Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments

Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress – Harvard Health Blog – Harvard Health Publishing

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

My mom began meditating decades ago, long before the mind-calming practice had entered the wider public consciousness. She d to quote sayings from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk known for his practice of mindful meditation, or “present-focused awareness.”

Although meditation still isn’t exactly mainstream, many people practice it, hoping to stave off stress and stress-related health problems. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has become more popular in recent years.

The practice of mindful meditation involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.

(Or, as my mom would say, “Don’t rehearse tragedies. Don’t borrow trouble.”)

But, as is true for a number of other alternative therapies, much of the evidence to support meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff.

Why? First, many studies don’t include a good control treatment to compare with mindful meditation.

Second, the people most ly to volunteer for a meditation study are often already sold on meditation’s benefits and so are more ly to report positive effects.

But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses anxiety, depression, and pain.


Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”

“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently.

“You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before.

But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” says Dr. Hoge.

One of her studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.

To get a sense of mindfulness meditation, you can try one of the guided recordings by Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. They are available for free at

Some people find that learning mindfulness meditation techniques and practicing them with a group is especially helpful, says Dr. Hoge. Mindfulness-based stress reduction training, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, is now widely available in cities throughout the United States.

Thich Nhat Hahn offers this short mindful meditation in his book Being Peace: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”


New technique successfully dissolves blood clots in brain and lowers risk of brain damage after stroke, study suggests

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins neurologists report success with a new means of getting rid of potentially lethal blood clots in the brain safely without cutting through easily damaged brain tissue or removing large pieces of skull.

The minimally invasive treatment, they report, increased by 10 to 15 percent the number of patients with intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) who could function independently six months following the procedure.

At the International Stroke Conference taking place Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 in New Orleans, the researchers will present their findings from 93 patients, ages 18 to 80, who randomly got either the new treatment or standard-of-care “supportive” therapy that essentially gives clots a chance to dissolve on their own.

The new study was coordinated by Johns Hopkins and the surgical review centers at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Chicago. All 93 patients were diagnosed with ICH, a particularly lethal or debilitating form of stroke long considered surgically untreatable under most circumstances.

“The last untreatable form of stroke may well have a treatment,” says study leader Daniel F. Hanley, M.D., a professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“If a larger study proves our findings correct, we may substantially reduce the burden of strokes for patients and their families by increasing the number of people who can be independent again after suffering a stroke.”

ICH is a bleed in the brain that causes a clot to form, often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. The clot builds up pressure and leaches inflammatory chemicals that can cause irreversible brain damage, often leading to death or extreme disability.

The standard of care for ICH patients is general supportive care, usually in an ICU; only 10 percent undergo the more invasive and risky craniotomy surgery, which involves removing a portion of the skull and making incisions through healthy brain tissue to reach and remove the clot.

Roughly 50 percent of people who suffer an intracerebral hemorrhage die from it.

Although in the United States just 15 percent of stroke patients have ICH, that rate translates to roughly 30,000 to 50,000 individuals — more often than not, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, the elderly and those who lack access to medical care. The more common form of stroke is ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain is blocked.

Surgeons performed the minimally invasive procedure by drilling a dime-sized hole in each patient's skull close to the clot location.

Using a CT scan that Hanley ns to “GPS for the brain,” they guided the catheter through the hole and directly into the clot. The catheter was then used to drip small doses of the clot-busting drug t-PA into the clot for a couple of days, shrinking the clots roughly 20 percent per day. Those patients who underwent supportive therapy saw their clots shrink by about 5 percent per day.

A major advantage is that the minimally invasive surgery busted the clot without the potentially injurious side effects associated with craniotomy, Hanley says.

The minimally invasive approach was also found to be as safe as general supportive therapy, which can involve intense blood pressure control, artificial ventilation, drugs to control swelling and watchful waiting for the clot to dissipate on its own.

