From Stress to Wellness

When we go to the doctor and are told  that whatever ails us is triggered by stress, it is always a frustrating diagnosis. Too vague somehow. We want something more concrete.

I recently asked a client who is a gastroenterologist what, in her opinion, is the main cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and her answer was stress. In fact she told me that most of the medications prescribed for IBS are for anxiety.

With all that is going on in our world right now, how can we keep our stress levels under control to avoid developing chronic illness and without devoting hours to meditation or moving to some remote island without electricity.

Maybe one way to stay calm would be to take our hobbies to a new level. I know many of you already have interests outside of work because they come up a lot in conversation during spa visits. And I also know many of you will react with the question “Who has the time?” But gardening, games, puzzles (not all online and using an electronic device), photography, reading, and cooking are all hobbies that can provide endless pleasure and get us to relax and concentrate on lighter pursuits.

Take gardening for example. Many people now grow some if not many of their own vegetables. A study in the Netherlands compared reduced cortisol levels after one random group read for 30 minutes and another gardened for the same amount of time. The gardeners’ cortisol levels were the lowest. Not that I am against reading. I read a lot and belong to a book club that I find really interesting, but being in touch with nature connects us to the earth and that has a very comforting effect on us all.

Cooking is another great way to relax, especially if you have some favourite background music playing while you prepare your food. Maybe take a cooking class before the Holidays and surprise your family and friends with some new recipes or exchange recipes with friends?

Several of my clients are also making their own Holiday cards this year. We have a newly opened Paper Source in our neighbourhood that offers evening classes in all kinds of crafts. Sending cards that are hand-made adds a very personal touch, allows you to be creative and saves money. Many of us underestimate our creative talents both in the garden and arts arena.

Photography is another hobby that can bring endless pleasure. Our phones now take great pictures as we go about our daily lives, but take it one step further and carry a camera on you every day to capture images you may want to re-produce for that gallery at home.

Finally, get together with friends and family as much as possible and laugh. It really is the best medicine and exercises all those facial muscles in the best possible way!!

These are just a few ideas that may help you unwind and keep those stress levels under control. If you would like to share some other ways that you enjoy, please e-mail me at msimms {at} I would love to hear from you.

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