Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress With Dr. Amir Rashidian

AIH 71 | Handling Stress

 

Stress is just a force and, just like anything, produces pressure. However, we can handle its effects. Today, Dr. Amir Rashidian, the Founder of the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center, gives some amazing tips on nutrition, sleep, and sunlight, and all other different aspects to improve our ability to deal with stress. Growing up surrounded with war and having a father with massive spine injuries, Dr. Amir realized the importance of being healthy and not letting others around you suffer, too. Learn more about the concept of stress as Dr. Amir shares some patient experiences in dealing with it.

Listen to the podcast here:

Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress With Dr. Amir Rashidian

I’m here with my producer, Gloria, and we’re talking about what we wanted to be when we were little kids. The first thing that came to my mind was I wanted to be Buzz Lightyear because I thought Buzz Lightyear was cool. If you haven’t seen Toy Story, I don’t know where you’ve been in the last however long you’ve been here. Go check it out. I was talking about wanting to be a firefighter at one point, wanting to be an astronaut, wanting to be a professional skier. It’s interesting to think about as kids, we have all these amazing dreams and aspirations. As we go forward, they fall by the wayside. Part of what falls by the wayside is we don’t understand as kids how challenging it can be to attain certain dreams, the steps that we need to take and the stress we need to learn how to overcome and adapt to make that happen.

For me, becoming a professional skier sounded amazing. I grew up on a ski resort in Telluride, Colorado. I was skiing every day. I loved it. I was having a blast. What happened was I didn’t have that mindset of I need to train every day like I want to be a champion. Our guest talks about training for stress. Rather than simply trying to avoid stress, we should train for stress but do it in a way that is incremental and related to the goals and objectives we may have for ourselves. If you have this big goal, for me being a professional skier, I can’t just immediately start training like I’m a professional skier. I’ve got to start on the bunny slopes.

If anyone’s ever skied, they put the tips together with the little rubber band. It forces the kids who can’t open the skis go flying down the hill. Every once in a while, you’ll see a runaway kid on the ski slopes and parents trying to catch up. The point is we have to start with where we’re at and we have to train incrementally to be ready for the increased level of stress we’re going to be encountering as we reach for these bigger and bigger goals. Dr. Amir gives some amazing tips in terms of nutrition, sleep, sunlight and all these other different aspects of how we can start to look at in terms of upping our ability to deal with stress.

My personal favorite is meditation and not just I’m sitting here meditating, but also bringing that meditative mindset to life. The most interesting thing I’ve heard in my reading was that meditation is about understanding what you are not. To me that means how are my beliefs and my thinking shaping me in ways that might not even be true in the moment. It might not even be true in accordance with the goals I’m reaching for. It’s not only working on building this incremental stress, but also realizing these aspects of life that are no longer serving me. If we start to weave these together and take it one day at a time, take it slow and take it easy, these big goals start to have these little bite-sized pieces that we can start eating on a day-to-day basis.

Please welcome Dr. Amir. He is a chiropractor and he has this amazing story of how he became a chiropractor. As you know, we love chiropractors. We love the work that they do and we love the perspective they have of tapping into the body’s innate intelligence, the body’s innate power to heal if we give it everything it wants and if we remove the obstacles that are in our way. We start to build this health and this resilience and this understanding over time. Please enjoy Dr. Amir.

Dr Amir, welcome. How are you doing?

I’m doing great. How are you?

I’m excellent. Where are you stationed at?

I’m on the other end of the country. I’m in Maryland by the East Coast.

We’ve got East Coast, West Coast representing. In California, that would be some rap battle. For everyone, if you could let everybody know a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you’re up to.

I’m a chiropractor in Maryland. I’m also an aspiring author. I’ve written one book and working on the second one with the focus of helping everyone become stronger and more resilient towards stress. I’ve been a chiropractor for nineteen years. I’m originally from the country of Iran. I’ve been in the States since 1985. My passion is to help people to not just feel better but grow in their health, become stronger, live longer and feel younger. That’s the snapshot.

Right before we jumped on, we got into a little bit about your early life in Iran. I would love for you to share that story because it paints a picture of where you’ve come from and who you are.

I was five years old when the revolution started in Iran. Before that, they called Tehran the Paris of the Middle East because it was such an abundantly wealthy country. I remember we would spend a month to three months in Europe every summer traveling. When they would see the Iranian emblem on our passport, they would move us to the front of the line and treat us like royalty. Everything totally changed after the revolution. There was fighting in the streets and rioting. The country became the Islamic Republic of Iran. I was in the backseat of our family’s Datsun. Mom and dad were in the front and we came around the corner in Tehran. We were going to one of my friends’ birthday parties. I’m five years old and all of a sudden, there was gridlock traffic and there was rioting. You saw police with riot gear on one side, people on the other side throwing rocks and stakes, yelling and screaming. Tear gas came out. My dad said, “Get down.” I put my head down. I could hear the sounds.

