Sunday, June 10, 2007

How to De-Stress

I played my last symphony concert of the season last night and now I get a break, but not a very long one because summer concerts are close at hand. This spring I have been plagued by a sore neck on the left side and have tried everything I can think of to alleviate it—massage, a heated herbal-scented comfort pack, Arnica gel, Yoga (but no Tylenol. I am a very stubborn lady and am totally against drugs). The problem started with toting a heavy bag through the Salt Lake City airport, but has been exacerbated by my violin playing. I found that I tend to really clamp down hard on the chinrest when I play. So I plan to give it a rest for a week or so. I suspect it is not just a pulled muscle though, I probably have arthritis in my neck as well.

This past week, I was in a lot of pain at rehearsals and got very fatigued by the end of the week. Having rehearsals that go til 10:30 pm doesn't help. I read in the LA Times a week ago that a doctor had great success giving ginger supplements to people with arthritis, so I have been drinking ginger tea every day. I just grate some ginger into my Bodum teapot and add hot water. I like it straight but it is also good with a teaspoon of raw honey. It seems to be working! Last night at the concert, I was fine. No pain at all, although this morning is a different story. I guess a little adrenaline helps, too.

My current read is a book about cortisol, the other "fight or flight" hormone. The title is The Cortisol Connection and according to the author, Shawn Talbott, constantly raised cortisol levels is the root of all health evils from obesity and diabetes to arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's. Essentially, he says, and he is not the first to say so, our high-stress life-styles are killing us. I am only half-way through the book so at this point I am not making any recommendations. I already have a couple of objections to his thesis—one is the diet he recommends (not low-carb) and the other is all the herbal supplements. Here is one more author saying that people can't stick to a diet or exercise routine and therefore need to take a pill instead. But at the beginning of the book, he clearly lays out the possible reasons for our elevated cortisol levels and the consequences to our health.

Note to Grace, my daughter, and daughter-in-law: The people with the highest levels of stress-related diseases are working moms! But you knew that, right?

So I plan to spend my day today trying to reduce my cortisol levels that have been raised by all those nighttime rehearsals which disrupt my circadian rhythm, the intensity of the work itself, and the pain in my neck. I usually am totally wiped out the morning after a big concert but my new low-carb diet has helped my energy levels considerably. The Yoga, stretching, and strength-training has helped, too. I tried doing some knitting yesterday to relax, but after having to rip back the last three rows four times, I realized I wasn't getting very relaxed! I could watch a movie, but the current Netflix movie that I have in the house (Pan's Labyrinth) is R rated and probably will raise my cortisol levels even higher. Our brains can call for more cortisol even if we just imagine a stressful event.

For me, browsing the Internet is very relaxing, but constantly using the mouse hurts my neck because my right hand is stretched out for long periods. (I do have an ergonomic keyboard.) Gardening is great for helping me to relax, too, so I may do some of that later today. But what I really want to do is try out a new Yoga DVD that I bought when I bought the Cortisol book—Yoga for Beauty with Rainbeau Mars. (Imagine having a name like that—Rainbeau Mars. And she lives in Hawaii, too, one of the most relaxing places on Earth.) I have her earlier set of DVDs, Sacred Yoga Practice, and do the Pure Tranquility routine from that set often, especially during concert weeks.

A nice stretch followed by hot ginger tea... Mmmmm!

1 comment:

  1. Mothers of young children are also the most frequently cited speeders. Must drive faster! We have to be in many places at once! ;-)

    In my first bout of pneumonia as a mother, one doctor told put me on three weeks disability with orders to rest. I questioned if such a drsstic measure was called for; it was dangerous only for the elderly and HIV patients.

    She said that many mothers who popped antibiotics and tried to keep going without rest when they were sick were developing and dying from pneumonia by the hundreds in our county alone. I thought about her warning a couple of years later, when I developed multi-drug resistant S. Pneum.