It really does take a village….

“You can tell the wealth of a nation/country by how well its women and children are treated.”

Ok, I don’t remember who said this, but this quote speaks volumes.  The connection between mother and child is paramount to your development.  Needless to say, your development impacts society as a whole.  Our connection to our mothers has been found to impact our overall current and long-term health and well-being. Studies have linked stress levels in children to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety and addiction (Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, and Scott D. Siegel).  This is not to negate the role of fathers, by any means. Fathers are, of course equally important (we’ll get to that later in another post), but the focus is on women today due to 1. Women being the ones actually carrying to term and giving birth and 2. Women still being the majority primary care-giver.  Because the connection between mother and child is paramount to development, we must look at the environmental factors that can impact this bond or connection.  BTW, environmental factors don’t start for the child when they are birthed, it begins in utero, but that’s another post also.  There’s so much stuff to get to!

Sustained subtle stressors = trauma.  Overwhelming stress = trauma. Stress and trauma impacts you, because it impacts/impacted your development in some way. If stress and trauma impacted/impacts you, your relationships and your health (mental, emotional, physical) are all also impacted.   In a nutshell, environmental factors and your connection with your mother (and father) impact your health, work and relationships

In this country, we have been conditioned to think in terms of  ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘My’ and ‘Mine.’ We think about how something (system, experience) or someone can help or hinder Me and My family. We don’t think about how a system, circumstance or experience will impact the ‘We,’ ‘Us,’ or ‘Our.’ This is the reductionist, individualist, competitive social society that doesn’t fully foster or allow for Connection. However, Connection (attachment) is about all of us as connection contributes to the strength and health of a nation (society).

We’ve read of studies about connection as it relates to loneliness and the negative effects on physical health and an increase in depression.  Studies have indicated that the stress and trauma a child experiences can contribute to their physical, mental and emotional health as an adult. Stress and trauma can contribute to the rise of addiction, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, stress and trauma have been linked to anxiety, depression and other mood disorders (Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, and Scott D. Siegel). Our healthcare system is and has been at a crux with the increase of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke being among the top ten killers as well as the increase of drug/alcohol use and addiction contributing to a rise in death rates primarily among White Americans. These are for the most part, preventable diseases.

If we as a society began to view parent-child connections (relationships) and the systems that can support the relationship as a necessity to the long-term productivity, success and health of our society, then we (society) can begin to alter our long-term health and healthcare system through preventative care. The probability of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and addiction would likely be reduced, due to the reduction of stress endured, therefore reducing the long-term need and long-term cost of maintenance band-aid healthcare.

I don’t know who the Artist is to give credit.

What systems (communities) impact the connection (relationship) between parent and child?

Childcare. Childcare is expensive.  Infant childcare can range between $5,000+ to $16,000 a year depending on which state you live in.  Childcare, on average takes 10%-25% of the yearly joint income of a married couple, while single moms have to spend 30%-80% of their yearly income on childcare.  HALF! of your yearly income just on CHILDCARE! so moms can go to work to provide for their families.  For a family on or near the poverty line? They’re looking at an average of 50%- above 100% of their income on childcare.  This means, that people on or near the poverty line ‘spend’ what they don’t have on childcare, or the cost of childcare is contributing to their financial loss.  This. shit. is. CRAZY. when you look at the numbers.  The yearly cost of childcare is often running close to or near the cost for one year of in-state college tuition.  Living pay-check to pay-check increases the stress which often trickles down to children with parents unable to be physically and emotionally present due to working long hours/multiple jobs and then coming home to do the cooking, cleaning etc. How present would you be?  You can view the cost of childcare in each state at http://www.usa.childaware.org.

