The AMD Lifestyle: Stress Reduction
“What can I do to slow down the progression of AMD?”
Continued from The AMD Lifestyle: Moderate Exercise.
If someone tells you that you can get rid of stress in your life, I wouldn’t believe them! There is stress all around from things we can’t control such as extremes in weather that we might not even take into account. The goal, then, is to learn to manage stress of all types and minimize the effects on your life and in this case on our eyes.
Stress and AMD
“While prolonged mental stress is clearly a consequence of vision loss, it may also aggravate the situation,” says a recent literature review. The article ‘Mental stress as consequence and cause of vision loss: the dawn of psychosomatic ophthalmology for preventive and personalized medicine’ recommends the following for clinicians1:
- “Firstly, stress reduction and relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation, autogenic training, stress management training, and psychotherapy to learn to cope) should be recommended not only as complementary to traditional treatments of vision loss but possibly as preventive means to reduce progression of vision loss.“
- “Secondly, doctors should try their best to inculcate positivity and optimism in their patients while giving them the information the patients are entitled to, especially regarding the important value of stress reduction.”
Taking control of stress
Doesn’t that advice sound great! Will it happen in the offices of our eye specialists soon? I hope so! What do we do to help ourselves? In The AMD Lifestyle: Moderate Exercise, we talked about how exercise can reduce stress. What else can we do?
There’s something that you can do now that doesn’t require any money, special equipment, or clothes and can be done just about anywhere! It’s mindfulness. There are tons of articles, videos, and audios about it, but what is it?
What is mindfulness?
The article ‘Getting Started with Mindfulness’ says, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”2
I’m not going to give you mindfulness exercises to do – you can find those all over the internet. You can stop reading this now and just pay attention to your senses:
- Where you are. Look around you - what do you see?
- Listen to the sounds around you - what do you hear?
- Scan your body – how is your breathing? Do you feel tension in your body?
- Use your nose – what do you smell?
- Did you just eat – what is that taste?
Most articles about mindfulness tell you to practice it often. Set aside time and space. Many people like to practice mindfulness while outside where you can feel the warmth of the sun, hear the birds chirping, smell the scent of the flowers. Makes me relaxed just thinking about it!
Another way to reduce stress without needing any money, special equipment, or clothing is to work on your breathing. One way to do that is with ‘square breathing.’
The article ‘Prevent anxiety with square breathing exercise’ describes it as, “Breathe in for 5 seconds and imagine the side of a square being drawn. Then hold your breath for 5 seconds as you ‘see’ the next side of the square being completed. Exhale for 5 seconds, watching the third side of the square being drawn. And, hold for 5 seconds, watching the full square take form. If you have difficulty ‘seeing’ the square, feel free to just focus on counting each part of the breath. While focusing on your breath in these ways, you will find that you are not worrying about other things.”3
How do you protect your eyes from the sun?