2011-09-23 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Less Is More
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES The new term begins in September whether it is the new school term or the backto work term. The fresh slate of new beginnings is ripe for the filling up. It is customary to begin to fill our schedules up to the brim. Most of us are booked up from daybreak until way past sunset. We have our own to-do-list and that of our significant others to take care of.

Many of us pride ourselves on the ability to multi-task in a world of “too much.” It becomes a woman’s war cry. We can do it so we do it. What is the price we pay?

Almost immediately after Labor Day, I see patients who are coming down with a cold or suffering from allergies. I see young patients who are stressed with the challenge of the changes that a new term brings. I see sleep issues and eating issues, relationship issues and social issues.

Above all, I see the pain that these issues cause when left untreated, that is, unaddressed. Many, if not most, of these conditions are brought on by doing too much.

By taking on too much. We live in a society where more has been touted as better.

More activities to stimulate your brain, more play dates and activities to encourage social skills, more food, more material possessions, more stress!

I am old enough to remember the television series “Leave it to Beaver.” June and Ward Cleaver, the parents, had a leisurely breakfast, sitting together at the kitchen table with the children, previewing the day before everyone left for school and work. At 5 p.m., Ward returned home, read the newspaper and had a nice dinner with the wife and children before everyone dispersed to do homework and other activities. This domestic scenario has been the butt of jokes for years.

Times have changed and moved so fast that families do not share quality time or meals together for the most part. We have too much to do to make time for leisure.

In fact, I believe that leisure is an idea that is reserved for vacation. The Protestant work ethic has gone viral within us!

We literally don’t know when to stop. Moreover, we do not think it is a good thing to stop. More of everything is better. Especially output of any kind.

The subject matter of this column is meant to tell you that upwards of 85 percent of chronic disease is related to diet and lifestyle.

The over-stimulation that a lifestyle of “too much” causes is the basis for degenerative diseases as well as chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and yes, cancer.

In the world of healthcare, it is understood that we don’t simply “catch” a disease. We are susceptible to certain types of illnesses. Susceptibility usually accompanies weakness, vulnerability. We become weak and vulnerable when we are fatigued, over-worked, “stressed out,” sleep deprived, lonely, fearful, misunderstood, unappreciated, unfulfilled, dissatisfied, eat poorly and don’t move freely about.

Often, I see patients who come in with symptoms of pain or dysfunction related to one or more of these factors. Some have crossed the bar to chronic disease because of the prolonged state of one of these conditions. It is a longer journey back to health in that case but it can be done.

The key to restore health and to maintain health is the same as the key to prevention of disease and promotion of wellness.

Take a look at your lifestyle. Take a look at your schedule. Take a look at your relationships. What and whom can you eliminate in order for you to feel less burdened?

Each morning, become the new June or Ward Cleaver. Start your day with a leisurely mindset. Sit quietly as soon as you awaken for 5-20 minutes. Clear your mind. Begin with a clear slate. Relax your body with slow, deep, rhythmic breaths. Encourage flexibility in mind and body by incorporating gentle stretches.

Program your thoughts to be positive and goal directed along with kindness and compassion.

Remind yourself that less is more throughout the day as the snowball effect will try to consume you. Prioritize and be mindful that tomorrow is indeed another day. There are always things that can wait until tomorrow. Put people first, loving-kindness in front of work, material possessions or ambition.

Joyful abundance and a sense of inner peace will flow from there.

May The Blessings Be!

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