Exercise Your Mellow Side

by Mel Zuckerman,
Canyon Ranch Founder

I was glad to hear the theme of this issue would be “Stress Less,” because it’s a topic close to my heart. I’ve struggled with the effects of chronic stress all my life and, although I manage it pretty well these days, I can’t say I’ve figured out how to entirely avoid feeling stressed.

In 1984, Robert S. Eliot, MD, a cardiologist who specialized in the effects of stress on the body, wrote a book called Is It Worth Dying For?  The book describes people Dr. Eliot identifies as “hot reactors” – apparently healthy people who overreact dangerously to even everyday annoyances like missing a train or losing a tennis match. If you’re a hot reactor, stress of any kind – good and bad – can take a very heavy toll on your health, without you even being aware of it. I was warned as far back as 1968 that I was “off the charts” in terms of stress, but I didn’t understand how to address the problem until 1985, when Dr. Elliot told me I was a hot reactor. With his help, I began taking measures to counter my overreactive nature. If you think you are one – beware! But the good news is, certain specific strategies can help.

It took me many years to understand that chronic stress was behind every health problem I experienced, from the time I was young – asthma, high blood pressure, even the gastrointestinal troubles I struggled with long ago; all of them could be traced to stress. One of our brilliant Canyon Ranch experts, Param Dedhia, MD, addresses the adverse effects of stress on the body in this issue.

Let me tell you what I discovered is the number-one best thing you can do to fight stress: exercise. It releases physical and mental tension better than any drug – and there are no side effects, unless you count it being a natural mood booster! Read more about the stress-busting benefits of exercise in this issue.

In addition to exercise, I’ve learned other tricks to alleviate stress – things I can do on the spot when I feel that anxiety welling up inside. The first thing is to stop and do some deep breathing. I’m not much of a meditator, but I think it’s important to sit still and quiet my mind when I feel the stress starting to build. I have a mantra that I repeat to myself, and sometimes I’ll visualize healing things.

Those are lifestyle changes you can make. Another approach has to do with shifting the way you view things. Here’s a very powerful way to change your life (it certainly changed mine!): Learn to let go of the things you have no control over. Letting go of soul-depleting chronic stress can be an incredibly transformative, freeing experience, as we are daily privileged to learn from our guests who come to Canyon Ranch to be inspired and discover new energy, vitality and joy. It’s deeply gratifying to be able to do this amazing work with our superb staff, year after year. And speaking of years: We hope you will join us in celebrating 35 wonderful years of leading the health and fitness revolution. We’re planning exciting events, new ventures and a few amazing surprises in this anniversary year. We look forward to seeing you soon at the Ranch – home of the stress-free vacation!