Every once in a while our car would shake if somebody would hit it or something. Being a kid, I’m thinking, “This is like the movies. This is exciting and I’m missing out. I should be watching this.” I slowly peeked over the window, brought my head up and the first thing I saw was this man with a beard, dark hair, white button-up shirt and gray pants. He’s walking towards our car. He literally had a knife stuck in his chest and he was bleeding. He has his hands up in the air and he was praying. I saw that and it became so real to me. I put my head right back down and never looked out again. That was the revolution. Right after the revolution, a year or so later, there was war. Saddam Hussein in Iraq attacked Iran and there was the bombing. I remember at night, they would say, “Leave the radio on because the air raid sirens would come on.” Imagine you’re sleeping and all of a sudden this loud siren would blare through the radio and you fly out of bed with your family. You ran out the door and you run down the hallway, run down the stairs, all the way down to this basement where there are all these other people waiting from the building. It’s a cold, dark, damp basement. As you’re waiting there, you hear the roar of this plane overhead and all of a sudden you hear the whistle of a bomb that has been dropped.

That whistle is getting louder and louder as the bomb is getting closer and closer. You don’t know where it is exactly. It could be right over your head or it could be a mile away and you can’t tell until you hear the explosion. You realize someone just lost their life but it wasn’t you. That was stressful. I was lucky enough not to live where a lot of that was going on. We lived up North by the Caspian Sea where there was better climate and no fighting. It was more like a vacation area. We found that they were sending kids to the war. As soon as you turned thirteen years old, they’d put a key around your neck and say, “This is the key to heaven. Hopefully, you’ll die on the battlefield.” They’ll send kids out there.

Some of these kids, their job was to clear minefields because when the Iraqi soldiers would come in, they would get pushed back by Iranian troops, but then they would leave mines. These minefields needed to be cleared. It was amazing they couldn’t get animals to walk out on the minefield. It’s like the animals instinctively knew and they would stop at the edge of the field. They wouldn’t step out there. They would get kids to walk out on the minefield and they’d keep walking until they blew up. My dad seeing that said, “We got to get you out of here.” We found a way to leave the country.

AIH 71 | Handling Stress
Handling Stress: When someone in the family suffers, everybody else suffers.

 

Before we left, my dad said, “I want to show you where your ancestors came from.” There was this village in the foothills of the Alborz mountain range. Dad said, “Let’s go for a little trip.” We went out to this village and it was like going back in time. Where we live was very modern and we had all the amenities. In this village, there were mud huts, no motorized vehicles, no power lines, no plumbing. There was an in-ground oven in the middle of the village where they are baking bread. The air was clean. There was a little river where they were washing their pots and pans and bathing in it. While we’re in this village, this woman went into labor. She was in tremendous amount of pain and no one knew what to do to help her.

A midwife walked over, knelt down and examined her for a few minutes. I was nine years old at the time. She stood up and said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do,” and she left. The people that gathered around one by one start to leave, leaving her alone so her husband and her could say goodbye, because everyone knew she wasn’t going to survive a mule ride down the side of the mountain and then another two-hour drive to the nearest hospital. That was it for her. At the age of nine, I was looking in the eyes of this young woman who thought she’s going to die. She’s not going to live another few hours. I had this big giant panic attack where your throat gets all choked up and your chest feels tight. You’re having trouble catching your breath and tears are coming down your face. My dad saw me, he picked me up, he held me, carried me out of there and calmed me down. The two of us climbed down the mountain.

We got in our car to drive home and on the drive home I said, “Dad, I don’t want to feel like that ever again. I don’t want to feel helpless. I want to be able to help.” He said, “What are you going to do about it?” I said, “I think I’m going to be a surgeon. I’ll be the best surgeon in the world and I’ll carry my medical bag with me everywhere I go and I’ll save lives.” That was the plan. Many years later, I was a student at George Washington University and I had the grades. I have fairly significant dyslexia, so it takes me a lot longer to read. In fact, I’ve never finished a standardized test in my life. Whatever I passed from a standardized test standpoint, I’ve gotten lucky, but it meant I have to work harder and longer than anybody else.

I wanted to go to medical school and I was nineteen. I went home for Christmas break. I walked into our home, which was in Maryland at the time and I noticed my dad had this big thick white neck brace on. He’s under the influence of some heavy painkillers. You could tell he’s not himself. His arms were totally limp and numb from the shoulders down. He couldn’t even lift his arms to give me a hug. We spend my Christmas break six weeks or so going from doctor to doctor, trying to figure out what is wrong with my dad. Every doctor we went to said, “This is beyond my scope. You’re going to have to go to this other doctor.” Finally, we ended up in the neurosurgeon’s office. The neurosurgeon said, “You need surgery. What are you waiting for?”

