time. And make your sleep space as cosy and comfortable as possible, with fresh bedding and darkness,” she says.

    Celebrate the small achievements

    It’s easy for teens (and adults!) to feel down about the progress they’re making or obsess about the one question they answered badly. Jo Howarth, who runs mental health support business The Happiness Club, says that a five-minute daily celebration can help banish fear of failure.

    “No matter if it is five minutes of revision or five hours. No matter if it is one question in the exam or all of them. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to give yourself a pat on the back for whatever you managed to do,” she says.

    Sort meal plans before exams start

    Eating well leads to better concentration, but mealtimes can easily become a flashpoint between teens and their parents in high-stress situations.

    Nicole Bateman, a former secondary school teacher who now provides resources and workshops to tackle exam stress through her business, A Box Full of Joy, suggests planning meals in advance together to minimise issues.

    “Having some meal plans sorted ahead of the exam-filled weeks will be useful, and setting those healthy boundaries of work and rest by planning a schedule together can be helpful,” she says.

    Find your balance

    Family yoga may be the last thing on your mind when everyone is stressed about exams, but former secondary teacher turned yoga expert Cat Edmondson says that teaching your teens to hold a tree pose could help everyone to calm down and focus.

    “Bring one foot to rest on the calf of your other leg as you bring your hands together in front of the chest. Keep looking straight ahead, eyes remaining still and see if you can stay balanced for a number of breaths and then do the other leg.

    “This posture has a calming and focusing effect on the mind.”

    The Romans, of course, had a phrase for all this: mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body. Look after both and you and your family will thrive – not just survive – throughout this exam season.

    Stay up-to-date with the latest news from Vodafone by following us on Twitter and signing up for News Centre website notifications.



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    Introduction
    What is deep breathing?
    What is relaxation response?
    How to perform breathing exercises
    References
    Further Reading


    Deep abdominal breathing helps reduce stress, control emotions, increase attention, and improve overall wellbeing. Deep breathing controls heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. By diverting attention from distracting thoughts, it reduces stress and anxiety.

    Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

    Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

    What is deep breathing?

    Breathing slowly and deeply from the abdomen leads to complete replenishment of the lungs with the inhaled air, resulting in full gaseous exchange between incoming oxygen and outgoing carbon dioxide. This process increases the activation of the vagus nerve, which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system.

    The activation of the vagus nerve leads to deceleration of the heart rate, stabilization of the blood pressure, relaxation of the muscles, diversion of attention from distracting thoughts and sensations, and induction of relaxation response.

    In contrast, fast and shallow breathing from the chest induces a stress response by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. Evidence suggests that an acute induction in breathing rate may lead to a panic attack. Similarly, chronic breathing problems can induce the level of anxiety and depression.

    Reducing Stress Through Deep Breathing (1 of 3)

    What is relaxation response?

    The term “relaxation response” was first coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at the Harvard Medical School. The relaxation response is a state of complete physical and mental rest, which is the opposite of stress. The stress response driven by the sympathetic nervous system is a normal physiological response to harmful events as a survival strategy.   

    Controlled breathing is one of the best techniques to trigger the relaxation response. Other techniques include body scan (controlled breathing together with muscle relaxation), guided imagery (imagining peaceful events/pictures/situations), mindfulness meditation (controlled breathing and focusing attention on the present moment), yoga, tai chi, and qigong (rhythmic breathing with a series of postures/movements), and repetitive prayers (repeating a short prayer while performing controlled breathing).

    A person with a relaxed state of mind usually breathes slowly and deeply. Similarly, intentional practicing of controlled breathing can reduce the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system that regulates involuntary activities of the body, including heart rate and blood pressure.

    Controlled breathing can benefit the physiological systems in many ways. It helps reduce heart rate, blood pressure, the level of stress hormones in the blood, and lactic acid accumulation in muscles. In addition, controlled breathing helps balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and improves physical energy level, immune system functions, and overall wellbeing.

    Controlled breathing can be performed in a quiet and comfortable place, either in a sitting or lying position. It is performed by taking a deep breath slowly through the nose, allowing the chest and abdomen to expand fully. Afterward, the inhaled air is expelled slowly through the nose or mouth.         

