Sam (not his real name) told me during a consultation, “I had a chest pain some years ago. I was 40 then, fit and in good shape. I had no diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol nor a family history of heart attack.
“I am not a cigarette smoker neither am I an alcoholic. I do regular exercise and watch my diet closely. I can’t be having a heart attack.
“Nonetheless I did a Treadmill ECG test anyway just to be sure it was not. But I was wrong. I failed the test. Then, I had cardiac angiography done and confirmed that two of my heart arteries were significantly narrowed thus necessitating dilatation and insertion of two stents.”
“I protested to my cardiologist saying that I had no obvious predisposing factors,” he added.
I suggested to him maybe it was stress. To this he replied: “Stress. You are right.”
“I was going through some hard times on and off over the past two to three years.”
Scientists now believe that under prolonged stress our brain can tell our bone marrow to produce more white cells that cause inflammation and narrowing of the arteries that supply oxygen to our heart. Thus, too much stress can cause a heart attack. In the same way it can cause a stroke if the artery affected is an artery supplying our brain.
Our immune system is the Defence Ministry of our body. Indeed we are surrounded by an uncountable enemy of microbes all around us and round the clock. These microbes, especially the viruses and bacteria, will invade our bodies and cause diseases when our immune system weakens. Indeed, our immune system often crashes with prolonged stress. Thus, we often get infections of our throat, skin, bladder, sinuses, etc. at times when we need good health most. These infections happen at such crucial times when we are under immense pressure to perform, such as during an examination, presentation, etc.
Prolonged stress affects our body, feeling, thinking and behaviour. Almost every system of our body can be affected. It contributes towards chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. In our body, stress often manifests as headache, muscle tension or pain, tiredness, indigestion, insomnia and low sex drive. It also leads to nasty moods such as anxiety, restlessness, anger, poor concentration and depression. Stress can be so overwhelming that it leads to behavioural changes such as overeating, turning to drugs or alcohol abuse, tobacco use and often social withdrawal.
Indeed stress is a risk factor to many diseases though it is seldom highlighted. Thus, there is a need to look into some form of mechanism to de-stress so that our body can always return back to its healthy equilibrium at the end of each stressful day.
Sadly, we live in an era of twin whammies where stress is excessive and the ability to relax, recuperate and revitalise is somehow lost in the maze of our so-called modern lives. Workers nowadays are oriented towards a work culture of continuously racing towards target after target that is never ending. Stress builds up over time to the maximum, like a balloon that is inflated to the point of near bursting. Yet these group of people who needed relaxation most find it hard to relax. They have forgotten the art of relaxation.
People in this rat-race modern lifestyle should have a way to unwind their stress at the end of each day. If a healing mechanism can be incorporated into our common daily activity, the stress that we build up as a result of daily hassles, frustration of traffic jams, work overload, financial difficulties, marital arguments or family problems can be effectively neutralised at the end of each day, everyday.
Thus, I would like to conclude this column by introducing to you “The Healing Walk’ – the practise of walking mindfully as a de-stressing mechanism. It is indeed an ancient art for a modern mind.
The Healing Walk
Stress, like a spring that is stretched, builds up tension in our muscle, chest, stomach, heart, nerves and mind. Mindful walking works wonders from within. Our mind simply lets go the stress and strain, little by little as we walk mindfully.
Mindful walking is just walking but with a DIFFERENCE. Our mind calms down gracefully and becomes increasingly aware of the changes within us, physically and mentally, however subtle they may be. Under stressful situations, our mind is like a monkey, jumping from idea to idea – vigorously and restlessly. It loses its balance, concentration and composure. We need to anchor it against the turbulence to allow it to calm down to gain concentration, wisdom and inspiration. The anchoring can be done by constantly guiding our mind to focus and follow the mere activity of our feet gently lifting, flowing forward and landing softly to caress Mother Earth, one foot after the other, gracefully and patiently.
At the beginning, we should start walking quickly but mindfully to and fro in the room or garden and after a few rounds, we gradually slow down the pace until at the end of the practice, we may find ourselves walking in slow motion at a snail’s pace.
The initial quick phase allows us to burn up excessive energy that makes us restless while the subsequent slow mindful walking guides our mind to gently let go of pockets of tension at the various parts of our body.
At some point of time, we are going to belch or ‘release the pent-up gas’ from our colon, very gently. We are going to feel pockets of spasm in the muscles ‘letting go’ like the display of bursting fireworks in the sky. We may even feel a nice caressing sensation running down our spine and the cool minty balm on our brain without applying any medicine on our forehead. It is all very soothing and pleasurable. They are part of the process of de-stressing or releasing of pent-up tension. In other words, it is simply deflating the tight ‘balloon’ of the mind or letting go the ‘tight springs’ anywhere in the body.
My dear readers, I am talking about the ancient art of healing for the modern mind – therapeutic walking meditation that was practised as far back as 2,500 years ago.
My next column will be on ‘Cancer – To screen or not to screen’.
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977