Dad said what most of us when we’re being a little macho or trying to pretend nothing’s wrong. He said, “I thought it would go away.” They said, “It didn’t go away. These bone spurs are growing into your spinal canal, narrowing the canal. It’s pressing on the spinal cord. We’re going to have to decompress and take pressure off your spinal cord. Otherwise, this is not going to end well.” He said, “We’re going to fuse your neck, put rods and put screws in and fuse your whole neck. You’ll never move your neck again. You may not regain function of your hands, but we are hoping you have less pain. There’s a chance you’ll die because this is pretty serious surgery.”

We got a second and a third opinion. All three neurosurgeons said he needed the surgery and we got in a taxi to go home after that third neurosurgeon. In the back of the taxi I looked over at my dad and I could see him cringing and suffering. Every bump the taxi was hitting was causing pain to shoot down his arms. I was feeling that same helplessness that I felt when I was in that village watching that woman slowly die in her husband’s arms and no one could help. I’m feeling the same exact way. This taxi driver looked at the two of us in his rearview mirror and he said to my dad, “I noticed you’re in a lot of pain and I know you asked me to take you home, but there’s a chiropractor right down the street. I don’t know what he does exactly, but I’ve heard he helps people like you. Do you want me to take you there instead?” I was a nineteen-year-old know-it-all thinking the only way you get better is drugs and surgery. Thankfully dad said, “Sure, let’s try it out.” Long story short, this chiropractor was able to help my dad without drugs and surgery.

It took a long time. It took six months for him to be able to move his hands and so on. At the time, my dad was 70 years old and he probably looked like he was 90. Dad lived to be 88. He lived another eighteen years. He lived long enough to stand next to me as my best man when I got married. He lived long enough to meet my first son when my son was born. I have three sons. Dad was healthier at 80 than when he was at 70 because he’d get up and literally work out. Every morning, he’d go out the door to visit his friends. His friends were in nursing homes but not him. He lived a good life and enjoyed his life. Two things happened because of that. One was I decided to go into chiropractic and one was because of my dyslexia, I wouldn’t have to take that MCAT, the standardized test to get into medical school. The main reason was that I get to use my hands to help, the same way my dad was helped by this chiropractor.

The other thing that gets me passionate about this story is I realized that when someone in the family suffers, everybody else suffers. I know how health is important to you based on everything you talk about on this show. When we allow ourselves to get unhealthy, we’re causing pain and suffering for everyone who cares about us. Other people suffer too. It’s a lot easier to let your health go and say, “I’m going to take care of everybody else and put myself last.” What everybody else needs is a healthy you and a strong you. My passion is to not only give you the tools to get healthy, but to teach you the importance of it. You’ve got to take care of you as well as everyone else. You’ve got to come first because what everyone needs is a perfect, healthy, strong and useful you. I know I’m going on and on. Hopefully, that answers your question there.

I believe firmly with all my being reducing stress is a mistake. Click To Tweet

I was enjoying the story because the way you tie it all together is very powerful. Right towards the end there, you touched on a topic that comes up over and over again in a lot of the stories we tell. It’s anytime someone gets hurt, injured or sick, it’s impactful on the family around them. You nailed it when you’re saying it’s so important for each and every one of us to be taking action to make sure we’re healthy. My belief in all of this is that if I’m the best version of myself, then I’m going to be able to achieve all the goals. I’m going to be able to help people in a more powerful way than if I was sacrificing my own well-being with this idea of, “I’m helping people, so it’s okay that I’m sacrificing myself.” I’ve definitely done that before in my life. You get to a place of sacrificing yourself for other people because you care and it’s coming from a good place, but it’s not ultimately serving yourself in a way that’s sustainable. Have you ever had that in your life, doctor?

I’ve made every mistake about myself. From the whole statement of, “I think it’ll go away,” ignoring something until it gets bad before going to the doctor, not being proactive. A few years ago, I herniated two discs in my lower back and I was literally bedridden. I had to breathe very shallow breaths because the disc was pushing on the spinal cord so much that if I took a deeper than a shallow breath, it would shoot pain down my left leg. I could not stand or walk. I’d been in bed for several days at this point and refusing to go to the hospital or anything. One morning my oldest son came up and stood next to the bed and he said, “Daddy, are you going to come downstairs?” I said, “No, dad’s in too much pain, buddy.” He said, “Can you please try?”

That was one of those moments where I realized I’m hurting my son by being in pain like this. You can guess what I did. As painful as it was, I got up and I forced myself to stand and walk and make my way down the stairs because I couldn’t take it. I had some you’d chiropractors who would come to my house two or three times a day every day to work on me, to get me back on my feet. It took six weeks, but I was back to normal. That was also the result of myself not doing the things I need to do to stay healthy and keep myself strong so that I could continue to work. I know I’ll never make that mistake again.

