Practise this relaxation and call me in morning

THE LINK between emotions and health, especially the impact of stress on wellness and disease, continues to fascinate researchers.

Now Boston University School of Medicine has introduced a mind-body class elective for medical students to help them better manage stress and, hopefully, share these techniques with future patients.

The 11-week course consists of a 30-minute lecture about the neuroscience of yoga, relaxation and breathing exercises, followed by a 60-minute yoga, deep breathing and meditation session once a week.

Imagine going to the doctor and coming away with a prescription for relaxation or yoga instead of cholesterol-lowering drugs or antidepressants.

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One of the early pioneers of mind-body medicine was psychiatrist George Solomon, who, in 1964, noticed that people with rheumatoid arthritis became worse when they were depressed.

But it has been Dr Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, who has really defined the relaxation response and continues to lead teaching and research into its efficacy for fighting challenges ranging from heart disease to menopause.

As early as the 1970s, Dr Benson showed how meditation, or calming the mind, could affect blood pressure.

Among the numerous international studies that followed was one by Stanford University School of Medicine that showed women with late-stage breast cancer who received weekly support sessions in which they were able to share both their grief and their triumphs lived twice as long as those who did not.

More recently, Harvard scientists have linked emotions, including stress, to skin trouble.

This mind-skin connection has led to a field called psychodermatology.

Its aim is not to substitute psychotherapy for medicine, but to recognise emotional issues that might affect the way skin problems respond to medical treatment, Harvard Medical School says.

It says psychodermatologic disorders are skin problems that can be aggravated by stress and other emotional factors.

"These include acne, hair loss, eczema, rosacea and warts, among others. Socially stigmatising skin disorders such as severe acne, psoriasis and herpes may also fall into this category."


Best stress beaters

  • Relaxation CD
  • Meditation
  • A beach/park walk
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Talking to a friend

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