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Posts for category: Secrets from the Vault

By Dr. Doug Williams
February 11, 2019
Tags: stress   margin  

Last week, we looked at the concept of Margin as it relates to health. Richard Swenson, M.D. defines margin as:


We are exploring margin under the Rest portion of our winter blog series on recovering and retaining health through four topics:

  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Sound Nervous System

We left off with the challenge to spend 5 minutes a day to imagine what life would be like for you and your loved ones if you had just 15% more margin in your life.

  • What would your health look like?
  • How might it affect your relationships?
  • How would it impact your job?
  • Your mood?
  • Your morning?

Did you get a chance to think about it?

If you are like me, I am pretty sure you came to the conclusion that it could do nothing but improve each area, maybe even significantly!

Today, our quest is: How do we incorporate routine margin into our lives?



I am fascinated with Craftsman-style homes. The efficiency of space and simplicity has always attracted me. One of the key features of a craftsman home are built-ins. Built-ins are cabinets, shelves, clapboards etc. that are blended or “built-right-in” to a wall or part of a room. I suppose it becomes a non-negotiable, functional part of the room and, ultimately, the house.

As you consider the concept of Margin, what things might you “build right in” to your life? If you have built-in cabinets in your home, you might change the paint or wallpaper in a room, you might get new light fixtures, tables and chairs, but house built-ins stay until you tear the house itself down.

Margin built-ins are the same way. As your life progresses, things may change and look different, but those solid habits that bring health and stability will essentially stay the same until it is over. If you are designing a built-in for a house, you might consider three things:

  1. What is it’s function?
  2. Where is the best place to put it in the house?
  3. Where is the best place to put it in the room?

What is the Function?

A keystone is the final stone placed when building an arch – it literally “locks in” the structure and allows it to bear weight! It is amazing that when you look at ruins; often, the most recognizable aspect of the ancient structure are its arches.

When considering building in an aspect of margin in your life ask yourself what is the function? Will it serve you and your family through all the seasons of life?


Where is the Best Place to Put It In the House?

When Dr. Sue and I were first out of school, we lived in a 1905 duplex in Greeley, Colorado. It was a really cool, old house with a lot of charm that the owners had remodeled. It had two-stories with the living room, dining room, and kitchen on the main floor, and a really cool set of stairs with a large window leading upstairs to the bedrooms and bathroom. It fit our style really well!

Then, our first son Josh was born. It soon became apparent that, if a house is only going to have one bathroom, it shouldn’t be on the second floor! Our second son Caleb came quickly on the heels of his brother and then the design flaw really stood out!

When considering where to build the habit of margin into your life, where does it make the most sense relative to the other parts and members of your family?


Where is the Best Place to Put It In the Room?

In keeping with our bathroom theme, have you ever been in a bathroom and, when it came time to reach for the toilet paper, you found it was either two feet away from you or six inches off the floor? Or, let’s say you used the last piece and you were wondering where the extra rolls were only to find the cabinet they were kept in was six inches from the ceiling or worse under the sink across the room? How useful is that?

You have found a solid supportive habit you can use (keystone), you have found a great place to put it in your life (bathroom on the main floor)…

Make sure that the habit it self is easily accessible (toilet paper close-by)!


This is Killing You List-Makers Out There, Isn’t It?

I just know some of you are thinking: “Enough of the heavy thinking! Just give me a list to work off already!”

So, here you go: Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life. I read this a number of years ago and go back to it every so often.

Me Just Looking For a Bathroom in Life!

I love straight to it how-to guides that just tell me what to do step by step. Unfortunately, building margin into your life is just not a one-size-fits-all project. In fact, it expands and contracts through all the seasons in your life! But, just like built-ins for a house, when margin:

  • Has a clearly designed function
  • Is strategically placed in your life
  • Is easily accessible

It can make life a lot easier and productive over the years.

Here are three of my built-ins that I have been fairly successful keeping for a number of years:

  1. Start every morning with reading the Bible
  2. Exercise first thing in the morning
  3. Go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep

I have a lot more that work for me and my family, but these three seem to have consistently given me the margin to engage the rest of my life. They have a well defined function, a central location and are in an accessible size that works for me.