    How to perform breathing exercises

    There are different ways to perform breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing and paced breathing. The main aim is to shift the focus to abdominal breathing from upper chest breathing.

    Diaphragmatic breathing

    The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle placed at the base of the lungs. It performs about 80% of the work during respiration. During inhalation, the diaphragm moves downward to increase space in the chest cavity, allowing full expansion of the lungs. During exhalation, the diaphragm moves towards the chest cavity to facilitate the outward movement of air.    

    Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing, focuses on achieving a complete exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. This is vital for maintaining the body’s overall homeostasis. In patients with chronic lung diseases, inhaled air remains trapped in the lungs, pressing the diaphragm downward. This damages the muscle and reduces its working capacity. The strength of the diaphragm can be regained by practicing diaphragmatic breathing.

    Image Credit: mbframes/Shutterstock.com

    Image Credit: mbframes/Shutterstock.com

    Diaphragmatic breathing is performed in a sitting or lying position. To perceive the movement during breathing, one hand can be placed on the upper chest and the other hand just below the rib cage. The air should be inhaled slowly and deeply through the nose towards the lower abdomen. During exhalation, abdominal muscles should be moved inward to help expel the air through pursed lips. The hand on the chest should not move during the entire process, while the hand on the upper abdomen should move up and down.

    Paced breathing

    Alike other breathing exercises, paced breathing helps maintain the balance between respiratory and cardiac systems. In this breathing technique, the duration of exhalation should be longer than the inhalation. If inhalation is performed for a count of 2 – 4 seconds, exhalation should be performed for a count of 4 – 6 seconds.

    The air should be inhaled through the nose slowly and deeply, allowing the chest and lower abdomen to expand. During exhalation, air should be released slowly through the mouth.

    There is another breathing technique wherein air is inhaled through the nose for a count of 4 and held in the stomach for a count of 4. Afterward, air is released through the mouth for a count of 8. This technique is very helpful in soothing the nervous system and reducing the stress level.        

    References

     

    Further Reading

     

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    Opinion


    GP Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos lists some of the silver linings that have emerged alongside the dark clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Sun rays shining behind clouds
    Positives have emerged from the gloom of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Despite the well documented devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also impacted my life and our clinic in a very positive way.

     

    I work three days a week as a GP in an urban practice with my husband who is a dentist. We run the group clinic with two other part-time GPs and two part-time dentists. 

     

    Early in the pandemic we embraced the huge changes that were necessary to adapt to the pandemic. Recommendations by government were at first difficult, and rapidly changing.

     

    Our primary focus was to continue to serve our patients and community while also ensuring the protection of our staff from COVID-19 infection. We had to maintain a positive attitude to adopt the changes.

     

    Improved infection control capabilities

    We installed clear patient screens at the front reception desk to reduce transmission of aerosol spread of SARS-CoV-2, and with support from our local Primary Health Network, we had access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and were able to familiarise all staff on how to use it appropriately.

     

    The transition from not wearing masks to wearing P2/n95 masks all the time with patients in a consulting room was extremely difficult.

     

    It felt suffocating when we were not able to have a breather without them. Now we continue to wear level 3 surgical face masks in low-risk situations as they are more comfortable, despite not being as effective as the P2 masks in reducing transmission of the virus.

     

    We believe that masks continue to play an important role in protecting our staff and our patients.

    Most of our patients are continuing to wear their masks, except for a handful who find them difficult. All patients are welcomed to the practice whether they are wearing a mask or not.

     

    Ventilation is important, so each consulting room has a window we leave open for clean air. We also installed a new front security door to keep the front and back doors open for circulation of air, and the reception area and the main medical consulting room have air purifiers with inbuilt ionisers.

     

    Most staff now wear scrubs which make us look a lot more professional, and we have continued other protocols such as surface cleaning. We also purchased a large batch of COVID rapid antigen tests and offered these for free to staff to test before work, when and if required.

     

    Healthier staff

    The most noticeable difference we have experienced since the start of the pandemic, is that not a single staff member has taken time off for any respiratory infections – not one.

     

    Prior to COVID, staff consistently needed to take time off for flus or colds, despite immunisation with the flu vaccine.

