Spring Health Tips for You and Your Family

Spring is here!

The sun is up longer; the flowers are up taller; our spirits are up higher. It is springtime in New England! But with all the excitement and change, we can forget to pay attention to some of the basics of health and wellbeing.

Getting a good night’s sleep or practicing meditation can boost your creativity and productivity. It can also help you and your family decrease some of the most common stress culprits in your lives. Changes, in general, can trigger anxiety. So during this season of change, take the opportunity to explore new ways to respond to anxiety. And for those of you who are in the throes of spring fever, do your heart a favor: Come out of hibernation with gusto, and burn off any unwanted winter layers with a high-intensity workout. That’s sure to put a spring back in your step!

Our Lahey specialists are perennially here to help you and your family stay happy and healthy. Learn more from our experts about:

  • Sleep increases creativity and decreases stress
  • Meditation can be health changing
  • High-intensity interval training fights heart disease
  • Easing anxiety

As the Official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins hockey team, our goal is to share health and wellness information with hockey fans in our community and sponsor enjoyable events for all ages throughout the season.

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Meditation Can Be Health Changing

Meditation can be the prefect tool to help you maximize your energy levels and minimize your stress levels throughout the year. This spring, why not try a new opportunity and learn to meditate? You’ll continue to reap the benefits of what you sow through summer, fall and winter, feeling healthier, more productive and relaxed.

At Winchester Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living, [located at Unicorn Park in Woburn] certified hypnotherapist Cally Stewart walks–or, more precisely, talks–patients through the meditation process. As Cally notes, it is often difficult to tune out daily distractions or unwanted temptations and successfully meditate; but patients improve the more they practice. She typically meets with patients to guide their meditation for only one or two sessions. Then, patients are able to meditate independently or with the help of CDs or videos, which Cally says empowers the individual.

Meditating with imagery (of a favorite beach or flower, for example) can be very impactful. The imagery also can be joined with a breathing technique. Many methods rely on a regulated breathing modality, such as breathing in thinking the one-word mantra “smile” and breathing out thinking the word “peace.” Including music can also be both calming and motivational. “The goal is to create therapeutic, client-centered meditation,” Cally explains. “After listening carefully, I use words and images that meaningful to the individual.”

One of the most common reasons to meditate is to quiet the mind and relax the body. “Meditating can replace the ‘fight or flight’ response with ‘rest and digest,’” says Cally. Other people may consider meditation as a means to a particular behavioral goal, such as stopping smoking or reducing sad or fearful feelings. Cally concludes, “Anyone who is curious, open-minded and willing to practice is likely to succeed at meditation.”

Guided meditation with a hypnotherapist is easily accessed with self-referral.

High-Intensity Interval Training Fights Heart Disease

Springtime sights and smells can be an adrenaline rush after a bleak New England winter. It’s a great time to get active again, stretching your physical abilities and strengthen your body’s vital organs. For instance, high-intensity interval training–an exercise technique that builds on alternating high- and low-intensity activities, such as running and walking–is a timely opportunity to fend off heart disease.

Michael Muldoon, MS, PT, Rehabilitation Site Manager at Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital, explains some of the reasons why and shares some tips on how to begin such a healthy regimen. Before beginning any exercise routine, it is important to check with your physician that it is safe for you. It is also a great idea to meet with a physical therapist to screen your musculoskeletal system to assess your bones and joints.

Training advice from Mike includes:

  • Start slow and build on your success. (You can always do more the next day!)
  • Begin with any duration that works for you, perhaps just 10 minutes.
  • Start with a warm-up routine and end with a cool-down period.

If the springtime weather has made you itch to get back outside running, Mike recommends heading to your town track, where you can alternate running and walking for 400-meter stretches. Another option right outside your front door is measuring your intervals with telephone poles or mailboxes. Mike offers the following example of how to easily meet a 30-minute daily exercise recommendation:

  • Five minute warm-up routine
  • One minute jogging/one minute walking; repeat 10 times
  • Five minute cool-down period

“High-intensity interval training gets you closer to your maximum heart rate, improving your blood vessel flow and strengthening your heart muscle,” Mike explains.” And this type of exercise offers lasting benefits beyond the workout, such as increased muscle and bone mass and higher metabolism.”

If you are interested in interval training for good health, remember to check with your doctor and physical therapist first.

Easing Anxiety

As the physical world around us changes with hopeful signs of spring, why not take a new and fresh approach to the timeless issue of anxiety? Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed mental health illness in the US today, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Due to its prevalence, our specialists understand more and more about it. Here are some valuable suggestions from Lahey Health Behavioral Services expert Lea Forster, Coordinator of LHMC Student Assistance Programs in Beverly.

Favorite techniques for fast relief from anxiety

  • Breathing: Take deep, belly breaths. This can help signal to the mind and body that you are safe. For some people, a combination of breathing and counting can be helpful.
  • “Fake it until you become it”: Adopt a body posture that suggests confidence, such as raising your hands in victory or imitating Wonder Woman (or Wall Street’s Fearless Girl!) with her hands on her hips. Holding that power pose for two minutes can lower stress and increase confidence.
  • Talk to someone who gets it: Share your feelings with a good listener–someone who can say “I understand,” or “I’m here for you.”
  • Remember past success: Remind yourself of times you overcame a challenge or did something well. It will help you conquer worry and fear.

Lea also warns, “It is risky to consider substances of any kind as your go-to way to relax. Over time, people build tolerances for substances they use regularly. Substances can come with a variety of negative health consequences. And every time a person uses a substance to deal with difficult emotions, he or she is missing out on an opportunity to practice another, perhaps healthier, way of dealing with feelings.”

If you or a family member is troubled by anxiety, be sure to take advantage of all the proven techniques and resources available to you. And if you would like to make an appointment with a Lahey Behavioral Health specialist, you can find out more here.

Stay Safe from Allergic Reactions

Nurse Practitioner Julie Jones from Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Allergy Department shares the following advice to help keep you and your loved ones safe and comfortable this season.

  • If you or anyone in your family requires an EpiPen, an inhaler or other medication, be sure they are up to date and that you have them within easy reach.
  • Inform your host of any allergies within your party prior to your arrival and again upon your arrival.
  • If you cannot be sure of an item’s ingredients, don’t risk a taste. (Desserts can be especially hazardous.)
  • Pack some safe snacks (or even a meal, if appropriate) so that you can relax and join in the social aspects of eating.
  • Check to see if there are pets at the home you are planning to visit. Avoid direct contact or wash your hands immediately afterwards if you do have contact. Limit your time at the house.
  • Consider wearing a mask if you are sensitive to dust while spring cleaning.

With these cautions in mind, you should be able to safely enjoy the neighborhood cookout!

If you or a family member need advice or is interested in allergy testing, remember that Lahey experts are close by. You may also want to speak with an allergist about taking medications ahead of possible exposures to reduce or prevent symptoms. You can reach our Allergy and Immunology providers with all your questions here.