For the new study, patients were treated at more than two dozen sites throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, by staff neurologists and surgeons. Hanley says it's a bonus that patients don't need specialized equipment to have the procedure done.

“More extensive surgery probably helps get rid of the clot, but injures the brain,” he says. “This 'minimalist approach' probably does just as much to clear the clot while apparently protecting the brain.”

The research is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Stressbusters | Center for Health Empowerment & Well-Being

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Stressbusters is an incredibly fun and far-reaching community wellness program.

It continuously trains and dispatches volunteer teams of students to provide free five-minute backrubs and health information to other students and staff at campus events, residence halls, organization meetings, libraries and wherever else the stressed gather. Stressbusters are community service volunteers working to promote health and wellness on campus.

Bring the Stressbusters to Your Next Event

Schedule a Stressbusters session at your next event, program, meeting or special occasion!

Why Host a Stressbusters Event?

  • To reduce stress in your organization, office, or residence hall
  • To show appreciation for staff or students
  • To have a fun, stress-free program for your organization
  • To become very popular!

Before You Request an Event

Please complete all fields on the event request form and press “submit” when you are finished. We will respond to your request within approximately one week of your electronic submission. We will make our best effort to honor your Stressbusters event request. Our ability to do so depends on the availability of our volunteer student Stressbusters.

Event Host Responsibilities/Event Requirements

Stressbusters events can be held in quiet locations such as lounges and conference rooms, or in higher-traffic areas including lobbies and walkways.

Wherever you would to locate your event, there must be enough room for several Stressbusters to move around, and for their Stressbustees to have space to enjoy their back rubs in relative peace.

You will also need a designated waiting area that is far enough away from Stressbustee chairs to avoid distracting Stressbusters and those receiving back rubs. Additionally, a secure space for Stressbusters’ belongings will be needed.

You are responsible for providing standard stationery or folding chairs with firm back support; the number of chairs that you will need will be determined by the Stressbusters program coordinators. You will also need to provide a table or countertop for event-related materials and wellness information.

You will need to provide a staff person or volunteer to greet backrub recipients, manage the waiting area, call next backrub recipients, provide handouts, etc., if asked to do so by the Stressbusters program or a Stressbusters Event Captain.

Event hosts are responsible for event clean up and breakdown of any materials or equipment not brought to the event by Stressbusters.

Not a thing! It’s free of charge!

Request an Event

To request a Stressbusters event, please complete the event request form.

Become a JHU Stressbuster

Why should you become a Stressbuster? For all the great benefits!

  • Learn effective backrub and other stress reduction techniques
  • Meet and team with other students committed to helping people be healthier
  • Participate according to your schedule and location
  • Get experience working on a high-profile health promotion initiative to put on your resume
  • Be a sought after source of health information
  • Provide a valuable and wildly appreciated community service
  • Make a huge difference in someone’s day
  • Have a good time, make friends and relax

How do I get Started?

The requirements are stress-free, the training is for life, and the popularity is instantaneous!

  • Fill out the quick Stressbusters application.
  • Attend a Stressbusters training session to learn and practice basic backrub techniques
  • Find out about JHU wellness resources so you can be an info source at Stressbusters events
  • Participate in four or more campus Stressbusters events over a semester (a commitment of approximately 4 hours)


What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

At the 2016 Summer Olympics, you might have seen athletes with purple circles on their skin from cupping. Or maybe you know someone who swears by acupuncture for her back pain or herbal teas for colds. More and more, people use practices these from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to not only fight disease, but also prevent it.

TCM is an ancient system of health and wellness that’s been used in China for thousands of years. Western medicine focuses mainly on treating disease. But TCM looks at your entire well-being.

Is it safe to try and will it work? With a little background on how it’s used, you can make more informed choices to improve your health.

Western medicine tends to view the body a lot a car. It has different systems that need the right inputs and outputs. It’s very concrete and logical.