We’ve probably all been there and I’ve told this story a few times. When I first got into yoga, I went all in and essentially hurt myself because I wasn’t looking for that balance. Life to me is all about finding that balance between I have to make an effort to work, do stuff and provide for my family, but also to care for myself. What you’re getting at is we’re all working towards finding that balance. I know talking to you a little bit before, you wrote a book called The StressProof Life. Do you want to let us know what was the inspiration to write that book?

The main thing was I got tired of telling my patients over and over that stress isn’t exactly their problem. It’s their inability to handle that stress that’s causing their problems. Constantly, I was being told that everyone’s problems are because they have too much stress. Here’s the thing, there’s a simple way to reduce stress in your life. All you have to do is quit your job and leave your family and you won’t have any stress. Who would do that and who should? Absolutely nobody should. You should focus not so much on reducing the stress, but increasing your tolerance, your adaptability and your ability to handle that stress. It’s getting stronger in the face of stress. It’s like when you’re in first-grade and a three-letter word is difficult on your spelling test, but you get to 12th grade and now you’re spelling twelve-letter words and then you go to college. At that time, if you go back to first grade, what used to be very difficult for you, now it’s not difficult at all.

It’s the same with anything and life comes at you in three different dimensions. If we simplify it, there’s more than this, but it’s the physical, it’s the psychological and it’s the chemical. There’s stress in each of those three dimensions. The word wellness is what comes into play here because it’s like a buzzword. It’s used in marketing and everybody’s got a wellness center. The true definition of wellness is the degree of health and vitality you experience in each of the three dimensions of life. To achieve true wellness, you’ve got to improve each dimension simultaneously. You’ve got to improve your physical dimension with exercise and rest.

It’s like a double-sided coin. Certain activities like yoga, I’m a big fan of yoga and rest. That’s part of that physical dimension. The psychological dimension is you’ve got to do your visualizations and your prayers. You’ve got to bring in positivity into your mind. You also have to avoid the negative thoughts and environments that psychologically strain you, but handle it properly as well. The chemical dimension or the biochemical dimension, that’s when you need to put good food and nutrients in your body, but you also have to avoid the toxins. Prevent deficiency and avoid toxicity. When you look at those three coins and the double sidedness of each of those coins move towards wellness, that’s basically what the book is all about. I’ve got some of my personal stories in there. Some of them I shared with you now.

I also have stories in there of my favorite patients who went through certain situations and how incorporating this mentality of stress being a force that is neutral. Think about gravity. Gravity’s not good or bad. Gravity is just a force. It keeps your feet on the ground, but it can also cause you to fall and hurt yourself. It doesn’t mean it was a good thing or a bad thing. It’s how you used it that made it good or bad. It’s just like how fire can cook your food or it can burn your hand. It doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. It’s how you use it. It’s the same with money. Money can fund your children’s college expenses or it can fund terrorist activity. Money by itself is not good or bad, it’s a tool. It’s a force. Stress is the same exact thing. You and I are fans of exercising and you mentioned this. Yoga is putting yourself under stress and you train your nervous system. You put it beautifully. You said you train your nervous system become more resilient. When you do, you can handle it better and then you become stronger in other realms, other areas of your lives. I believe firmly with all my being, reducing stress is a mistake.

AIH 71 | Handling Stress
Handling Stress: You should not focus so much on reducing the stress, but on increasing your adaptability towards handling stress.

 

I love things that are counterintuitive to what most people want to think and believe. What you’re pointing out here is it’s not stress that’s the problem but our relationship to stress and how we perceive stress. It relates very much to the way that we perceive failure in our society. Oftentimes, failure is perceived as this, “I failed, I’m worthless.” A big part of the psychological practice to me in managing that is saying, “All of this is a learning experience and failure is just a force. Stress is just a force.” It’s shaping our relationship with these forces. That is how we make progress in life. Do you want to share some stories of your patients’ experiences with this and owning stress and conquering it?

I know you have a passion for helping our veterans. This is not a story about veterans but it has a lot to do with how a lot of our veterans have difficulty sleeping, PTSD syndrome and so on. One of my patients was a police officer in a neighboring city. Her husband and her children were all patients of mine. They would come in regularly to get checked and get an adjustment. One day they showed up without her. It was just her husband and her kids. I said, “Where is she?” They said, “She’s in the hospital. She tried to kill herself.” It’s a shock because she’s seemed like she was very stable. You wouldn’t think that there was anything wrong in her life. She had a perfect life.

