Stress-related conditions account for 60 to 80 percent of doctor visits every year. As we all know, stress can happen anywhere — at home, work or on your morning commute. While a little stress actually helps in certain situations, ongoing stress can cause problems.
Continued stress can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, anxiety, headaches or trouble sleeping. When ignored, these negative effects of stress can lead to more serious conditions that may require hospitalization. But being in the hospital brings with it a whole different type of stress for the patient and his or her family members.
Worrying about diagnosis, treatment, finances and frustrations related to the hospital’s physical environment, feelings of social isolation, or perceived difficulties in interactions with hospital staff contribute to feeling stressed, whether you are in the hospital for a quick procedure or for an extended period. This stress can contribute to discomfort, trouble controlling pain when on pain medication, trouble concentrating on new information, or trouble sleeping.
How do you turn all of that stress off when there is a constant stream of people in and out of your hospital room asking questions, poking and prodding, taking you for tests, and bombarding you with information? One way is to take advantage of what are called integrative health practices.
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Integrative health practices, formerly known as complementary/alternative practices, are used to help with coping, and over the past 15 years have become more prevalent in hospitals. Many of these practices are easy to learn and can be used even after you have gone home.
Among the more popular integrative health practices used in hospitals are visits from pets, massage, music, art, relaxation breathing, drumming or guided imagery. They are intended to help provide comfort and relaxation and to help manage stress, pain, nausea and anxiety; to promote rest and sleep; or to reduce the sense of social isolation patients may feel while in the hospital.
Integrative health practices are meant to be used along with conventional medicine, not as a replacement for any treatments your doctor may recommend. Because family members often stay with patients in the hospital for long periods of time, they, too, can benefit from these activities.
The next time you or a loved one must be in the hospital, ask your nurse about integrative health practices they may offer.
Catherine Weaver is a registered nurse and coordinator for an integrative practice program at Baptist Health Lexington.