Interviews

Q&A with Dr. Dewan, M.D. on Managing Stress with Wellness

Even without a global pandemic to worry about, some of us deal with stress on the daily. So, while some areas of the country (and the world!) are opening back up and life is slowly getting back to normal, managing stress levels is still a top priority for many. That’s why we spoke to board-certified neurosurgeon and author of A Neurosurgeon’s Guide to Understanding, Embracing, and Navigating Stress, Dr. Sheri Dewan, M.D., about wellness and managing stress in our daily lives.

Q: WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY WELLNESS ROUTINE LOOK LIKE?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: My daily routine is centered around maintaining a sense of wellness and peace, while simultaneously performing highly complex, high-risk procedures in which a patient’s life is on the line. I do this by waking at 5 a.m., starting my morning with a 10-15 minute meditation, and then a cardio routine that involves running, yoga, or swimming. This sets me on the right path for the day with a clear and calm mindset.

Q: DO YOU HAVE SPECIFIC TYPES OF MEDITATION THAT YOU PRACTICE?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: I myself utilize transcendental meditation as it’s most useful for visualization techniques. For example, running a race and visualizing oneself crossing the finish line.

TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION

The Maharishi Foundation notes the benefits of Transcendental Meditation include a deep inner calm, which is great for reducing stress while promoting mental clarity and a healthier heart.

Q: HOW DOES WELLNESS FACTOR INTO STRESS RELIEF?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: I think wellness and stress relief work in tandem. We can’t have one without the other. For me personally, I find it hard to perform at my peak if I am stressed out or feeling jittery. In those moments, I stop and focus on my breath. Once I have control of my breathing, I change my internal dialogue, which leads to a calm mind and body.

Q: WHEN YOU’RE HAVING A STRESSFUL DAY, WHAT ARE GENERAL STEPS YOU TAKE TO DE-STRESS?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: The coronavirus pandemic has taken stress in our daily lives to a new level. We are not only dealing with the minutiae of daily life: grocery shopping, raising kids, remote learning, possibly traveling for work; but also consumed with fear for our health and wellness. Whether you are raising kids, traveling, working at your desk, or caretaking, the first step in stress management is the recognition. Start listening to your body and learn the pattern of stress recognition. Once you feel the jaw clenching or brow furrowing, stop and focus on your breath. Begin deep breathing for 1-2 minutes, slowly inhaling and exhaling until you feel the sense of calm. Next, go to your self-talk and change the tone to one of positivity. Remember, we have to love ourselves before we can care for others.

Q: WHAT ARE SMALL STEPS PEOPLE CAN TAKE TO INFUSE WELLNESS INTO THEIR LIVES TO DECREASE STRESS LEVELS?

PHYSICAL HEALTH WELLNESS

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: I can’t say enough about maintaining a schedule to integrate physical activity in your day. It could be a walk around the block, or 10 minutes on the treadmill, perhaps a short trip to the grocery store. Human beings are meant to move. Movement allows our lungs to aerate, prevents blood clots in our legs, and keeps our muscles healthy and strong.

MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: Mentally, we need to reach out to family, friends, or work colleagues to get our daily feeling of wellness socially.

HOME AND OFFICE WELLNESS

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: You can create wellness within your home by buying fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking for yourself, actively putting away social media, and laughing out loud hard. All these activities engage your brain and promote a sense of well-being.

Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY WELLNESS TIPS FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM STRESS OR THOSE LOOKING TO FIND MORE RELAXATION AND FOCUS IN THEIR LIVES?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: My advice for those suffering from stress or those looking for more focus is to allow the practice of meditation and yoga into your daily life. Meditation and yoga have numerous health benefits from the brain to cardiovascular health with numerous published research studies showing that the brain can change chemically with daily practice. For anyone who is struggling with stress, this is the first avenue of support.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC TYPE OF YOGA THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE DEALING WITH STRESS?

DR. DEWAN, M.D.: As far as yoga, there are many forms useful for managing stress including Kundalini, which focuses on a meditative aspect of yoga as well as Vinyasa and Ashtanga.

KUNDALINI YOGA

According to Healthline, Kundalini Yoga is a spiritual practice that enhances your awareness and helps you to move past your ego while balancing your chakras. Further, it offers stress relief, improves cognitive function, and boosts your self image.

VINYASA AND ASHTANGA YOGA

Healthline notes that Vinyasa yoga is a practice in which each pose flows directly into the next. While Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga are often used interchangeably, the main difference is that Ashtanga yoga repeats its flow while Vinyasa yoga often does not. Both practices offer the benefits of lower stress levels, as well as heightened relaxation and energy levels due to the endurance and strength training it features.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

BIO

Dr. Sheri Dewan, M.D. is a board-certified neurosurgeon, who has been in practice over 10 years, having completed her neurosurgery residency at Brown University. She represents one of only 219 board certified women neurosurgeons in the United States; women in neurosurgery comprise 6% of the field. She is also a married mother of three who enjoys scuba diving, traveling, and donating to tiger conservation in North India.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

SOURCES

WHAT IS KUNDALINI YOGA AND WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS? HEALTHLINE:

https://www.healthline.com/health/kundalini-yoga#benefits

HATHA OR VINYASA YOGA: WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOU? HEALTHLINE:

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/hatha-vs-vinyasa

WHAT ARE THE EVIDENCE BASED BENEFITS, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION:

https://www.tm.org/#benefits