Dr. Divi Chandna, a Vancouver-based doctor and mind-body medicine coach, shares five tips for decreasing stress – and increasing your health and happiness
Credit: Dr Divi Chandna

Dr. Divi Chandna, a Vancouver-based doctor and mind-body medicine coach, shares five tips for decreasing stress – and increasing your health and happiness

“At least 95 per cent of our physical diseases are a result of stress,” says Dr. Divi Chandna, a veteran Vancouver family physician, mind-body medicine coach, medical intuitive, teacher trainer, author and international speaker.

“I would define stress as feeling out of equilibrium or out of balance,” she says. “You know the emotion of complete joy and exhilaration? Any time you’re not feeling that, your body and mind are stressed.”

During her 20 years as a family physician, Dr. Divi (as her patients call her) has evolved her practice to integrate the perfect mix of “Eastern mind meets Western medicine,” so patients can see her, at her beautiful Kitsilano medical practice with breathtaking city and mountain views, for annual checkups or prescription medication covered by B.C. MSP, or get to the heart of chronic ailments by blending conventional medicine with mind-body wisdom.

Emotional stress has physical effects

“When you’re physically and or emotionally stressed, the body releases stress hormones that affect all the systems and organs,” says Dr. Divi, who developed her integrated approach after suffering recurrent stress-related illnesses and chronic pain following graduation from medical school in her 20s. “Traditional medicine wasn’t working, so that led me to a combination of acupuncture, yoga, meditation and breathing, and that’s really where I got better.”

She continued to evolve her practice and became certified as a yoga instructor and medical intuitive. “There is a strong link between our physical discomfort and our emotions,” she says. “A medical intuitive is trained to help another be aware of that link and help them to release the emotions that are connected to the illness.”

The mind and body are directly interconnected

The mind-bod approach is the foundation for Dr. Divi's multitude of approaches to teaching patients how to cultivate a state of internal wellness. “I always joke that I teach the same message over and over and over again, but I do it in a variety of ways,” she says. “Mind-body medicine is a branch of medicine in which we believe that the mind and body are directly interconnected. We teach clients a variety of tools and techniques that help the body to relax and enter into a greater state of ease. We use the power of thoughts and emotions to influence our physical health.”

Her compassionate, powerful and practical advice on living your very best life also includes weekly workshops, weekend immersions and the option to hire her for the whole day so together you can investigate all underlying sources of stress.

“When people practice mind-body medicine in conjunction with medical intuition, they can learn techniques that reduce the levels of stress hormones, which raises the immune system and thereby they are better able to fight off illness,” says Dr. Divi. “Research has shown that this work is very beneficial for people suffering from illnesses outside of the scope of conventional medicine.”

Creating a road map for living your very best life often starts with identifying and managing stress. Click through for Dr. Divi’s five simple solutions for reducing stress.

Breathe
Credit: Flickr / jhoc  

Breathe

“Most of us take breathing for granted,” says Dr. Divi. “We don’t even think about the task of breathing, yet it’s one that’s necessary for our survival!”

Stress-related shallow breathing not only affects oxygen intake, it plays a role in hormone production. “Research has shown that deep belly breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is the opposite of the fight or flight system,” she says. “Most of us are in a constant state of shallow breathing and when we start to take a few deep belly breaths regularly, we actually start to feel better. The belly breathing releases hormones in the body that counteract our stress hormones.

Daily Tip

Put your hand on your belly button and take a deep breath in and out, feeling your belly expand and contract. “Doing this for a few minutes every hour is amazing for the body-mind complex,” says Dr. Divi. “While at work, if you take a few minutes to belly breathe every hour, you’ll find that your mind is clearer and your body feels better at the end of the day!”
 

Thoughts and Emotions

Thoughts and Emotions

“Our thoughts produce an emotional reaction,” says Dr. Divi. “Most of us are unaware that we are not our thoughts. By practicing a few minutes of meditation every day, you will start to develop a tool called mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply developing the awareness that we can observe our thoughts and watch them, just like we watch television. Over time, by developing a mindful state, we can observe that we are not our thoughts and thereby shift our thoughts.”

Mindfulness helps diminish the knee-jerk response to our thoughts or others’ actions. “We realize that we can choose to think a thought and thereby we can choose to have an emotion. This takes practice but is an amazing tool to decrease stress levels,” she says.

Daily Tip

"Start the day off feeling good,” says Dr. Divi. “When you wake up, do whatever you can to feel happy. Dance to some music, watch the sunrise, listen to the birds or simply go outside and smell the fresh air. Steps like this start you off feeling good, which makes the activity of mindfulness that much easier!”

Exercise and Nutrition

Exercise and Nutrition

“Studies have shown the link between regular exercise and stress,” says Dr. Divi. “With exercise, our body releases feel-good hormones, like serotonin, that relax the body. This is the hormone that is believed to be low in depression. Consistent exercise is a key to decreasing stress and feeling good. Most of us can relate to the runners high or the lift we feel after simply going for a walk.”

“Nutrition is equally important. Despite the studies, many of us forget the link between certain food choices and the impact on our mood. Many people are sensitive to pre-prepared foods with chemicals. The biggest advice I give people is to shop around the grocery store and avoid the aisles. This gives you a chance to choose more fruits and vegetables, which are a healthy choice for everyone.”

Daily Tip

Exercise for 15 to 30 minutes per day and eat extra fruits and vegetables. “This tip is very simple but very effective,” says Dr. Divi.

Sleep

Sleep

“Sleep is important for everyone,” says Dr. Divi, who recommends seven to eight hours per night, “but many people suffer from insomnia."

Here are some simple tips Dr. Divi recommends for sleep difficulties:

  • Get a good amount of fresh air (a walk or bike ride a few hours before bedtime is very helpful).
  • Shut all electronics off about four to five hours before sleeping. This includes the television, computer and smart phones.
  • Take a warm bath prior to bed, and listen to some soothing music.
  • Read a book that soothes you and comforts your mind.
  • Meditate. Just try five to 10 minutes as a starting place to listen to your breathing and be focused in the moment.
  • Avoid eating and drinking fluids too close to bedtime. This decreases the midnight wake-up to use the bathroom which often disrupts sleep patterns.

Daily Tip

“Try one of these tips every day and don’t give up,” says Dr. Divi. “Your body wants sleep, but just needs some help.”
 

Identify Stress and Integrate Wellness Daily

Identify Stress and Integrate Wellness Daily

“Most of us are unaware of that which stresses us,” says Dr. Divi. “We have been trained to get busy and go. We are also trained away from our emotions. The first step is to spend some time increasing your emotional awareness. How do you feel about things? Ask yourself this regularly.”

“If something frustrates you, annoys you or makes you angry, bring your awareness to it. Awareness is key because most people are taught to just put up with these emotions, and are trained to believe it is part of life. In fact, our lives are meant to be fun and joyful. If you don’t believe me, just go to the park and watch kids play. That is what we are meant to do. Identifying stress is a huge thing because life is not meant to be drudgery and boredom. Once we start to be aware, then we can shift our thoughts accordingly and integrate a greater space of wellness inside.”

Daily Tip

“Watch how you feel,” says Dr. Divi. “Emotions are everything. Don’t mask them – just be aware of them. With awareness is our power. Then, make subtle changes to increase mindfulness and get happy more often. This step takes the most practice but can also be the most rewarding.”