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M. P. Ravindra Nathan


Most philosophers and advice columnists will tell you, "It is not so much the stress that kills you, but it is the way you react to it." In other words, the attitude matters the most. We cannot change the world, so get used to it and change yourself. You will have to deal with irritating roadblocks, incessant pressures, professional and personal challenges and myriads of other constraints in your daily life. Compromises and adjustments are necessary. The way you handle your stress will determine its impact on your health. As you know, there is a strong mind-body connection. If you stick to a few basics, you will not be blown over. Here are a few points to consider.

Decide if a problem exists before you rev up your angst. Often, we react to perceived adversities, which may not materialize or may not be as bad as we thought originally. The other day, I happened to run into an old colleague who looked a little dejected. "What's the matter?" I asked." "Oh, I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer recently." He talked as though his world had collapsed. So I said to him, "It's still in the early stage, so you can get the proper therapy from your good urologist. Your life span will not be shortened because of this." He seemed to settle down after the pep talk.

Try meditation: If you are a perennial worry wart obsessing about all the minutiae in life, some behavior modification is in order. You can start with meditation; in fact, this is good for everybody. Take a deep breath, sit in a quiet place, do some pranayama first and then meditate for five minutes. I do this every morning before heading for work. The practice helps relieve stress and enhance your inner peace and calm, giving you strength to face the day's problems. And don't panic if somebody gives you bad news; think through the situation and react with equanimity. Easily said than done, right? But if you try, you can do it.

Practice yoga, a discipline widely approved as a great stress reducer and promoter of good health. Vipasana, the oldest Buddhist meditation practice, trains you to see reality exactly as it is and helps you to gain control of your mind, thus helping you to cope with the daily stresses and lead a wholesome, rich life.

Pay attention to your diet and nutrition: A well-balanced diet will go a long way in preventing many diseases. After all, "you are what you eat and drink," right? 'A healthy mind in a healthy body' is a well-documented fact.

Keep yourself fit all the time, even during long travels, with a proper, individually tailored exercise routine. For some, a high-tech fitness facility may be just the ticket for stress reduction and a healthier lifestyle. Others prefer to do low-tech workout at home. In my house, a treadmill has been planted in front of the TV, so I can watch CNN at the same time. You also can try the Michael Jackson routine to his "Thriller" beat and get the 'aerobics' and enjoyment in one shot and keep the memories of the pop star extraordinaire!

Take a vacation, a trip or a leisurely cruise and come back refueled with more energy. Recently, my wife and I went to The Beaches at Turks and Caicos, a Caribbean island resort, with my son and family. It was a well-spent week, the added attraction being the company of Anokha, our 4- year-old chatterbox granddaughter, with whom we blissfully floated in the Lazy River, a Venetian type, rippling, winding canal in their Italian Village, splashed down the fun water slides, had breakfast with Sesame Street characters and joined the boisterous Junkanoo Parade in pirate outfits. I monitored my BP during the stay - the lowest ever in recent times!

Stay interested in others and be part of a support group in your community. Volunteering for a good cause connects you with others and can uplift your spirits. It is good to have a close friend or confidante to give you a little counseling during periods of stress. Or you can get professional help.

Inculcate spirituality. There is a lot of good evidence now, backed by Harvard research, that faith can improve your health. Spirituality is taking a center step even in the treatment of many diseases. You don't necessarily have to resort to religious rituals every time you encounter a stressful situation, but if that gives you peace of mind, do it by all means.

Finally, the power of positive thinking: A dose of common sense is important to get through this life. We are all too competitive with a sense of entitlement and get easily rattled when a minor adversity sprouts in front of us. One-up-manship is okay up to a point, especially when you are young. Be cheerful, optimism doesn't hurt. You can't win all arguments and may sometimes have to take criticisms. Count your blessings and be thankful for just having the privilege of living. Laugh as much as you can every day.

In conclusion, we need to learn how to manage our emotions under pressure and stay calm under challenging circumstances. Dr Robert Schuller said it well, "Tough times don't last, but tough people do."

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



We all struggle with excess belly fat. That is the hardest fat area to tone up. However, routine abdomen exercise makes it easy to accomplish the flat belly goal as well.

I would like to introduce you to five exercises that you can do at gym or at home with and without equipments that produce terrific results toward making your abdomen muscles stronger and tighter.

The Bicycle exercise is the best move to target the rectus abdominis (i.e., the six pack) and the obliques (the waist), according to a study done by the American Council on Exercise.

