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The Holidays can be stressful!

Fortunately, you can help the mind and body relax with these handy techniques.

Deep Breathing

Stress and chronic pain can lead to short and shallow breathing which adds tension to the diaphragm, abdomen, and pelvic floor. Encouraging the body to breathe deeply will unravel the tension inside the body, often held in between the ribs, in the low back, neck, shoulders, belly, and pelvic floor.

Studies such as this one by Ma, Yue, Gong, et al. (2017) show that diaphragmatic breathing can improve cognitive performance and reduce negative subjective and physiological consequences of stress in healthy adults. Other studies like Roditi and Robinson (2011), show that diaphragmatic breathing can help the body break the pain cycle, thereby reducing pain and chronic pain.

Deep breathing can be practiced anywhere, especially during the holidays: stuck in a traffic jam, waiting in line at the store, or at night before you go to bed. Below are instructions for breathing on your back.

Instructions:

diaphbreathing

  • Lay on your back. Knees can be bent with feet flat on the floor, or knees can be propped up on a pillow or bolster.
  • Place one hand over the heart and one over the belly button.
  • Inhale through the nose and feel both hands rise with the in-breath. Ribs are expanding, belly is also expanding, even the back of the body expands into the mat.
  • Exhale gently and slowly, either through pursed lips or the nose. The air is slowly escaping as if you poked a hole in a tire with a needle and the air slowly passes out. The goal is to elongate the exhale, so that it is longer than the inhale.
  • When the breath has been fully exhaled, pause for a second or two before beginning the breath cycle again, with another inhale. After you have exhaled wait a couple of seconds until you inhale again. Continue to breathing for 5-10 minutes.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of open awareness of the moment and being present in the body, internally and externally. Mindfulness has been shown can to reduce stress (Janssen, Heerkens, Kuijer, et al., 2018), improve relationship satisfaction (Kappen, Karremans, Burk, et al, 2018).

Marlynn Wei, M.D., J.D., offered some great tips on mindfulness during the holiday season on her blog at Psychology Today, including these favorites of mine:

  • Notice your emotions. It’s easy to check out during the holidays, whether it’s at a family dinner, or a holiday party. Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed, or if emotions like happiness, joy, sadness, grief, or loneliness are present and be ok with what is going on.
  • Balance holiday “should’s” with awareness of your own needs. Balance all the obligations you have on your plate with awareness of your own needs. Do you need a night to stay in instead of going to that holiday cocktail party? Could you ask guests to bring dessert instead of adding another thing to your own list? Consider taking care of your own needs to prevent feeling burnt out.
  • Expand how you communicate care. Though for many cultures and families, the holidays are synonymous with giving presents, there are many other ways of showing that you care. Are there additional ways to show that you care about someone, such as spending time with them, writing them a card, telling them in person that you love them, or doing something nice and supportive?
  • Practice self-care. Get regular sleep and exercise, and take time to do relaxing or fun activities in between all the holiday activities and travel. You may even find that when you take care of yourself, you are able to be nicer and more generous to others- helping you keep up with the holiday spirit.

Resources

Roditi, D., & Robinson, M. E. (2011). The role of psychological interventions in the management of patients with chronic pain. Psychology research and behavior management, 4, 41–49. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S15375

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., … Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

Janssen, M., Heerkens, Y., Kuijer, W., van der Heijden, B., & Engels, J. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees' mental health: A systematic review. PloS one, 13(1), e0191332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191332

Kappen, G., Karremans, J. C., Burk, W. J., & Buyukcan-Tetik, A. (2018). On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1543–1556. doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0902-7

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by Lauren B.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has been such an answer to prayer, i'm so glad I found them! I've been struggling with vaginismus my whole life, but didn't have a name for it until about 6 or 7 months ago. Even once I did have a name for it though, I didn't know where to begin in getting help. My OB/GYN had me get a set of dilators, but I couldn't even insert the smallest one by myself. Most times I tried I just ended up frustrated and in tears. I felt really alone, like I was broken and didn't have the energy to keep trying. When I got engaged a few months ago though, I realized I needed to get answers so i wasn't dreading my honeymoon.

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Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

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Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by M.N., age 28

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

Read more: Testimonial by M.N., age 28

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

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