     

    This experience correlates with influenza infection rate reductions in Australia and has been a positive outcome of the protective measures we have implemented at work. The challenge will be maintaining this record now that influenza is making a comeback in Australia.

     

    We have valued these positive changes, which together with telehealth have had a positive effect on our practice. While several staff have been infected with COVID-19, this occurred over their holiday breaks – not from work exposure.

     

    Occasionally staff needed to take time off following exposure to a household contact, but since the recent changes to guidelines, this is no longer required if they are negative on testing and asymptomatic.

     

    Enhanced technology

    The introduction of electronic prescribing, ordering of pathology and radiology testing by emailing patients, and the use of either telephone or telehealth for consultations was enormously welcomed by our patients and staff.

     

    Some patients preferred to continue seeing the doctors face-to-face and that was all ok – we had an equal mix of face-to-face and telehealth consultations.

     

    Positive outcomes included less paperwork and the ability to consult with patients if they had respiratory symptoms or COVID-19 infection when safe to be cared for at home. The support of COVID-related government services is incredibly useful and we are grateful to the Department of Health for their mostly swift advice, support and action in these areas.  

     

    Cleaner air

    Lockdowns caused enormous challenges for many of our patients.

     

    GPs and healthcare professionals were lucky – we were able to continue working. But the repeated and extended lockdowns escalated COVID anxiety and stress due to isolation, loss of employment for many, business disruption and/or collapse, uncertainty, and staying home more than usual.

     

    These devastating impacts were felt across the community and should not be discounted; however, a wonderful biproduct was the significant drop in traffic when restrictions came in and more people were working from home. The fewer vehicles on the road made our streets quieter and safer, and resulted in less air pollution and cleaner air.

    COVID-positive-article.jpgCOVID lockdowns provided an opportunity to focus on improving health and wellbeing, writes Dr Vicki Kotsirilos.

     

    Stress management and coping mechanisms

    Doctors and healthcare workers have been greatly impacted by COVID stress and mental health-related issues.

     

    In our efforts to continue serving our patients and the community, we became very busy at work, and acutely aware that we were now working harder. So, preventing burnout was a big challenge with the extra demands and workload.

     

    It was important staff talked about their feelings and emotions, supported each other, and discussed strategies to minimise stress at home and in the work environment.

     

    What helped us cope?

     

    All staff now aim to have a one-hour lunch break, and use the time to rest, exercise and stretch. It was important we continued to practise self-care to stay mentally and physically healthy. This helped us to develop resilience.

     

    Personally, practising mindfulness-based stress reduction in my garden every morning helps me cope. I also directed patients to useful internet sites to learn mindfulness when required, eg Headspace and Beyond Blue.

     

    These techniques have also proved invaluable when helping patients with their own mental health challenges.

     

    Working from home and self-care

    For some people, working from home during the pandemic was satisfying and continues to be so due to less travel time to work and creating more time for self-care, such as exercise.

     

    I found it to be a good opportunity to speak to patients about the importance of positive behavioural and lifestyle approaches, daily exercise, adequate sun exposure, healthy eating habits, and nutrition to support a healthy immune system.

     

    Smoking avoidance; breathing clean air; addressing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes also play an important role in supporting the immune system.

     

    Apart from general health benefits such as CVD and diabetes control, daily moderate outdoor exercise helps to manage stress, moods, and restore good sleeping patterns.

     

    With more exercise, people were appreciating and spending more time in nature. This was the way I coped during the pandemic.

     

    Connecting with nature

    Every morning I spent 30 minutes to one hour a day before work, and longer on my days off, using mindfulness walking on the beach, at a local park or a forest.

     

    A study found nature contact ‘buffers’ the negative effect of lockdown on mental health, helped people cope better with lockdown measures, and was associated with more positive emotions.

     

    So, our connection with nature helps us cope and gives us even more reasons why we need to take better care of our planet.

     

    The COVID lockdowns were a great opportunity for myself, our practice staff and the wider community to focus on improving our health and wellbeing through lifestyle, connection with nature and positive behavioural changes.

     

    Crisis breeds opportunity, and destruction often provides the platform for regeneration.

     

    So it has been with COVID-19, and while the past two or so years have been among the most challenging in recent memory, they have also given us the chance to create a better and more positive world for ourselves and future generations.

     

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