How do we perform this exercise?

Lie face up on the floor and lace your fingers behind your head.

Bring the knees towards the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the ground without pulling on the neck. Straighten the left leg out while simultaneously turning the upper body to the right, bringing the left elbow toward the right knee.

Switch sides, bringing the right elbow toward the left knee.

Continue alternating sides in a pedaling motion for 12-16 reps.

The captain's chair leg raise is an effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the oblique. You can do a variety of exercises on the captain's chair, which is a rack with padded arms that allows your legs to hang free and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. Be sure to keep the knees bent. This helps you focus more on the abdominals and less on the hip flexors.

How do we perform this exercise?

Stand on chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.

Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest.

Don't arch the back or swing the legs up.

Slowly lower back down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

The exercise ball is an excellent tool to strengthen the abs exercise, specifically for rectus abdominis. The exercise ball gives support for the starter. It also helps minimize hip injury or any lower back or waist injuries. How do we perform this exercise?

Half-lie, face-up with the ball resting under your mid/lower back.

Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head.

Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips. As you curl up, keep the ball stable (i.e., you shouldn't roll).

o Have your legs against wall to stabilize your self.

Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 2 to 3 time with 10 reps.

The vertical leg crunch is another effective move for the rectus abdominis and the obliques. This exercise uses your body strength and weight. It can easily be done at home.

Lie face up on the floor and extend the legs straight up with knees crossed.

Contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet.

Keep the legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement.

Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps.

The Torso Track is a good home ab exercise equipment. However, it can create back injury if not done correctly. This exercise focuses on the upper part of the abdomen muscles, which also are a little easier to strengthen than the lower ab muscles.

Grip the handles of the Torso Track and pull the abs in without holding your breath (as though bracing them).

Exhale and glide forward as far as you comfortably can. If you collapse in the middle and feel it in your back, you've gone too far.

Contract the abs to pull your body back.

Add tension by using more tension chords.

Share your exercise experience and health-related stories by e-mailing

Payal Patel

There comes a time in every toddler's life when parents feel it is the right time to start potty training. Therefore, many parents come prepared with a slew of questions about the right time for their child and how to proceed so as not to instill a fear of toilet training.

First, you have to assess whether your child is ready to toilet train or not. This is evident by the child demonstrating the ability to understand what pee-pee, poo-poo, potty or whatever term is used. The readiness is usually demonstrated at 15-18 months of age. Most children are ready by the time they are 2 years old to proceed to be completely trained and most children can be trained by the time they are 3 years old.

A child has to be able to understand what the toilet is for, and this can be learned by watching older siblings or parents using the potty. Also, a child signifies readiness to train when he or she can tell the difference between a dry and wet diaper and shows interest in changing so they are dry. Many children actually are able to tell you when they are about to wet their diaper or when they have to stool as well.

To help your child, read toilet-training books so they understand what they will have to do soon. Let them play with older children who are toilet trained so they see that it will be OK when they use the toilet. Teach them how the toilet works. Be positive and supportive of their trial and errors, and don't get frustrated, which they will be able to sense.

The best way to start training your child is by praising them when they are able to tell you if they want to pee pee or poop. Do not scold or punish them if they hesitate; instead, be patient and try to make it fun. Buy a potty seat together and let the child know why you are doing it. Let them feel like they are in control by purchasing the seat, bringing it home and then experimenting with it.

Let them sit on it with their clothes to get a feel of what it will be when they are ready. Praise them for doing it. Talk about a plan where action will entitle them to a reward such as stickers, or healthy treats such as raisins, crackers, etc. Practice first when you notice your child either saying pee pee or has signs they want to void or stool, and lead him to the potty. Encourage him to take his diaper off and sit on the potty. Try to make it comfortable by either holding a favorite stuffed animal, a toy or even reading their favorite book.

If they are able to do it, praise and reward him appropriately. If it does not go as planned, reassure your child that it's OK and to try again next time.

Your child may continue to have accidents during the day, which is perfectly normal. Let he or she know its OK and mommy or daddy is not mad, and that he/she will get it eventually. Once the child consistently uses the toilet, you can use pull-ups to encourage and give them a sense they are a big boy or girl. If your child refuses to train, stop training, until a few months later, or when they feel ready.

Dr. Payal Patel is a board-certified pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics, 18928 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 102, Lutz. For information, call (813) 948-2679.

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