She had a loving husband and healthy children. Career-wise, she was doing well. She had been promoted in the police force and her husband did very well. They had bought a piece of land and built their dream house. You would think, “Why would this be?” I had to find out and I went to the hospital and she was embarrassed about the whole thing, which there should be no shame. There’s no shame about this. This is happening way too often right now as it is. What we discovered talking to her is that first off, she worked nights. She would leave for work at 11:00 PM. She should work from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM. When she’d get off work, she’d go take the kids to school and then she’d sleep and then she’d pick up the kids.

She’d sleep during the day, in the morning until the afternoon. She’d go pick up the kids from school. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The new house that they’d built had a skylight over the bed in the master bedroom. Her skin was exposed to light. Unfortunately, when the skin is exposed to light, you cannot produce melatonin. Melatonin and serotonin go hand-in-hand. When those hormones are off-balanced, depression is one of those things that definitely can occur. There’s more to it. Being in the police department, seeing crime and being exposed to some of that, working the night shift and other stress is part of it.

You need to sleep in pitch-black darkness. Even a nightlight should be covered. Your alarm clock, if you have one, should be covered. You shouldn’t be exposed to any light when you’re sleeping so that you can produce that melatonin. I said, “Why don’t we have you sleep in the guest room when you’re sleeping there in the day? Get some thick curtains, blackout the room and sleep there.” We talked about nutrition and exercise and things like that as well, but just doing that, the depression went away and she went back to being her normal self again. To think this could have been something more serious. It’s scary to think.

I have this thing called the Simple Seven where we talk about things like light, sunlight being important. Not when you’re sleeping but during the day because for other reasons, vitamin D being the main thing. Using visualization, improve your ability to adapt to stress, using exercise and nutrition, music, breathing. There are certain breathing techniques that are important and how you sleep. You mentioned being countercultural. A couple of things I say in the book is how you sleep is more important than how long you sleep. How you eat is more important than exactly what you eat. There are other things in there that may seem countercultural, but those are some of them.

Would you go into detail on what you think of how we should be sleeping and how we should be eating?

To start with the sleeping, one of those is you want to make sure you experienced that REM, the rapid eye movement stage. There are stages of sleep and not to get too far into it, but the deeper you go into REM, the more quality your sleep will be. Making sure that you’re in pitch black darkness is very important. There are a lot of studies that do say the number of hours of sleep is important, but that number we used to think is eight or nine hours. It’s seven hours and six hours doesn’t seem to be enough. Closer to seven seems to be plenty. Not drinking any coffee or caffeinated drinks within six hours of going to bed is one. Something that I know is important is taking a nap. There are some experts who say that as a species, humans are like the animals who need to sleep multiple times a day. There’s the koala bear that sleeps twenty hours a day or something like that because there’s this thing called the postprandial dip. We used to think that it’s because you eat a big lunch, you get sleepy after lunch. The studies show that even if you’re fasting through lunch and you don’t eat, let’s say you ate dinner and you haven’t eaten yet again, you still get that reduction in your brainwaves.

When we allow ourselves to get unhealthy, we're causing pain and suffering for everyone who cares about us. Click To Tweet

Your brainwaves slow down in the early afternoon. We think that maybe it’s because your body needs to take a nap in the afternoon. There is some data that says you get a growth hormone spike if you take a ten-minute nap at 4:00 PM. The reason it’s ten minutes is that you don’t want to go too deep into sleep. Ten, fifteen minutes maximum is the case. If you go further into it, then you’ll interrupt your circadian rhythm because you break that sleep cycle and cortisol levels can go up. Your cortisol levels need to be high in the morning and low at night. If you don’t allow your cortisol levels to go all the way down at night, you won’t get a perfect night’s sleep. Let me premise this because everybody can adapt. Adaptation is huge. You see our armed forces adapting to tremendous situations.

You see the SEALs being able to get by with one hour of sleep or twenty minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period of time or no sleep at all and be able to function. You can adapt to some crazy situations. However, cortisol levels will go up if you exercise too late in the day. If some of your readers are in the habit of going out for a long run in the evening after 6:30 PM, your cortisol levels can go up and then you need time for that cortisol to come back down. It’s a minimum of six hours for that cortisol level to come back down before you can go into a nice deep sleep. I personally think the average person shouldn’t exercise too late in the day. Some of the data says from a strength standpoint, you’re stronger between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, which doesn’t seem to be the most convenient time to go lift weights. If you have to choose early morning or late evening, I would choose early morning every single time because cortisol levels are already high.

I’ll share what I do in terms of thinking about that idea and simplify it for everyone. Cortisol tends to be associated with wakefulness, melatonin, sleepfulness. It’s a little bit more complicated than that, but we’ll keep it simple. The way I usually divide my day is essentially in half where if I’m going to do a more intense workout or more stressful wakeful activities. I’ll do them all in the morning and then I dedicate the evening into things that tend to be more restorative, more calming, more meditative. If I’m going to go do a workout in the evening, it’s going to be something like yoga and I’m not going to go to the most intense yoga class ever. I’m going to go to something that’s fairly calming and relaxing because I don’t want to over-excite my body before you’re trying to go to sleep.

