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Stress control could keep you healthy

September 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you've been watching the stock market, this is probably a good time to reflect on how stress is affecting your body.Biofeedback is a medical technique for teaching stress control, but right now, not many can afford a therapist or a fancy machine. However, one doctor says you can teach yourself to de-stress with something you already have at home.

A good look in the mirror can stress a lot of women out. But, Dr. Murray Grossan, an otolaryngologist, says with the right techniques, a mirror can improve your health.

Dr. Grossan uses biofeedback in his practice to help his patients with tension headaches, jaw pain and ringing ears. But instead of expensive equipment that monitors breathing, heart rate and muscle movement, he prescribes a mirror.

"It's a lot cheaper to use a mirror than to buy one of those machines," said Dr. Grossan.

First, look in the mirror with an anxious face.

"Now, you breathe in at the count of four and out at the count of six," said Dr. Grossan. "By making your exhalation longer than your inhalation, you're in a relaxed state."

That is the first of a 10-step process that involves relaxing each of your facial muscles and working your way down to your legs. The final step is to imagine yourself in a place of relaxation. Dr. Grossan says feeling like you're actually there helps replenish natural cortisone levels.

Dr. Grossan created a watch with corresponding colors to remind his patients to do all the steps.

"Each time you do a step, you move the dial," said Dr. Grossan.

Dr. Grossan says biofeedback is basically using your body's cues to achieve relaxation, and you don't need expensive machinery to teach your brain to instantly relax. All you need is practice.

"So, if we can reprogram the brain to think happy thoughts, relax and so on, we're way, way ahead of the game," said Dr. Grossan. "We'll live longer, we'll fight disease better and so on."

The trick is to exhale longer than you inhale. Dr. Grossan say when you exhale, your diaphragm, shoulders and chest muscle relax, which also signals the rest of your body to relax.

 

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