Dr. Kahn's Tips For Managing Stress

Stress is often the “elephant in the room” when I discuss why my patients missed their goals for proper exercise, nutrition, abstinence from smoking, and proper sleep. Physicians aren't routinely taught how to advise others on stress-management techniques, and may do no better than the rest in terms of dealing with stress themselves. I've just completed a series of lectures to the public on stress-management tips, and list them here in the hopes they may help others.

1. Adaptogens for Adrenal Support

When I talk to patients about stress, I begin by describing adaptogens, or herbs that appear useful in stabilizing physiology and improving anxiety and stress. These are often called adrenal support herbs as the appear to be a remedy for “adrenal fatigue” or burnout. I use adaptogenic herbs to avoid needing to use Rx medications like Xanax and Ativan. 

Frankly, substituting one pill for another is something most patients accept faster than any other technique. I've had success in many patients using ashwagandha. Even elderly patients report they feel less stressed and more functional. Rhodiola is another adaptogen I like because it has been studied in heart patients and shows benefits for their symptoms. Finally, cordyceps has been shown to improve exercise performance and may provide a sense of calm as an additional benefit.

If you're new to adaptogens, incorporating them into recipes is a great way to start. Such as this Adrenal Balancing Smoothie with Adaptogens, this Raw Fudge with Ashwagandha, and this Ashwagandha-infused "Moon Milk" recipe. 

2. Breathwork

There are many styles of breathwork, but I find I can teach my patients the 4-7-8 breathing practice in the office in just a few minutes, and they use it right away. I refer them to an online video created for children, and ask them to practice this at home and use it in their daily routine.

3. Meditation

Teaching meditation is a longer process than the first two techniques, but has been shown to benefit heart patients and should be taught routinely. I ask them to study the Kirtan Kriya taught by Dr. Khalsa because it's only 12 minutes and is supported by great research results at UCLA. When I tell them they may slow aging and improve their memory while dealing with their stress, they're eager to use it in their lives.

4. Yoga

Different styles of yoga have been studied in a variety of serious stress disorders including cancer, post-trauma, and addictions. Yoga has been found beneficial even when tested using rigorous scientific study design. Yoga can be adapted for the elderly using only a chair; it provides a sense of community, and offers some cardio benefit as well.

I remind my patients of a story about a man speaking to a religious leader, repeating over and over that he was frustrated with the stresses in life. The leader suggested they take a walk, and stopped in front of a cemetery. The man asked why they stopped there and the leader replied, "There lay the only people who have no worries and stress"; for the rest of us, we need to manage and work out the issues.

I hope you share strategies you use for managing stresses in your life.

Dr. Kahn

About the author
Dr. Joel Kahn is one of the world's top holistic cardiologists. He has treated thousands of acute heart attacks during his career, and would like to put a stop to ALL future heart attacks by educating and inspiring people to embrace a holistic lifestyle. America’s Healthy Heart Doctor has been featured on The Doctors and Dr. Phil television shows, and is one of the few doctors that posts consistently for Mind Body Green.  

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