Stress is a large factor in creating disease, but, fortunately, it is also something we can work toward reducing in our lives.
In their article, “Prevention: Torah Perspectives on Preserving Health,” at Jewishveg.org, Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen and Richard H. Schwartz quote Maimonides as saying: “Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God – for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if he is ill – therefore he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger.”
The authors continue, “It should not be assumed that the Torah places the entire responsibility of maintaining good health on physicians. In fact, our Sages have stated that the major responsibility falls on the individual. To take care of one’s health is a mitzvah, and the Sages find this mandate implied in the words, ‘take heed to thyself and take care of your lives’ (Deuteronomy 4:9) and, again, ‘be extremely protective of your lives’ (Deuteronomy 4:15).”
Here are some ways that I have found to reduce stress and rejuvenate:
Enjoy nature: Go outside. Exposure to nature makes you feel better emotionally and contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.
Watch the simple beauty of nature around you. Observe it using all five senses – see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Watch the birds, hear and smell the sounds of the ocean or woods, touch what nature easily allows, taste an herb.
Pamper yourself: A massage or a facial can restore and rejuvenate you. Other ways to pamper and restore are hot baths, long walks outdoors, sitting on the beach, reading a good book, curling up under a blanket to watch a feel-good movie, taking yourself out to dinner when others are not available and creating a healthy gourmet meal. Any or all of these can “fill up your cup.”
Breathe for vitality: Breath is a vital sign of life, yet few people think about the importance of breathing. The oxygen that breathing brings to your lungs is your life force. When you are aware of your breathing, you are focusing your mind.
Walking, running, aerobic exercise, yoga, dancing, singing and meditation are among the physical activities that strengthen breath. Laughter also stimulates deep breathing, as well as strengthening the immune system and massaging your internal organs.
A simple breathing exercise is to take in a large breath to a count of three, hold it for another count of three and then release it to a count of three.
Breathing deeply and fully with great focus can energize and invigorate you. Using your breath fully helps to add joy, years and vitality to your life.
A few more ideas:
• Move. Walk, dance, play a sport, do something that rids the body of tension.
• Laugh more. Laughter suppresses the stress-related hormones in the brain and activates the immune system.
• Share with friends. Cultivate strong networks, which has been demonstrated to help us live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
• See yourself rooted. Envision roots growing from your feet deep into the ground.
• Count your blessings. Think of everything that is working in your life.
• Seek peace of mind. Peace of mind translates into good health because so much of our disease is caused by stress and burnout.
Here’s to a great and joyous 2017!
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.