TCM, on the other hand, doesn’t focus on science and medicine. Instead, it’s balance, harmony, and energy. There are two central ideas behind TCM:

Qi: This is also called life energy or vital energy. The belief is that it runs throughout your body. It’s always on the move and constantly changes. TCM treatments often focus on ways to promote and maintain the flow of qi.

Yin and Yang: These are opposites that describe the qualities of qi.

  • Yin: night , dark, cold, feminine, negative
  • Yang: day, light, warm , positive, male

The belief is that everything in life has a little bit of its opposite, too, and balance is the key. For example, a drug from your doctor might heal disease. But it’s dangerous if you take too much of it.

According to TCM, these ideas play out in our bodies. When you balance the yin and yang of Qi, you feel healthy and well. If they’re whack, you feel sick. TCM aims to create harmony and a healthy flow of qi.

What Kind of Practices Does TCM Use?

Several. They include:

  • Acupuncture: very fine needles placed gently in the skin
  • Cupping: heated cups that create suction on your skin
  • Herbs: teas, powders, and capsules made mostly from plants
  • Meditation: a way to sit quietly and calm your mind
  • Moxibustion: dried herbs burned near the skin
  • Tai chi: exercise with slow movements and focus on the breath

Experts believe it’s safe, if you go to someone who knows what he's doing. This is especially true of acupuncture, tai chi, cupping, and moxibustion.

Herbs can be a little trickier. They don’t go through the same FDA process as drugs. That means there’s not as much research on them, and it can be hard to know exactly what’s in them. Plus, herbs can have side effects or impact other medicine you’re taking. Again, it’s important to go to someone who really understands her practice. And always check with your doctor first.

TCM is an approach that covers a lot of ground, and results vary. The practices haven’t been studied in the same way as Western medicine. More research has been done on herbs and acupuncture than other treatments. But studies show a lot of promise:

  • Acupuncture is commonly accepted as a treatment for a number of conditions, including pain relief and limiting side effects from chemotherapy.
  • A number of herbs used in TCM are also used at well-respected, Western medicine clinics to treat anything from trouble sleeping to arthritis to menopause.
  • Tai chi seems to improve balance in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Cupping may help relieve pain from shingles.

That’s a personal decision. People use TCM for anything from carpal tunnel syndrome to lowering stress. Sometimes they use it along with Western medicine. It may be a good choice if you:

  • Have a lot of different symptoms with no clear cause
  • Need to treat side effects from drugs
  • Have tried Western medicine but didn’t get results
  • Want to prevent illness

In general, doctors suggest you don’t use it to totally replace Western medicine, especially if you have a serious condition cancer or liver disease.

They also urge caution, especially with herbs, if you’re:

  • Elderly
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Scheduled for surgery (some herbs could lead to bleeding problems or prevent drugs used during surgery from working)
  • Taking other medicine as well
  • Treating a child

They want to see proof that something is safe and works well before they suggest you try it. That often makes it hard for them to recommend TCM. But on the whole, research and interest in TCM is on the rise.

You can also find many leading health care centers, the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins offering TCM practices such as acupuncture and herbal treatments.

Your best bet is to find someone certified by the Accreditation Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). They accredit schools that teach TCM, and you can check their website to find someone.

Another option is to get in touch with a school of Oriental medicine. They can sometimes refer you to their alumni.

Check with your family and friends as well — just do your research to make sure you go to someone you can trust.


Mayo Clinic: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” “Meditation” and “Acupuncture.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Chinese Herbal Therapy” and “Acupuncture.”

University of Minnesota, Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing: “Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

University of New Hampshire Health Services: “Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

NIH, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Traditional Chinese Medicine: In Depth.”

Cancer Research UK: “Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “What Is Chinese Medicine?” and  “Acupuncture Program.”

Harvard Medical School: “What Exactly Is Cupping?”

 PubMed: “Does the burning of moxa (Artemisia vulgaris) in traditional Chinese medicine constitute a health hazard?” and “Wet cupping therapy for treatment of herpes zoster: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Yin and Yang.” 

