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Around Our Town: Wyoming Medical Center

Soothing Your Soul for the New Year

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12/01/2012 - By Mel Schwartz

WMC Community Development

By and large, it is far easier to experience stress than to find ways to lessen that stress. Desperate, many of us seek the advice of someone we know — a doctor, a parent, a sibling, or a friend — and we make every effort to become less anxious and less irritable. But how do we learn to calmly and effectively control our responses to the stressors in our life? Not knowing can exhaust even the most traveled individual.

So if stress is robbing us of what we need the most — energy, motivation, hope — then we must create moments of restfulness to replenish that energy so that we can live our lives with less stress. Whether through meditation, yoga, acupuncture, or any other number of nontraditional practices, integrative medicine can help us reduce our stress while we repair our minds and our bodies.

"In the last decade there has been an increase in the integration of Eastern and Western medicines," says Dr. Mark McGinley, pulmonologist, intensivist and medical director of the ICU at Wyoming Medical Center. McGinley is also board certified in integrative and holistic medicine. "This increase in utilization of integrative and holistic medicine has paralleled another trend — that of an increase in individuals who suffer from severe anxiety and stress and related issues such as autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, migraines, cardiovascular disease, nervous system disorders, infertility, etc."

Soothing medicine

While a healthy person is not immune to internal and external stressors, the ability to heal from this stress is the very definition of health. It comes as no surprise then that one third of the American population uses some form of integrated and holistic medicine in their everyday lives. These healthcare practices offer a much more comprehensive approach to understanding how a person's relationships, socioeconomic factors and spirituality affect his or her health. And energy is paramount to maintaining one's health. Natural ways to increase this vital energy include exercise, communing with nature, adequate sleep, avoiding toxins (alcohol, processed food) and meditation.

"I am very interested in overall wellness and prevention, which is why I believe in providing integrative and holistic medicine to the patient," says McGinley. "They become empowered to help themselves and frequently require less prescription medication. They increase their internal locus of control and see the benefits in many areas of their life."

The integrative and holistic approach is ushering in a new kind of patient and a new kind of doctor, a partnership born out of the sheer number of people who are frustrated with modern medicine alone. And neither practice is a replacement for Western medicine, which has advanced in its capacity to both save and create lives. Instead, integrative medicine is a companion piece to the comprehensive medicine of today, which now acknowledges the importance of healing not just the body but the mind and the spirit as well.

Soothing steps

Of the many steps you can take to soothe your soul, McGinley encourages people to start by investing in meditation for 15 minutes each day. Over time, meditation will quiet the sympathetic nervous system, which accelerates the heart rate, and allow the parasympathetic nervous system — which slows the heart rate — to function better.

To begin, find a quiet place, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. McGinley cautions against having any preconceived expectations or critiquing the experience. When your mind drifts to numerous internal and external distractions, always bring it back to the rhythm of the breath. McGinley says that most people who meditate see an incredible improvement in their mental and physical well-being. He himself has noticed a positive change in his own life, particularly because of the benefits of meditation.

"I have been meditating for years, and I now have a greater capacity not overreact to situations," says McGinley. "I am less stressed and I am more knowledgeable about myself because of my ability to assess a situation from a more restful place."

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