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Dr Karan Rajan Shares His Top 5 Health Hacks to Worry Less and Live Better

Posted on 20th December 2023 by Waterstones

As entertaining as it is practicable, This Book May Save Your Life is the brilliant new guide for looking after your health from the NHS doctor and TikTok star Dr Karan Rajan. In this exclusive piece, Dr Rajan shares his top five tips for worrying less and enjoying life to the fullest.

STRESSED OUT? THINK LIKE A DOLPHIN

Good sleep, regular exercise and an annoying tendency to come over all zen on my colleagues worked wonders in keeping my stress in check. The most effective technique of all, I found, was in learning to channel my inner dolphin. Yes, it sounds like a euphemism that could get me struck off and lose my license. In reality, it is one of the most effective, science-based, stress busting brain resets I can employ.

Every one of us is hard-wired with an archaic feature called the mammalian diving reflex. This is triggered when you plunge your face into cold water while holding your breath. If you don’t fancy this, splashing your face and nostrils also works (just not as well!). Once the face is underwater and you nostrils full of water, this information is relayed to the brain by the trigeminal nerve (fifth cranial nerve). In turn, this pushes the vagus nerve (tenth cranial nerve) to induce bradycardia, also know as a lowering of the heart rate. This prompts the blood vessels to narrow, which restricts flow into the limbs to preserve it for the heart, brain and lungs. The combination of these physiological changes is known to decrease anxiety and stress. So, next time you’re finding it hard to cope, find a restorative source of cold water.

HAVE YOU DRANK ANY WATER TODAY?

You probably know that checking your pee is straw-coloured, or even clear, is a simple way to check that you’re properly hydrated. An even quicker way, which doesn’t involve a trip to the toilet, is to pinch the skin over any finger joint for a second or so. This is known as the Skin Turgor Test. The more hydrated you are, the more elastic your skin will be, which means it’ll swiftly settle back into shape. If it takes a while, it’s probably time to fill up your water bottle.

POOING WITHOUT PROBLEMS 

Learning to take the strain out of your poo routine will cut down on the risk of haemorrhoids. It also vastly reduces the risk of a horror show called rectal prolapse. Basically, you bum isn’t designed to telescope out of its housing. It’s treatable, but painful and wholly avoidable. To save yourself the agony, aim to limit your time on the loo for number twos to a maximum of ten minutes, but ideally no more than five if you can manage it.

There is also an art to pooing for optimal efficiency and good health, and it’s all about the angles. First and foremost, a right angle is wrong. If the torso is at 90 degrees to the hips, the puborectalis muscle which hugs the rectum is in fact pulling extra tightly. This causes a kink in the tailpipe, compromising your optimum poo delivery as you don’t have a clear drop down the rectum.

Next, adopt the squat. We’re talking about the torso being at 35– 60 degrees to the hips, which is effectively a squatting position or just try to get your knees higher than your hips. This can be easily achieved by sitting on the toilet with your feet resting on a stool (not that kind) or by leaning forwards whilst resting on the balls of your feet. It means the hips are relaxed and the puborectalis slackened. With the pinch point removed, you’re free to poo without stresses or strains.

EYES AND EARS (and mouth and nose)

From a practical standpoint, there are measures you can take to protect your eyes and reduce the risk of myopia and other ocular issues. If you spend a lot of time in front of a screen (which is likely to be most people), then adopt the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break from the screen and look at a distant object at least 20 feet away for up to 20 seconds. This allows the eyes to relax and turn the focus off momentarily. It’s also good to get away from the screen, right? So why not pop outside and dose up on natural light?

As a general rule, in order to minimise hearing damage related to headphone use, aim to limit yourself to 60 minutes of music at around 60 per cent volume. Then take a break for 15 minutes or so. Personally, I always use over-ear headphones rather than in-ear buds as sound is applied in a less direct manner to the tympanic membrane (the eardrum). It’s also worth investing in noise-cancelling headphones. These cut out background sounds without you having to raise the volume.

RISE AND SHINE

If you’re struggling to wake up on time, you should check in with your cortisol levels. A fail-safe means of getting your cortisol hit at the optimum time is by exposing yourself to bright light or sunshine within the first hour of waking. Even if it’s overcast, the UV light still percolates through clouds. This triggers neurons in your eye that signal to the internal body clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus), and thus causes a surge in cortisol. Not only does this work like an alarm clock for your brain and body, but it also sets in motion a timer for you to fall asleep later that night. Additionally, it will suppress the hormone melatonin while washing out the adesonine system, both of which can make you tired at a time when you need to be seizing the day.

Ultimately, viewing morning light not only provides you with the most powerful biological stimulus to wake up in the morning, but it also has a powerful impact on your ability to fall and stay asleep at night.

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