University of New Hampshire  website: “Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Naturopathic Medicine


Reduce Stress to Prevent Headaches

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

From the WebMD Archives

Want to nip your headache in the bud? Try one of these stress-busting techniques.

“Poor sleep increases the body's stress response,” says Jason D. Rosenberg, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Headache Center. Getting enough shut-eye can keep headaches at bay.

Try for 7 to 8 hours a night and stick to a regular sleep schedule. Make an effort to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Don't change that pattern much, even on weekends.

To improve your sleep, Rosenberg suggests these tips:

  • Keep electronics your bedroom.
  • Try not to drink too much fluid after dinner.
  • If you can't sleep, get bed. Try to read quietly somewhere until you're drowsy.

Being active can burn off stress. “Exercise is a great way to get your mind off the things that you find stressful,” says Natasha Withers, DO, of One Medical Group in New York.

When you get moving, it lowers stress hormones and boosts endorphins, which are your body's “feel-good” chemicals. It can also boost your mood and energy, she says.

Try to get 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise — activity that gets your heart pumping — at least three times a week.

“Moderate aerobic exercise three times a week can reduce stress as well as migraines,” Rosenberg says.

Follow a diet that's low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates. It can make a difference in how many headaches you get, how long they last, and how intense they are.

Withers suggests cutting processed foods from your diet and eating more anti-inflammatory foods, fatty fish, whole grains, and dark, leafy greens.

Start with a healthy breakfast. Don't skip meals. “Have a healthy snack before you get hungry,” Rosenberg says. “Hunger can trigger headaches.”

Drink enough liquids to stay hydrated all day. But watch out for drinking too many caffeinated drinks, which may add to your stress.

It's helpful to stay at a healthy weight. “Studies strongly suggest that obesity can bring on or worsen headaches,” Rosenberg says.

Any type of relaxation method can be very helpful to prevent stress headaches.

Some techniques you can try are:

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and then relaxing all the major muscle groups, one at a time)

Take slow, deep breaths. Think of something that makes you feel happy and calm. Listen to music or take a walk in nature. Gentle exercises yoga and tai chi can also help.

Having too much going on in your life can lead to tension headaches. Pare down your activities so you're not over-extended.

Take a break from stressful situations. Even a few minutes can help. Withers suggests going outside. “Go for a walk and get some fresh air,” she says. That will stimulate your senses and shift your awareness to something other than whatever is making you feel stressed.

Carve out “me” time regularly. If you have a full schedule with a lot of demands, improve your time management by breaking large tasks into smaller chunks.

Spend time with people who are important to you, friends and family.

Get involved in your community. Volunteering is a powerful way to feel good and relieve stress.

“It can be an uplifting way to change how you feel about your life and at the same time positively impact someone else's life in a profound way,” Withers says.

If you have underlying stress, it can lead to headaches. Talk to someone about what may be making you feel tense.

A professional counselor can help you figure out what's upsetting you and teach you strategies for managing stress.

It helps to keep your body relaxed. Holding it the right way can prevent neck strain and muscle tension. Stand tall and don't slouch.

When you read, keep your neck in line with your body instead of letting it bend forward. When you use the computer, make sure the screen is at eye level.

Keep your face relaxed. Don't clench your jaw, which can lead to muscle tension.


Jason D. Rosenberg MD, director, Johns Hopkins Headache Center at Bayview.

Natasha Withers, DO, One Medical Group, New York.

Cleveland Clinic: “Tension Headaches.”

University of California, Berkeley, University Health Services: “Tension Headache Fact Sheet.”

American Chiropractic Association: “Headache Prevention and Treatment.”

Duke Medicine: “Caffeine's Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress.”

© 2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | WTOP

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

This content is sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medicine

Nearly 50 percent of women reported a rise in stress levels over the past five years. Chronic stress contributes to a range of health problems, including mental health disorders, heart disease and obesity.