Thanks for clarifying that. I tend to ramble on and on. Definitely, that’s a good analogy between wakefulness and cortisol versus melatonin. The growth hormone is the hormone that helps your body stay youthful and young. It maintains your muscle mass and bone mass and so on.

I’m willing to support anyone who comes on here and promotes napping. You mentioned too thinking about how we eat. What’s your perspective on that? Because I’m always intrigued.

There’s this thing called the French paradox. Have you heard of this?

No, explain.

In France, their citizens are pretty much immune to heart disease, meaning you rarely see obesity or heart attacks or stroke in France. Their diet is mainly wine, cheese and bread. You go, “If they’re eating wine, cheese and bread, but they’re not having heart attacks, what’s different about the French?” I had a friend of mine who had moved to France in Paris. I went and stayed with him for three weeks and his friends were all locals. I got to stay with the locals and eat what the locals eat and go to local places. It’s true. They eat foods that if we ate on a regular basis here, we’d have even bigger problems than we already do. The overweight people that I would see in France, we’d find out they’re tourists. They’re not from there.

AIH 71 | Handling Stress
Handling Stress: Having lower cortisol levels at night allows you to sleep better.

 

The French were actually fit. One thing I noticed being there is they would sit down to eat lunch in the day. They will shut down everything and sit down and eat in a social setting for lunch and dinner. Our lunches would take an hour and a half to two hours. Our dinners would take two to three hours. If someone said, “Can you bring the checkout as soon as you serve the food, because I want to make my movie or I got to play tickets that I need to get to,” they would probably spit in your food because it’s disrespectful. It’s almost a ritual to sit down and eat. In kindergarten in France, they tell the kids, “Sit with your friends and talk while you eat.”

In kindergarten in America, we tell the kids, “Stop talking, eat faster.” What it boils down to is your nervous system can be in fight or flight, which is a sympathetic nervous system or it can be in rest and repair, which is the parasympathetic nervous system. When your body is in fight or flight, a higher pulse rate, but also you have cold hands, cold feet, dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, constipation and a suppressed immune system. Those are just a few of those things because in fight or flight, your body’s preparing for that fighting or fleeing and running away. Your brain, your nervous system tells the blood vessels in your hands, your feet and your skin to constrict. That’s why when you get scared, you turn pale white versus normal or if you drink a glass of wine or something. When you’re scared, blood leaves your skin. That’s why you have called hands. There are some people who have chronically cold hands, cold feet, chronic constipation, chronic sinus infections and constantly get indigestions because their body is never leaving that fight or flight state.

Also, degenerative changes happen in their bodies much faster because you do not have time for the body to repair. When you go into the parasympathetic, which is your rest and repair, that’s when your blood vessels around your intestines open up. Your body is focused on digesting your food and a lot of people think digestion is just taking food and turning it into energy. That’s not it. That’s just one small thing. Your body changes the molecular structure of what you put in your mouth and turns it into body parts and replaces your body cells because your skin cells only live 30 days. Your liver cells only live three or four weeks and they die. They get replaced with new ones. Your bone cells are only alive 90 to 120 days. The lining of your stomach is four and a half days. Your taste buds only live eight days. Your lungs live seven years.

Your body’s constantly repairing and regenerating. Your digestive tract takes that food and turns it into these other cells. How incredible. To do that, you need to spend time in rest and repair. Some people commonly call it wine and dine or rest and digest. I like to rest and repair because that’s when healing occurs. That’s one of the reasons our veterans who are on PTSD, their bodies can’t repair because they stay in fight or flight. That’s one of the reasons why they can’t sleep at night. If I was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves, I wouldn’t be able to stop and take a nap. I’d be scared and running.

Getting back to how you eat is more important than what you eat. No research has been done on this as of yet, but I would bet if you give somebody organic food, by anybody’s definition of organically healthy food. Whether you think broccoli is healthy or not, whether you think salad is better than lean beef or grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon. I’m a fan of all those things, but let’s say whatever your definition of healthy food is by research standards, you give someone healthy food, but you tell them to eat it in their car while they’re driving in rush hour traffic and they’re talking on the phone yelling at some business associate. I guarantee you that food becomes poison in their body because their body’s not ready to receive it. That food will not be processed.

I haven’t read an extensive amount of research. I just do how does this show up in my own body? We’re all our own doctor in my words. I used to tell people in my consultations and I would put it simply, I’m always trying to simplify to people. I said, “The secret to eating is you want to eat a pint of ice cream with the same state of being that you would eat a salad.” Behind that it was you want to feel as good, as healthy, as nourished from whatever you’re eating because it’s getting back to what state of being are you in. If you’re in fight or flight, your body is designed to turn food into fat because it’s trying to survive. If you’re in that rest and relax, your body says, “We don’t need any of this. We can let it go.” You can get away with eating more if you’re relaxed when you do it.

