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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 9:37 pm | Fair 46º


Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down with Dr. Jay Winner

As stress seems to consume more of our lives, one doctor has steadfastly been teaching us how to take the edge off

It’s hard not to be enticed by a book title like Take the Stress out of Your Life. The book’s author, Dr. Jay Winner, is also a busy family-practice physician, father of twins, and the founder and director of Sansum Clinic’s Stress Reduction Program.

Dr. Jay Winner, a Sansum Clinic family practitioner, agrees with physician surveys that identify stress as an important component of illness and disease.
Dr. Jay Winner, a Sansum Clinic family practitioner, agrees with physician surveys that identify stress as an important component of illness and disease. (Sansum Clinic photo)

LD: How did you come to specialize in stress management?

JW: I always had an interest in the topic, and going into family medicine it was my idea that you take care of the whole person and not just fix their stomach like a mechanic. In essence, what’s supposed to be the basis of family medicine, what they call the bio-psycho-socio model, it just makes sense. If we have a headache, then we might be more irritable and that could affect us psychologically, and if we’re stressed out we might be more likely to have a headache, and if we’re going through a divorce we might be more likely to be stressed out. It all influences each other. In fact, I’ve read that the American Academy of Family Physicians found that two-thirds of the visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms.

That leaves one a choice as a family doctor. The choice might be giving people the common answer, which is just don’t worry about it, or take some Ativan or Valium or Xanax or a quick medication, and unfortunately, with the pace of a typical family practice, that’s become standard among a lot of people. But I don’t think it’s the most effective thing to do. I thought it was particularly important, in addition to having pills in our armor, to teach people skills that could last a lifetime and have other effective ways of dealing with stress that could compliment the medication for the headache. Early on I realized that I couldn’t teach somebody all those skills in a 15-minute office visit. That’s when I broke into the classes ... that have anywhere from four to six hours to teach people some of these skills.

The classes have gone on over these last 18 years or so, ... but not everybody can make a class. ... I wanted to have something that could help those people. Through the class notes eventually, and with a lot of work and review by the publisher, Da Capo Press put together the book and CD set for Take the Stress Out of Your Life: A Medical Doctor’s Proven Program to Minimize Stress and Maximize Health.

LD: Have you found, over the course of a lot of years working in this field, that people are more receptive to the idea that stress is linked to health?

JW: I think so. I think even 18 years ago most people knew it. Most people knew it was kind of a no-brainer. My stomach is tied in knots and I have bad headaches and I’m going through a divorce. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on. I think most people, even 18 years ago, have gotten to where they realize it. I think more and more and more people are accepting it and physicians do. I read a survey among physicians, I think it had 600 some-odd physicians in the survey, and 96 percent of them thought that stress was an important component of illness and disease. But I think physicians are, in general, just too busy to deal with it effectively, and if they’re not too busy then they don’t have the training to deal with it effectively.

It’s certainly not alternative medicine. It should be a basic part of being a doctor to realize that somebody is not just an arm and a stomach and a heart, they have emotions and social things that are going on that certainly affect their health.

LD: You have a busy family practice and you’re also doing these workshops and writing books and articles and a Psychology Today blog. Is that stressful?

JW: You know, I manage the time so that I still have time with my kids and all of that ... I think I’ve been able to manage my time so I’m not working a lot more than the average doctor.

LD: That’s nice. It seems to me that we’re still in a culture with the attitude that if you’re stressed out it means you’re working hard. Even though people acknowledge that stress is bad for your health, there are still people bragging about how busy they are or how much they have to do.

JW: I think there are different reasons for that. For one thing we’re in a very difficult economic time right now. So people, for example, we have people in the office where they didn’t lose their job, but now half the people in the department are laid off so they’re expected to do twice as much. I think that has pushed people into being busier and perhaps being somewhat off balance. And some of that is that people like to brag how much they suffer and how tough they are (Laughs) and I think that’s been around for a while. ... I think the change is that people are realizing that being stressed out to the max on a regular basis is not good for you. Perhaps before it was just bragging about it and now at least it’s just coming into the culture of, “Yeah well maybe it would be better for me and maybe working 80 hours a week and missing out on my kids’ lives really isn’t such a good thing.”

Dr. Jay Winner's new book, <i>Take the Stress out of Your Life</i>, is based on a successful course he’s taught for nearly 20 years.” width=“200” height=“301” /><div class=Dr. Jay Winner’s new book, Take the Stress out of Your Life, is based on a successful course he’s taught for nearly 20 years.

... People do a lot of things that they know better. I don’t know how many times that people smoke cigarettes they know they shouldn’t. Or they come in and I say, “Do you want a referral to a dietician?” And they say, “No. I know what to do.” (Laughs) There is a sense that people know some of the things to do and they just don’t do it, but some of them they don’t know what to do and I think in reducing stress there’s a lot that people don’t know.

LD: And that’s what you teach in your workshops.

JW: I typically give an introduction to stress management workshop that’s two, two-hour sessions and that one is free, and then I give what is called mindfulness-based stress reduction and that happens over eight weeks. People can visit the Web site, www.stressremedy.com, for a schedule or contact Dawn at the Health Resource Center at Sansum Clinic at 805.681.7672 to get on a waiting list.

Vital Stats: Dr. Jay Winner

Born: June 26, in Baltimore

Family: Wife Dana Halverson, sons Zach and Sam (twins, age 7)

Civic Involvement: Washington School; Congregation B’nai B’rith; Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital; Medical advisory board, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics

Professional Accomplishments: Founder and director of Sansum Clinic’s Stress Reduction Program. Author of Take the Stress out of Your Life, a book and CD set about stress management. Winner has been quoted as a stress expert by a wide variety of media, including Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health and Woman’s Day magazines, and has spoken on stress to a variety of groups. He earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland; served as chief resident at Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore; is board-certified in family medicine; former head of Sansum’s patient care committee; currently chairs the Family Medicine Department at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital; published articles in Patient Care, Modern Medicine and Family Practice News, and writes a Psychology Today blog.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: “It wasn’t that recently, but the Kite Runner I thought was an amazing book and it brought me to tears at one point. A lot of the reading that I do now is with the kids, so I’ll read things that are appropriate for them, like Eragon or Septamus Heap or Artemus Fowl.”

Little-Known Fact: “I played the tuba in high school. I played in the marching band.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at [email protected]

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