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STRESS HELP

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T'ai Chi


T'ai Chi Chuan, or T'ai Chi for short, is an ancient Chinese series of gentle exercises that have been used for thousands of years to improve psychological and physiological health. Recent western research has indicated that T'ai Chi can have a number of beneficial effects which can be especially helpful for people who are suffering stress, anxiety and depression. Chronic stress, anxiety and depression can cause insomnia, weakened immune system, pain, fatigue, etc. T'ai Chi can help reduce the impact of these conditions/symptoms when used as part of an overall recovery package.

Beneficial effects that can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression include:-

BIOCHEMICAL CHANGES - Research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 1989 indicated that T'ai Chi can have a beneficial effect on our biochemistry and reduce the levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

RELAXATION AND STRESS - Practising T'ai Chi on a regular basis can help us to deal more effectively with stress. It not only reduces stress hormone levels, but also reduces muscle tension because each muscle is gently tightened and relaxed. The well known stress researcher and Cardiologist, Professor Herbert Benson, Clinical Director of the Mind, Body Medicine Institute in Boston, USA, said that T'ai Chi probably helps to reduce stress by inducing the relaxation response. T'ai Chi also helps to encourage diaphragmatic breathing and this stimulates relaxation, even as far as inducing a sensation of floating.

IMMUNE SYSTEM - chronic stress, anxiety and depression can weaken our immune system and leave us more vulnerable to infections like colds, flu, glandular fever, herpes, etc. Research published in the New Scientist Journal indicates that T'ai Chi practitioners were shown to have significantly higher (approx. 40% higher) levels of immune-cells when compared to a group who did not practice T'ai chi.

CLINICAL DEPRESSION - People who practice T'ai Chi on a regular basis report that they feel less tension, less anger and less depression.

BACK PAIN - Chronic muscle tension is a factor in causing anxiety and this can result in aches and pains like back pain. T'ai Chi can help reduce back pain because the movements are slow and graceful, this helps to strengthen back muscles, making them more flexible and less liable to trauma. T'ai Chi helps chronically tensed muscles, relax.


So it can be seen that T'ai Chi has a number of beneficial psychological and physiological benefits that can help stress, anxiety, depression, etc. There are a number of books and videos on T'ai Chi that can be loaned from your local library, however it is best learned from a qualified T'ai Chi Instructor. Your local Education Centre often run courses in T'ai Chi and the cost is quite reasonable with reduced fees available to those on benefits.


REFERENCES

1. Jamil T (1997) Complimentary Medicine: a Practitioners Guide, Butterworth Heineman.

2. Keable D (1997) The Management of Anxiety: a Guide for Therapists. Churchill Livingstone.

3. Totman R (1990) Mind, Stress and Health, Condor Books.

4. Westcott P (1994) Alternative Health Care for Women. Diamond Books.