Obviously eating slower is better so you don’t want to rush. For example, I’m busy and I have a fairly large staff and we see hundreds of patients on a daily basis. There are days where I only have twenty minutes, maybe even ten minutes to eat lunch. The way I do it is I sit down, I put my food out in front of me. I might even play some classical music and then I’ll start eating as if I have all day to eat. When my ten minutes are up, I’ll pack up my food and put it away. The cultural way of doing it would be if you only have ten minutes, eat faster. Don’t chew your food, swallow it, shove it in your mouth, pack it in so you can get all the nutrients that your body needs so you can make it through the afternoon. That’s not ever going to work out for you.

If you want, you can follow that up with a triple shot of espresso and an energy drink because you got to feel like you can get back to work. It’s a sad joke because it does seem to happen more often than not in our culture.

How healthy you are is dependent on how much stress you can handle. Click To Tweet

Way too often, way too much. Hopefully, talking about it here is going to make a difference and change a few minds.

It sounds to me like a lot of your work is relating around the state of stress we’re in, first and foremost and how we’re perceiving that and how we’re navigating that. In my mind, this is very much the primary battle we all go through. We’re all going to end up in stressful situations, but it’s how are we navigating that. Are we consciously working towards putting ourselves in a favorable position to not be overwhelmed? Working towards finding a control over as much as we can control consciously as human beings.

If we were to take this one step further and apply it straight across the board to everything, you’d find out that it’s a universal principle that does apply to your career or your financial life or your relationships. How healthy you are is dependent on how much stress you can handle. Believe it or not, how wealthy you become is also dependent on how much stress you can handle and how far you go in your career depends on how much stress you can handle. How wonderful your relationship with your significant other becomes is also dependent on how much stress you’re willing to allow into your life and how much stress you’re willing to handle and how much stress you can safely handle with your body.

Let’s say Richard Branson. How many businesses is he running? How many tens of thousands of employees does he have? He’s willing to accept a certain level of responsibility and he’s built that tolerance for being able to handle the stress that comes with that. Whether you’re a fan of his or not is irrelevant. He’s figured out how to handle that stress where someone like me, I have eight employees and I go, “I can’t imagine having 10,000 employees because eight is plenty when it comes to my ability to handle that stress.” Does that make sense?

Yeas. What you’re getting on and this is the way I view life is, it’s being willing to put yourself in a situation that’s uncomfortable enough to generate growth but not so uncomfortable that it’s hurting you. It’s this dance of understanding yourself, “Am I capable of handling this healthily?” Instead of avoiding stress like, “I can’t handle any of it,” it’s saying, “This is uncomfortable. This is beyond what I’m used to but I’m willing to go there because I can handle that and I want to grow.” It’s being understanding of our own nature enough to know that I can handle that and it’s going to be okay. That comes down to embodying these practices of understanding stress, understanding your state of being and knowing that if crap hits the fan, if I end up in a place of overwhelm because I’ve taken on too much, at least it’s to have the understanding that I have the skill set to dial it back.

A lot of times in our society, in our culture, we’ll end up in situations for some people where I’ve gone too far and I’m overwhelmed, but I didn’t have the skillset because we don’t teach it. I didn’t have the skillset to understand, “I need to dial it back and reassess.” I wasn’t ready for that amount of stress. It was good that I put myself there so I could understand that I’m going to come back and rebuild and re-integrate the skills necessary to then go there. It’s this give and take, this ebb and flow of putting ourselves in these situations, but also having this relationship with stress and understanding, “That was too much. I need to develop myself in new ways.” To me, that’s part of the learning process. That’s part of growth.

That’s very well put because that’s the person who will sacrifice everything to achieve one thing, which is a dream or a goal. It may be a career advancement of some sort or a rank they want to achieve and they sacrifice everything else. When they get there, their health is depleted, their relationships are ruined and everything else is affected. Like you’re saying, they literally took too much. It’s like the CEO only has two speeds, full speed ahead and crash. They go until they crash. You need to monitor that.

Make sure you figured out your limit and you push it a little bit until that limit goes up. Not that you have a new limit, then you go to the next level and you gradually increase. I believe the number one reason people fail to achieve their dreams in life, their goals, their biggest motivations is because they weren’t training towards the stress they’re going to face on the road to becoming great. Whether you want to be an Olympic athlete or a gold medalist or anything else, you’ve got to understand that you’re going to get hit with resistance and stress. If you train for the stress that you’re going to hit as well as the ideal outcome, you’re going to have much better results.