Take some time this week to consider what things might add margin to your life, or review Leo Babauta’s 72 Ideas. Filter them through this week’s post on Built-Ins and see what makes the cut.  I promise that as you intentionally integrate margin in your life you won’t be sorry!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafeyette, Indiana

PS: Update – here are our boys now! They don’t live at home anymore and we now have a bathroom on the main floor. Go figure!

By Dr. Doug Williams
February 04, 2019
Tags: stress   margin  

We have started off this new year with a series we are calling:


In it, we are looking at recovering and retaining health through four topics:

  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Sound Nervous System

We are countering a lot of the magazine headlines that roll out over the first of the year, promising amazing results in record time with little effort. Most of us know this isn’t true, but it would sure be nice! Just last night, I was watching TV and a commercial came on for losing weight through a cryogenic process. You go into a clinic and they super-cool an area where you have fat you want to lose. Then, over the next 14 weeks, the area begins to shrink. Judging by the before and after pictures, I think you could accomplish the same results or better by eating healthier and taking a walk after dinner every night!

Lasting health and well-being take routine effort over time.

This week, we are going to tackle the concept of Rest.






















One of the most helpful ways I have ever found in addressing the concept of rest is relating it to the margin of a book. I first came across it in the early 1990’s while reading a book by Richard Swenson, MD, appropriately enough called Margin. In it, Swenson related how stressful it would be to read a book with words all the way up to the edge of the page – no white space, no break, no contrast. He went on to detail how much of our modern-day lives are trending the same way… with no margin!

The definition from his website is as follows:


This is really not a trivial topic when it comes to health. Many of us are so booked up that, if we tried to put one more thing into our lives, we would explode! In fact, that is likely what pushes many people in modern society into hospital emergency rooms and sick beds!


















If Our Lives Are A Book, How Much Margin Do the Pages of Yours Have? 

Here is a test, how many of the following cultural sayings have you found yourself repeating:

  • I’ll sleep when I am dead
  • Get-r-done
  • Ain’t nobody got time for that
  • Just do it
  • Make it happen
  • You got this
  • No problem
  • I am going to need more coffee!

There is no doubt there are times in our lives when we just have to buckle down and get things done, regardless of how they might cut into our health and well-being habits… a new baby, for instance!

The problem isn’t with the ebb and flow of these things. It comes when the constant press without the rest becomes the norm.

  • Do you have any down time in your schedule?
  • Do you have routine times of just doing nothing?
  • Are there parts of your week that don’t have a to-do item attached? 
  • How about your kids?
















This Week’s Homework

Next week, we are going to go over some ways to “institutionalize” margin in your life. But, to avoid adding one more thing to your to-do list, I encourage you to take five minutes a day this week, and just imagine what life would be like for you and your loved ones if you had just 15% more margin in your life.

  • What would your health look like?
  • How might it affect your relationships?
  • How would it impact your job?
  • Your mood?
  • Your morning?

This simple exercise of spending five minutes a day considering the possibilities can have a big impact going forward. I am going to do it; I hope you will, as well!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

By Dr. Doug Williams
January 30, 2019
Tags: de-stress  

Let’s Take it Down a Notch…

We are starting out this year with a short series on practical ways to get and stay healthy, specifically looking through the following four topics:

  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Sound Nervous System

Last week, we looked at how stress can impact your nervous system and overall health by exploring the research of Hans Selye MD, specifically the General Adaptive Syndrome (G.A.S.).

This week, we are going to look at some specific ways to de-stress, as outlined in the Harvard Health Publication: Healthbeat.

  1. Stay Positive
  2. Meditate
  3. Exercise
  4. Unplug
  5. Find ways to take the edge of your stress

If you want to get it directly, just go to the link above. If you decide to stay with me through the newsletter, I promise to add in some caveats that will help you dial it in even a little better!