Integrative treatments meditation and acupuncture can help reduce stress and related problems. These techniques are gaining mainstream acceptance as research demonstrates their positive health effects.

Several studies show that relaxation helps improve gene expressions that control the flight-or-fight response in the body and activate the “rest-and-digest” part of the brain (parasympathetic nervous system).  Even during the busiest day, we can find micro-moments where we use gratitude, deep breath and enjoyable music to bring relaxation response.

Below are a few of the ways we recommend dealing with stress.

Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are therapies proven to help manage anxiety and depression.

Meditation helps you relax by focusing on breathing and awareness of the body in the present moment.

MBSR is a program that draws on the principles of meditation to help people become more aware of how negative thoughts impact physical feelings. Research has shown that benefits of MBSR include:

  • Reduced stress and worrying
  • Improved memory and focus
  • Fewer emotional ups and downs and greater resilience
  • Improved relationships

MBSR is an incredibly effective tool for decreasing stress and anxiety. Through phone apps and introductory courses, mindfulness training is more readily available and affordable.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice involving the use of tiny needles to stimulate the nervous and immune systems.

During the procedure, a licensed acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points on the body.

Acupuncture is painless, and research shows that it helps support conventional treatment for a range of problems that include stress, chronic pain and digestive disorders.

Therapeutic Massage

While many of us think of massage as a rare, indulgent treat, studies indicate massage helps treat a variety of stress-related disorders, including anxiety and insomnia.  In addition to general wellness, massage is used for a variety of health-related conditions, including chronic pain relief, reducing stress, increasing relaxation and boosting mood.

It is important to talk to your doctor about whether massage is right for you. It may not be appropriate for people with certain conditions, such as bleeding disorders or osteoporosis.

Massage is found to be helpful both physically and emotionally. The rubbing soothes sore muscles and releases tension in the body and mind. Massaging muscles and soft tissue stimulates the nerves, increases blood flow and relieves stress in the muscles.

Massage is incredibly useful, particularly when facing a health challenge.

Yoga Therapy

Yoga helps improve quality of life in physical areas flexibility, strength, balance, stamina and joint health, including relief for people with arthritis. It also has mental health benefits, including stress reduction, body awareness, improved sleep, self-confidence and relaxation.

Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the teachings and practices of yoga.

Yoga therapists create a personalized and evolving yoga practice that not only addresses illness but works to alleviate suffering in a progressive, non-invasive and complementary manner.

The Most Effective Approach

Managing stress is one of the most important ways to decrease inflammation and positively affecting long-term health. Unfortunately there is not one magic bullet that reverses stress, but a comprehensive mind-body plan is the most effective approach.

Rosanne Sheinberg, MD, and Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC, direct the Integrative Medicine Center at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Their mission is to help treat both the physical and mental health of their patients in order to manage the brain and how it contributes to symptoms of stress.


Mind-Body Therapy and Psychiatry: Ancient Tools for Modern Practice

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Dr Gerbarg suggested that psychiatrists seeking to introduce yoga to their patients might consider recommending Yoga Therapy, defined as “the application of Yogic principles to a particular person with the objective of achieving a particular spiritual, psychological, or physiological goal.”16 Practitioners can be found through the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Yoga is not one-size-fits-all, and different styles of yoga are appropriate for different patients.

“For example, it is important to find a practitioner who specializes in depression, or the particular psychiatric condition of your patient, before making the referral, and it would be best if you could get to know the practitioner you are recommending,” she emphasized, adding that it is important to engage in ongoing monitoring of how the therapy is progressing.

“The increased focus on these interventions and their applicability and the ever-growing evidence base is a very timely development because we are in the grip of a crisis of medication abuse, rising suicide rates, trauma, PTSD, and difficulties people have in relating to one another,” Dr Gerbarg observed. Additionally, rising healthcare costs make it even more important for physicians to “learn about nonmedication practices, such as mind-body medicine, which are inexpensive, safe, beneficial, and simple and can be extremely helpful in augmenting more conventional treatments.”

The following workshops and websites provide additional mind-body resources for clinicians:


  1. Yoga. Available at: Accessed July 6, 2018.
  2. What is yoga? Available at: Accessed July 5, 2018.
  3. Büssing A, Michalsen A, Khalsa SB, Telles S, Sherman KJ. Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.


  4. Benson H, Kotch JB, Crassweller KD. The relaxation response: a bridge between psychiatry and medicine. Med Clin North Am. 1977;61(4):929-938.
  5. Bormann JE, Thorp SR, Smith E, et al. Individual treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder using mantram repetition: a randomized clinical trial [published online June 20, 2018]. Am J Psychiatry.

     doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17060611

  6. Kabat-Zinn J, Lipworth L, Burney R. The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. J Behav Med. 1985;8(2):163-190.
  7. Kabat-Zinn J. Bringing mindfulness to medicine: an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Interview by Karolyn Gazella. Adv Mind Body Med. 2005;21(2):22-27.

  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Mind-body therapy (integrative psychotherapy). Available at: Accessed July 5, 2018.
  9. Gerbarg PL, Brown RP. Yoga and neuronal pathways to enhance stress response, emotional regulation, bonding, and spirituality. In: Horovitz EG, Elgelid S.

    Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice. New York and London: Routledge; 2015.

  10. Porges SW. The polyvagal theory: new insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleve Clin J Med. 2009;76(Suppl 2):S86-S90.
  11. Gerbarg PL, Brown RP. Neurobiology and neurophysiology of breath practices in psychiatric care. Psychiatric Times. Available at: http://www. Accessed August 8, 2018.

  12. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Muench F. Breathing practices for treatment of psychiatric and stress-related medical conditions. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013;36(1):121-140.
  13. Soler J, Valdepérez A, Feliu-Soler A, et al.

    Effects of the dialectical behavioral therapy-mindfulness module on attention in patients with borderline personality disorder. Behav Res Ther. 2012;50(2):150-157.

  14. Shahab L, Sarkar BK, West R. The acute effects of yogic breathing exercises on craving and withdrawal symptoms in abstaining smokers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;225(4):875-882.

  15. Park CL, Russell BS, Fendrich M. Mind-body approaches to prevention and intervention for alcohol and other drug use/abuse in young adults. Medicines (Basel). 2018;5(3).
  16. Miller R. Yoga therapy: definition, perspectives, and principles. The International Association of Yoga Therapists. Available at: https://www.iayt.

    org/page/YogaTherapyDefinitio? Accessed June 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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Childhood trauma leads to lifelong chronic illness — so why isn’t the medical community helping patients?

Stress Busters: 4 Integrative Treatments | Johns Hopkins Medicine

When I was twelve, I was coming home from swimming at my neighbor’s dock when I saw an ambulance’s flashing lights in our driveway. I still remember the asphalt burning my feet as I stood, paralyzed, and watched the paramedics take away my father. It was as if I knew those flashing lights were a harbinger that my childhood was over.

At the hospital, a surgeon performed “minor” elective bowel surgery on my young dad. The surgeon made an error, and instead of my father coming home to the “welcome home” banners we’d painted, he died.

The medical care system failed my father miserably. Then the medical care system began to fail me.

At fourteen, I started fainting. The doctors implied I was trying to garner attention. In college I began having full seizures. I kept them to myself, fearful of seeming a modern Camille.

I’d awaken on the floor drenched in sweat, with strangers standing quizzically over me.

Then, I had a seizure in front of my aunt, a nurse, and forty-eight hours later awoke in the hospital with a pacemaker in my chest.

In my early forties I developed Guillain Barre Syndrome, a neurological autoimmune disorder that causes paralysis from the neck down. I found myself in Johns Hopkins Hospital, on the exact anniversary of my father’s death, in the same hospital wing where he had died, unable to move. I was a few days shy of turning forty-two, the very age at which my dad had passed away.

I recovered, only to relapse, falling paralyzed again. Many of my children’s early memories revolve around my bed, where we played board games and read books.

 It wasn’t until I was fifty-one-years old that a physician sat me down and asked me the most important question of my life – one that would lead me to better health than I’d had for decades: “Were there any childhood traumas or stressors that might have contributed to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing as an adult?”

My physician explained that ongoing adversity in childhood leads to a chronic state of “fight, flight or freeze.

” Researchers at Yale had recently shown that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that oversee our stress reactivity, re-setting the stress response to “high” for life.

This increases the risk of inflammation, which manifests later in cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases mine.

As a science reporter I was shocked to discover that research linking childhood stress to adult illness began in 1996 with the Kaiser Permanente-CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study). Since then, over 1500 peer-reviewed studies have replicated these findings.

The research was stunning. Two-thirds of Americans report experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences.

These include obvious sexual and physical abuse, but also stressors that many consider to be normal — growing up with divorced parents, living with a depressed or alcoholic mom or dad, having a parent who belittled or humiliated you – or simply not feeling as if your family had your back. People who’d experienced four such categories of childhood adversity were twice as ly to be diagnosed with cancer and depression as adults.

One statistic struck home with me: women who’d faced three types of childhood adversity had a sixty percent greater risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease as an adult.

Similar links existed between childhood stressors and adult heart disease, diabetes, migraines and irritable bowel disease.

Suffering six categories of early life stress shortened one’s lifespan by twenty years.

However, one study of 125,000 patients showed that when physicians acknowledged and discussed patients’ childhood trauma openly, patients enjoyed a thirty-five percent reduction in doctor visits.

Validating patient suffering invites patients to address it at last.

Yet, despite twenty years of research linking childhood stress to adult disease, the majority of the medical community acts as if these findings don’t exist.

This August, students will begin training in medical schools across the country. They will be expected to emerge with deep-rooted knowledge about how to help patients heal.

But shockingly, only a few medical schools teach students about how childhood suffering influences adult disease. The majority of medical schools leave this science out.

Perhaps they fear teaching it will open the door to bringing psychiatry into the exam room.

But shouldn’t physicians consider the whole patient – body and mind – so that they can suggest behavioral health tools that will alleviate both the root causes and the symptoms of disease? When physicians help patients come to the profound revelation that childhood adversity plays a role in the chronic illnesses they face now, they help them to heal physically and emotionally at last.

All disease is multifactorial. Past trauma is one of those factors. I can’t help but think of how my own story might have been different if the medical community had been trauma-aware. What if, after my father’s sudden death, the emotional cost of such a traumatic loss had been validated, and our medical system had offered therapeutic interventions?

It’s been two decades since the research linking childhood adversity to adult illness began. But think of how much money we might have saved in our health care system since then if we considered the role that past trauma plays in one’s current medical condition, instead of waiting a lifetime for it to show up in devastating and difficult to treat diseases that ruin lives for a second time.

According to the CDC, the annual health care cost of adult patients who have a history of early trauma is $124 billion a year. Validating patients’ past trauma isn’t only beneficial for their well being, it translates into fewer tests, procedures, and health care dollars spent.

Statistics tell us that two-thirds of Americans reading these words, including physicians, will recognize that experiences in their childhood still trail after them today, small ghosts. Fortunately, medical science now recognizes many proven interventions for recovering from trauma, even decades after events have occurred.

We are long overdue for a national awareness campaign — similar to public health initiatives on how seat belts save lives, smoking causes cancer, and hand washing prevents flu — to educate physicians and families on how childhood trauma begets adult illness. Only then can we help those who feel paralyzed by their pasts to achieve the healthy lives they deserve.


This article first appeared in the Huffington Post. Donna Jackson Nakazawa is the author of Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How you Can Heal. You can follow her on at @DonnaJackNak, or on at