AIH 71 | Handling Stress
Handling Stress: People fail because they aren’t training towards the stress they’re going to face on the road to becoming great.

 

I wrote that one down and I wrote down, “Train for the stress you’re going to create and acknowledge that now. Every day you need to be training for whatever life you’re envisioning for yourself and staying true to that.” I’ve had many conversations with people who emphasize the point that there’s not a day in your life where you’re not going to be training for something. That’s what I try and embody in my day-to-day is I’m going to yoga classes. I started Brazilian jiu-jitsu because I needed something new. It’s saying, “I’ve got to keep pushing my limits, but doing it in healthy environments and doing it in a community that’s going to support that.” That’s a wonderful idea and I’m glad we got to go into this deeper understanding of our relationship to stress because it is a force. How we interact with that force is valuable. You said earlier you’re writing a second book. Is that along the same lines? Do we get a preview of what’s coming?

It’s the same material, just expanded upon. It’s a bit longer. The title is Taming Your Stress Monkey and it’s the ten-step process of turning your biggest stress into your greatest strength. It’s a lot of the same things that we talked about. It includes the latest research because I’m sure you’ve noticed there’s constant new information coming out with the internet. It’s coming at us like a fire hose and someone needs to go through and figure out which ones are accurate and what’s not accurate. That’s what my purpose. Some newer stories and more facts and hopefully, more support for the fact that you need to be focused on training for that stress. I love that you’re doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That’s pretty cool.

I come from a yoga background, so it’s very foreign to me. I reached a point where I got bored with what I was doing and I needed some outlet that was different, new and challenging. It seemed to fun to have someone else trying to strangle you. It’s in a healthy environment. Someone’s putting you in a very stressful situation where they’re trying to submit you, but they’re doing that with the boundary of, “If you tap out, you’re safe.” It’s this healthy environment I’m experiencing. I’ve only been to three classes, but it’s a healthy environment to train your own resilience. That’s probably why historically martial arts have been prominent in a lot of these ancient spiritual practices and X, Y, Z, because it is a way to build resilience. I got one more question for you, which is what’s your inspiration?

Overall, my inspiration is that I want to spend my life glorifying God and living a life that’s worthy of the gifts that I’ve received. It needs to be about giving. I believe everything that we lack, it’s because we’ve been trying to hold onto it. If we could give more, there’s always a way you can give. There’s always a good way you can help. We’ve been given life in a beautiful world and there’s a lot wrong with it, but we get to make it something amazing and incredible and we get to bring more life into the world. We have this opportunity not only to give but to give by becoming better and becoming more so. I firmly believe that life is a gift and we’ve got to give it away. We’ve got to give to others and help. That’s when you experience the true gift of an amazing life.

Where can people connect with you, find your work, find your books and get involved?

We’re working on a specific website for the book. The website is not live yet, but it’s the RashidianMethod.com. My current website is MidAtlanticClinic.com and the current book, The SressProof Life, can be found on Amazon.

If you need to master stress in your life, go ahead and pick up Dr. Amir’s book and start challenging yourself in new and interesting ways and create that relationship with yourself and that understanding with yourself of what can I handle on this moment. If I can’t handle it, what do I need to develop in myself to get there? Thank you so much, doctor, for sharing with our community.

It was an absolute honor and pleasure and I truly appreciate the opportunity. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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About Dr. Amir Rashidian

AIH 71 | Handling StressDr. Amir is the founder of the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center, where the focus is improving health of people through drugless solutions.

He recently published ‘ The StressProof Life ‘, which documented the real-life stories of his most memorable patients while showing the readers the secret to becoming the kind of person who is able to handle any amount of stress on that journey toward greatness.

Holding Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Human Biology and a Doctorate in Chiropractic, Dr. Amir A. Rashidian is the founder of the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center. Established in 2006 and serving over 18,000 patient visits annually, the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center focuses on high-tech diagnostics to detect and correct disturbances in the nervous system. The doctors at the Mid-Atlantic Chiropractic Center, promoting drugless health solutions, work with patients to eliminate the causes of disease and not merely the suppression of symptoms.

As a consultant, Dr. Amir has worked with 18 chiropractic practices, 16 of which were startup businesses that all reached profitability within the first 3 months of business launch. Dr. Rashidian attributes his success in opening practices to an intensive systematized marketing plan implemented 3 months prior to business launch. He has personally opened two very successful chiropractic practices.

A very active speaker at corporate events, conventions, and churches, he is also frequently interviewed by the local TV, radio, and newspaper. Additionally, Dr. Amir serves on the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity and is a major financial supporter of their local building projects. Furthermore, Dr. Amir also serves as the chairman of the Elder Leadership Team at Grace Community Church. He has won multiple honors and awards including Business Leader of the Year and Philanthropist of the Year.

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