Stay Positive

By nature, I tend to be a fairly positive person. Looking on the bright side of things comes fairly natural for me – sometimes too much and I can be Pollyanna-ish! However, that may just keep me healthier.

An article published by John Hopkins Medicine showed a reduction in risk of heart disease by 33 percent when you keep a positive outlook on life! As interest in ways to impact health without medication grows, so does the research into how it might work.

The National Institutes of Health Newsletter related a positive outlook in life to lower blood pressure, longer life, healthier weight and blood sugar levels. The authors indicated that different areas of the brain are activated with positive and negative outlooks/thoughts. The areas of the brain activated by positive thoughts were also responsible for lowering stress hormones. In contrast, negative thoughts activated a part of the brain that has been associated with slower recovery and healing times from disease and illness. Turns out, healing really may be an inside job. You may not be a glass half-full person, but even asking yourself “what if” the glass was half-full might just make it so, at least when it comes to your health.


I have written before on meditation, and I have some pretty strong opinions, mostly that I am not a fan of the type where you “empty your mind” and focus on nothingness. You never know who or what might just wander through!

However, there is a school of thought out there that embraces “Mindful Meditation.” In a nutshell, this is the practice of slowing down and paying attention to what is going on in the moment, and not worrying about the past or the future.

This has been a part of humanity since probably the time of creation. What is new, however, is the ability to see what part of the brain is activated when someone is engaging this, made possible with a new technology called Functional MRI. They can literally see what part of the brain is most active when people are thinking/focusing on different topics/aspects of life.

Studies have shown that mindful meditation actually changes the architecture of the brain, increasing areas that may boost helpful neurotransmitters levels related to mood and relaxation and, at the same time, reduce activation of the areas of the brain associated with fear anxiety and stress. There is a nice article in the Harvard Health Publishing newsletter on this topic.

So, much like staying positive, taking time out to be mindful and just focus on the moment can actually activate the parts of your brain that keep you healthy and deactivate the parts that make it easier for you to get sick.


Exercise is, by far and away, my favorite go-to in order to de-stress – mostly because it doesn’t take a much thinking: just start moving! The other really nice thing about exercise as a tool for stress reduction is that it is not dependent on how good of a shape you are in. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits; for some of us, a walk down the block is plenty to get things headed in the right direction. I like what the Mayo Clinic says about it:


You get the benefits of meditation, as well as the physical benefits of, well… exercise! When our boys were little and they would be fighting, one of my favorite things to do was send them together on a walk around the block (I didn’t make them hold hands, but a few times I was tempted!). They would start out walking looking straight ahead not saying anything. By the time they got back, they would be laughing and joking, and moving a lot closer together, both physically and emotionally.

Years ago, I remember reading an article that said it is almost impossible to walk and argue at the same time. There is just something about movement that seems to unload our brain (probably the same areas as positive thinking and meditation) when we move. Walking is great, but really anything that begins to expend energy is a winner: wall push-ups, chair squats, a few walking lunges, all the way up to your favorite sport! While exercising when you are stressed is good, building it in to your routine is even better. It is like money in the bank!


We actually dedicated a whole blog post to this back in Novemeber, so I won’t spend much time on this here, except to say that it is those darn devices that may actually be keeping us from:

  • Staying Positive
  • Meditating
  • Exercising

I know there is probably an app for all of these, but really, people, it wasn’t that long ago that we had to do these things without a plug! Try it out, you might really like it!

Find Ways To Take The Edge Off

There are probably as many ways to fight stress as there are ways to cause it. If you aren’t ready to embrace the ones listed above, or if you just don’t have the energy, that’s OK. Find one of your own!

This picture above is one of my favorites: Maisey. While not a “licensed” therapy dog, I am confident that she has saved me from a multitude of mental snaps over the years. Here is a list of 27 different ideas that really don’t take much effort at all. I am sure you can find something on here to start with!

Stress really does impact your mind and your body. Start small in working on getting it down and, as you see results, build those habits into your daily life, sort of like a multivitamin. You and your family will be glad you did!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana