To Your Health: The Ghost in My Pocket

Contributor: Rich Butler, MS, USPTA
To learn more about Rich, click here.


Bellefontaine-Mansion-Canyon-Ranch-Wellness-Resort-Lenox.jpgCanyon Ranch has a Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire (HLQ) that we use to gauge our guests and their lifestyle habits.  The questionnaire may differ from the traditional questionnaire that you might fill out with your physician.  We ask specific questions about stress levels, exercise types and durations, specific dietary habits, work hours, sleep, alcohol use, and even relaxation or meditation practices.  I have likely read ~10,000 over the past 20 years, and discovered there are some very common answers over those years.  I have selected three of the themes that resonate the most.  The good news is that despite what seem to be inevitable challenges in our life, some very practical and applicable acts of movement or exercise can significantly lessen the cost.

  1. Please list any concerns with your lifestyle at this time.  Answer: Lack of balance between personal, work, and family.  Hold your hand out flat and face the palm down out in front of you.  Now move it side to side.  That is the universal sign that someone is ‘even keel’ or steady.  Something that many people strive to achieve, but often feel pulled so far in one direction that they feel they are in a tug of war that never stops.  Guests report too much work, long commutes, eating out more than cooking at home, and long periods of sedentary living.  Travel for work is very common.  Yes, all out of balance.  The biological term for balance is homeostasis, and high glucose, triglycerides, or blood pressure are all signs that your physician is looking for that you are off balance.
  2. Please list current stressors in your life. Answer: family, work, illness, recent loss.  Although I am not a historian, I suspect these stressors have always been a part of civilization.  Things we love and care about can mean so much to us they dominate our emotions.  Often they lead to worry, concern, anxiety, and a sense of feeling overwhelmed as life throws those ‘curveballs’ at us.  
  3. Please list your coping mechanisms. Answer: praying, food, drugs/alcohol, exercise. This is where things get tricky.  As we climb the ladder in age and professionally, it appears the burdens on us grow, and so our mechanisms of coping can become unhelpful (praying and exercise aside), even hurtful, and lead to additional stressors in our lives.  Canyon Ranch does not serve alcohol to our guests, and we work hard at trying to help smokers find alternatives to smoking if they are interested.  Many report their cravings and sense of urgency to cope as they do at home abate while on property. Why?

Exercise/physical activity is pivotal in every dimension of trying to help with balance, stress, and coping.  It has physical, cognitive, and spiritual benefits that are real and measureable.  Simplicity is the trick.  As soon as you get your metabolic rate up around 5x higher than at rest, you are putting the wheels in motion.  Be it yoga, kettlebells, bird watching or pickleball, glut 4 starts stealing sugar into the mitochondria, nitrous oxide dilates the arteries, and a slow drip of endorphins enter the grey matter.  Leave the fine-tuning of how to exercise to your trainer or fitness facility.  Keeping it fresh, changing it up, something new.  In the end, a DAILY dose of movement is imperative.

Recently I was wondering why I feel a sensation in my pocket like a phone vibrating even though it is charging on the counter.  Is this a sign of my anxiety and stress level?  Coincidentally, my all-time favorite thinker, Marilyn vos Savant, published a short answer to this question in the Sunday section of our paper.  She makes the point that it may be a product of someone being ‘eager’ to get a call or a message; I would say anxious in my case.  It is a tactile hallucination according to her.  Regardless of what it is, as soon as I notice the ghost in my pocket starts vibrating, I know it is time to go out and rake the lawn. Move to improve!  Good hustle!


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Booth FW and Chakravarthy MV. (2003) Hot Topics: Exercise. Philadephia, PA: Hanley and Belfus.