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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

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What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by Y.L. (mom of 2)

After having my second baby via C-section I searched for months to try to find help for my lower back pain and separated abdominal muscles. I finally came across Heather Jeffcoat via a mommy blog. I reached out to her via email and set my first appointment. My first appointment went amazing … she listened to what my symptoms, check my separation and explained to me in detail what the next steps would be. Not only did my abdominal separation go from 3 to about 1 -1/2 but my back has pain has significantly reduced. I’m personally recommending all my mommy friends to Heather!

Y.L. (mom of 2)

Testimonial by Julie T.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by A.B.

Before I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat I was living in a nightmare. I had been married to my husband for three years and I was suffering from Vaginismus. That all changed when I visited my OBGYN and she said she knew of someone with a great success rate. To be honest I was hesitant at first because my first doctor had already told me that all I needed to do was order dilators from the internet and I should overcome my problem. She was wrong because I had followed the book on how to use the dilators with absolutely no advancements in my condition. However, that all changed when I went in for my first visit and Heather took the time to explain my condition and how we were going to work together to overcome it.

I remember leaving her office with a glimmer of hope that I could live a normal life. As my sessions continued I began to see immediate results. With only four sessions and a strict dedication to my home programs I was cured of Vaginismus. In the beginning of this process I was made aware that my health insurance company might not cover the costs, which was disappointing but today I can say one hundred percent that it was the best money I ever spent. Now thanks to Heather I am finally enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. Thank you Heather, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done for me. I will never forget it. Those who are suffering from these types of conditions don’t be afraid because she makes you feel so comfortable and the end result is worth it. Good luck to you all and I hope you experience the success I have.
-- A.B.

Testimonial by Julie T.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

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