By Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Local, State and National events of late seem to once more be a buffet line of restrictions, inconsistencies, prejudice, and fear. Twenty-four seven exposure to stories of hurricanes, forest fires, political unrest, riots, violence and just plain nonsense has a deep and for some deadly effect on their health. Heightened anxiety, sleep disturbance, depression, and fear can precipitate in heart attacks, increase the risk of cancer and more.
Life: making ends meet, looking after the family, building a business, dedication to work, travel; these all add some stress to our lives. Breathing, aging, environmental factors, genetics, and physical activity are also forms of stress – ones we do not always think about as they are factors we can do little to change. There is a trend however that has taken over our lives, very different from our parents and grandparents time, in particular, the last ten years with the advent of rapid access to news and social media. It is the twenty-four seven availability of opinion and information that has the effect of increasing fear, anxiety and anger in some individuals including children. In today’s world, we are in a constant fight or flight mode, driving up stress hormones, constricting blood vessels and increasing susceptibility to chronic pain and digestive issues.
Now I am not a believer in hiding one’s head in the sand. However, a growing number of people have lost the ability to step back, turn off or even take a deep breath. Deep breathing has solid research behind it for being effective in lowering stress hormones, improve sleep and cognition, concentration, reducing high blood pressure, and anxiety. Wait for it – you know it is coming – and improve digestion.
Many long-time readers of this column know I am Christian, the divine has been a genuine part of my life since I was a child, gifting me with a certainty of safety. Which is good because I am a bit of a clutz. Hahaha, Grace before meals and meditative prayer have a very very long history, and not just in Judaeo-Christian cultures. With the world being far more global today we have access to Eastern culture and beliefs, and they share aspects with Christianity on meditative or contemplative prayer, even rhythms of music found in worship services have similarities to breathing patterns. Modern research on yoga was the first investigation into supporting prayer and meditation as having a positive biochemical response on health.
I have witnessed personally, and clinically individuals with a personal faith are healthier, their hypothalamus and thymus glad’s and brain function with more elasticity and they are less prone to adrenal fatigue than persons with no belief system. For me, history and human nature demand a belief in something or one greater than ourselves, it has been part of human existence so long, it may even be coded into our DNA. Faith is and should be a deeply personal matter. Regardless of one’s belief system yes even non-Christians, who practice prayer, meditation and chants can stimulate a slow deep breathing response, calming brain chemistry and stress hormones allowing them to weather periods of disaster, strife, and upheaval with greater flexibility.
So my challenge to you in these stress-filled times: At mealtime turn off the TV, Ipad, or radio. Give a moment to quiet the mind; breathe deeply through the nose once, twice, and give thanks for the food before you, the hands that grew and made the meal and the gift of health it provides your body, and for those who make freedom possible. We are but feathers on the breath of God…
“Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around Him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God.”
Hildegard of Bingen 1098-1179
To Peace and Healthy Foods
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
August brought to a close 15 years of working in a clinical office location in my closest town. To get to this office, I traveled 120 miles round-trip three days a week, through all four seasons. More than once the highway was closed due to forest fires, high water, rock and mudslides, and snow down trees. I love where I live at the headwaters of the North Umpqua River; the drive is always beautiful, and seldom do I get tired of the view from my windows, surrounded by nature. I dread going to the valley where it may be wet, cold, foggy or god offal hot, and as time wore on my attitude and health became adversely affected by working where I didn’t want to be. There are times we all are faced with making changes in our lifestyle or pay the piper. Hopefully, we are flexible enough to face the challenge and make changes that are restorative over destructive.
However, this lifestyle while invigorating to me, is frightening to many others; they are used to all the noise, light and activities of towns and cities, and the notion that help is only minutes away. These individuals of all ages are unsettled, by the quiet; which is not very quiet with the twitter of squirrels and birds, rush of water and the wind and clash and clang of the vegetation of isolated areas. Many who move to remote areas for the first time express the fear of “what if.” I thought about this and wondered what fueled the fear of “what if” for so many. They will say “what if my child gets hurt and has to go to the hospital?” or “what if I fall and need medical attention or my spouse has a heart attack?” Or “what if you want to go to a movie and dinner?”
Ok for starters folks have been living out or independently for far longer than we might think, these pioneers were capable of building the communities we have today without all the fear – when life was a whole lot more dangerous. In August, a study released on parental fears for their children illuminated a thought many of us may have had. The study went on to say “it is taboo to leave children unattended in today’s intensive parenting atmosphere, despite evidence that American children are safer than ever. So why are today’s parents denying their children the same freedoms that they themselves enjoyed as children? Social scientists suggest that our fears of leaving our children alone have become systematically exaggerated in recent decades – not because the practice has become more dangerous, but because it has become socially unacceptable.”
So I ask you, how many other “what Ifs” are a result of social perception or perspective – our media, or modern litigious nature or countless other voices of authority like healthcare providers, subtly or not, telling us to be afraid, be very afraid – when there is no more risk than ever before? Are we compounding the daily stress of making a living, raising our families, and planning our future, with needless fear? And the influence of societal perspective views? I believe this is the case for many who are without knowing it far more influenced by what they see on TV or hear from authority figures; then they may know.
I prefer freedom to make my own choices based on my beliefs, research and knowledge without a dozen “what ifs” circulating in my head driving up anxiety and fear. Along with that, is the conscious choice to not be ruled by fear, learning how to take care of family and myself in a mindful manner, and accepting nature for what it is – and it is not the fuzzy, friendly forest of Bambi and Thumper.
How many skills have we lost in modern times that allowed us to be more daring, free, independent-minded and inventive? Probably far more than you might think.
This summer I embraced freedom, and headed to the woods with our RV, to learn the art of the “LapTop Lifestyle,” reconnect with lost or rusty skills and spend time with my husband who was “Batching it” out on the job.
I hope you will continue the journey to wellness and taking back control of your health as we move into fall and winter. I know we will be here at Holistic Nutrition for the Whole You!
Science Daily: Top Health News August 24, 2016 – Why are we afraid to leave our children alone?
Spicy Gluten Free Pasta Salad
8oz Ancient Harvest GF SuperGrain Pasta
¼ Cup chopped sweet red pepper
¼ Cup chopped sweet Walla Walla onion
¼ Cup chopped pickled Cauliflower
¼ Cup chopped Roma tomato
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
1 seeded minced Jalapeno Pepper
¼ Cup chopped Black Olives
½ Cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Organic Creamy Italian Dressing
Cook pasta till tender but not over-done, drain, place in large bowl, add oil, toss well then add all ingredients add cheese last, mix well.
Serve warm or chilled with Organic pea or sunflower sprouts.
To your good health.