All posts by Professor David Peters

The heart of the matter||Not just a pump

Editorial HH 2006 3-3 heart

In everyday life and language we associate the heart with love, emotion and compassion. Until lately though, medical science would have none of this, assuming ever since Harvey discovered the blood-circulation that the heart is just a pump. By draining the body of emotion, and placing the mind in the head, high science opened a rift between felt-sense and modern medicine. But the gap is beginning to close. New insights into the heart-brain connection are bringing body and mind back together.

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Integrative Health Resource||Combining the benefits of conventional medicine with other approaches that might be useful

This website aims to answer a real need for the growing numbers of people who appreciate the benefits of conventional medicine, but also wonder whether other approaches might be useful. In fact the answer isn’t always easy. When we make decisions about any kind of treatment, we want to know not just whether there is any scientific research evidence to guide us. Opinions can be helpful as well – after all, any research only begins once someone has made an interesting observation or had a hunch. So expert practitioners could also have something valuable to say. Thirdly, your own experiences, preferences and intuition are important too.

In reality though, while a huge amount of research has been done into medical treatments and pharmaceuticals – much of it backed by the big manufacturers – far less research has been funded into complementary therapies and mind-body methods such as yoga or biofeedback. So in many cases there isn’t nearly enough available to be anything like certain.

With all this in mind, the IHR sets out possible options for 40 health problems that might benefit from an integrative approach. For example, back or neck pain problems can do well with massage, or acupuncture or manipulation and relaxation techniques in combination with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The IHR aims to help you make informed choices about a wider range of treatments. We also want to hear about your experiences – succesful or otherwise – through the IHR Community!

16 ways to control stress levels||Simple tips you can try yourself

  1. Try ‘first aid diaphragmatic breathing’ [on breathing and relaxation spread? To diffuse tension in a difficult situation. Make two or three deeper, slower outbreaths. Return to normal breathing, then repeat the deeper, slower outbreaths. If the situation can’t be changed, give a mental shrug; sigh; drop your shoulders; tell yourself, ‘it’s nothing.’ This requires practice. Your body and mind need to rehearse these emergency methods before you need to use them. (See breathing download)
  2. Eat a healthy balanced diet. Good nutrition fuels your body systems so that you have more energy to deal with events and are less susceptible to exhaustion don’t skip or rush meals or live on snacks and junk food. Don’t rely on alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs to help you handle stress. (See nutrition download)
  3. Exercise for at least 20 minutes four times a week to release the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, endorphins. Take regular short breaks and do a little physical activity every day, even if only a brief walk.
  4. Organise your day to avoid rushing and make sure you arrive at your workplace early enough to plan and allocate time for the day’s tasks.
  5. Be assertive: decide what it is you want or feel and say so specifically and directly, then stick to your statement.
  6. Learn to say no to unnecessary requests so that you don’t take on too much. Talk to your manager to establish a workload that’s appropriate.
  7. Delegate: hand over jobs that other people can do so that you are not over-committed
  8. Prioritise tasks to make the most efficient use of your time. Make daily ‘to do’ lists: urgent, not so urgent.
  9. Close the door and put the telephone on hold if there is something that has to be finished and you can’t afford interruptions
  10. Make your workplace as comfortable as possible. Check your chair, desk and VDU are ergonomically correct (see ergonomics download) . Personalise your work area with a pot-plant or photograph.
  11. Avoid working late. Long working hours have been linked to mental and physical health problems. Spend a few quiet minutes alone as a buffer zone between work and home.
  12. Keep the hour before bedtime free from daily hassles and aim for 6-8 hours sleep every night. (see sleep download)
  13. Allow at least 20 minutes a day for you’re a relaxation technique of choice, even if you have to mark it in your schedule.
  14. Find time in the week for pleasure and creativity. Go to the theatre, cinema or an art gallery, have dinner with friends; paint, sing or garden. Appreciate the little joys of life – the smell of cut grass, children’s laughter.
  15. When you go away on holiday, leave work behind. Several short breaks can be more restful than a long holiday with stressful travelling.
  16. Seek help when you need it. Open up to friends and family if its appropriate, or book time with a health professional. Being able to make use of social support in times of stress is good for mental and physical wellbeing.