2004-02-06 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Winter Wisdom
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Health & Harmony

DR. Nancy gahlesDR. Nancy gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Winter Wisdom

"I’m sick of this winter. I just want it to be over!" I started hearing words like this right after the New Year and it has now reached fever pitch (pardon the pun). People are getting sick, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, kvetching. The cold weather, with no end in sight, is a particular stressor for all of us, adults and children alike.

A significant feature of this seasonal stress is that it is long! It seems interminably long. I believe that is the origin of Groundhog Day. When and if the groundhog sees his shadow, that will determine how many weeks are left until Spring. It gives people a measurement of how much longer this cold will last. It gives us Hope.

So what exactly is it that this season of cold provokes in us? I asked several people and these were some of the responses. "I feel trapped." "I can’t get out and exercise enough." "I’ve had enough! I can’t stand being in the house any longer." "This cold gets into my bones and I can’t seem to warm up." "My muscles are locked up." "There’s NOTHING to do!" Other phrases that were bandied about included boredom, drained, gloomy, tired, sad, bloated, and depressed.

All of these responses show that we are not adapting well to the environment. Whether the symptoms are physical or emotional, they are indicators of health or the lack of.

So what do we do to adapt to the cold? In a cold environment the body responds by contraction. You may notice yourself burrowing your head and scrunching your neck into your coat to protect yourself from the cold and wind. You may stoop or hunch over as you walk in a hurry to get where you are going with the least amount of exposure to the cold. These postures cause muscles to contract and become tight. If you already have distortions in your spinal curves, weak muscle tone, de creased disc space or osteoporosis; the impact of sustained, repetitive patterns of posture can cause pain and chronic discomfort through the winter months.

There are several remedies to this situation that can alleviate discomfort and make your journey through the cold more endurable. Creating structural or spinal health is the key factor to adaptability to our environment. Spinal health sometimes called spinal hygiene enhances structural and neurological integration. This allows us to adapt to the sensory changes associated with cold. Spinal flexibility plays a key role in adapting to the contractile elements of the cold. Remember, we are a water based system. Cold contracts. The more flexible your spine is, the more able you are to adapt to a wider range of cold. Core strength and muscle tone are key to holding the body in a position of strength which increases our endurance. When you are strong and have good muscle tone, your balance is improved. This greatly reduces your risk of injury, such as slipping on the ice and will increase your rate of recovery should you have an unlikely event.

A well thought out Winter Wellness Program should include spinal hy giene by a Doctor of Chiropractic who will evaluate you and suggest treatment and complementary exercise and yoga positions that fit your specific needs. When our bodies feel strong and healthy, the feelings of being trapped and tired diminish. As we all know, as we age our journey continues. What worked for us for the last ten years may not be working for us now. It is important to consult with your Doctor of Chiropractic at the beginning of every season and once during that season to make sure that you are fit, happy and healthy.

As with everything in Life, we get out of it what we put into it. Usually, we wait for a crisis before we take action. In my opinion, when I hear words of despair spoken in a casual, daily manner, that is a crisis. My hope is that we avail ourselves of the opportunity to make our lives richer and stronger on a daily basis, no matter what the season is. The Truth is that there will always be another winter, literally and figuratively. How will we adapt? We can make right use of this season. Let this winter be the one which causes you to look at yourself and make changes that will be Life affirming. Quality of Life changes. We are blessed to have many capable professionals in our beloved Rockaway who stand ready to help you on your journey. Utilize your resources. Learn to live in the moment so that everyday is bright and joyous inside of you. That will become the vantage point from which you see the world. That’s why they call it "outlook". I call it living in the light. And, my friends, if wecommitted to living, it may as well be in the light, where it’s warm and toasty!

May The Blessings Be!

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