Healthcare.  This is a no-brainer.  Infants and children need to go to the doctor, many might be for emergency purposes.  Needless to say, adults also need medical care without going into debt or becoming bankrupt.  Prior to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) maternity care was NOT covered AT ALL, which meant being a woman was a pre-existing condition!  In addition to maternity care, Family Planning  is also necessary. Family planning including insurance covered, free or minimal cost for birth control as well as the right to choose for having a baby.  Taking away funding for Planned Parenthood sets up an increase in possible STI’s and an increase in unwanted children coming into this world  with little financial means or emotional development to support the child (teen pregnancy).   There are 14.5 million children living in poverty in this country today and lack of funding for Planned Parenthood would only increase these numbers.  How can one be against abortion yet be ok with taking away universal maternity care as well as meals for children?  Aren’t infants and children just as valuable as a fetus? With universal healthcare,  women and children would get the care they need, without the nagging worry about going bankrupt or further into debt.  Personally, an overhaul of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries should be held accountable and tackled.   We’re coming up on tax day, and believe me, every year I throw my fists up into the air cursing Uncle Sam.  However, I’m all for universal healthcare and education even with higher taxes. At least these great financial burdens would be lifted and I (we) would get a direct payoff instead of my taxes contributing to corporate wealth.  I know many people are against universal healthcare, but can someone tell me how Cuba, a country with universal healthcare and education, yet considered well below the economic growth rate has created a vaccine (Cimavax) to halt the spread of lung cancer?  One of the deadliest cancers? Yet, billions have been raised for the Komen foundation for breast cancer, and yet there’s still no cure?  Can someone say Profits over people?

Ok, off my soapbox…Next.

Paid Maternity Leave.  Not just maternity leave, but Paid Maternity Leave. Having a newborn is one of the greatest gifts and joys, yet employs the biggest stressors.  As a parent, you are on duty 24/7 no matter what.  Your underlying feeling is worry.  Worry that you’ll be a good parent, worry that you provide for your child, that they get a good education, worry that you raised a good functional child into adulthood, worry that your child is safe especially when you have no control.  As your children become adults, you worry less and less often but the underlying worry is never-ending. Well, until you die.  But I digress. Having a newborn is stressful and a complete change of your life. Paid maternity leave is important in establishing a connection/bond with your infant through holding, cradling, feeding, soothing, eye contact, speaking, bathing, cleaning etc.  All of these actions are bonding, especially breast-feeding.  Maternity leave would allow for bonding between parent and child without the stress of financially providing by having to rush back to work.  Some people get three weeks paid, some get 6 weeks, while others get 3 months and others get leave without pay.  3- 6 weeks are not enough. Three months leave, much better.  Paid maternity leave is needed for every family, but for the single mom (dad) and the parent with minimal support, it is imperative.

Which brings us to….

Equal Pay (and a Livable Minimum Wage).  US Department of Labor states that 57% of women work outside of the home. Statistics share that women make .60-.86 cents to every dollar a man makes, with women of color (Black, Latina) making the least. This impacts all women and especially single moms who carry the majority of responsibility for day-to-day child rearing.  For the single parent household, the stress of financially providing for your child and the stress of keeping the job is most likely increased (overwhelm), which impacts the connection between your child. Women will lose 800+ BILLION dollars! this year alone due to inequality in pay. If the Equal Pay rights became law, this would greatly benefit women, single women and single moms by reducing  financial stress with the ability to provide more for their child or children.  In addition, many families have to work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet and often that isn’t enough.  Here’s where the livable wage increase happens.  Wages have NOT increased with inflation through the years contributing to the 14.5 million children living in poverty.  Kids not receiving basic care, such as food, healthcare and for some, shelter. Basic needs.  I don’t know why this isn’t an outrage in America and with our politicians.

Yes, these are all separate issues affecting women, but these are all connected.  These systems are environmental factors that impact the well-being and development of children.  To think that a child’s development is solely impacted by the individual family is not seeing the entire picture for child rearing and development.

The lack of these systems being made available to support parents can contribute to increased stress.  You’ve read multiple times already in this blog, that’s how important it is.  Sustained stress becomes a form of trauma and therefore affects your reasoning which impacts your ability to think rationally. Stress also affects your emotions (i.e. being quick to anger, lashing out at your child or your partner), and affects your behavior with coping mechanisms like alcohol, drugs, food, tv, phone, FB and anything else to checkout (Frone, M; Russell, M; Cooper, M. Lynne,  1997).  Stress taken alone doesn’t sound so insidious, but sustained stress is deadly.

I could’ve written separate blogs regarding each system, but that would take this subject and make it linear with a one-dimensional view, when in reality many systems impact mother-child (parent-child) bonds.  Furthermore, when we see that there are many elements to supporting women and children, thus society as a whole, then maybe we can see that we are all connected and it really does take a village.  Maybe then, we are liable to take action in the direction of the whole rather than the individual.

 

Attachment Theory Explained through the Senses- Part 2

taste

Attachment theory is based on the connection between parent and child. How we connect to our parents can impact how we connect as adults to partner’s as well as impact our long term health and well-being. Part 1 discussed the importance of eye contact and touch in development.  Here’s part 2.

Voice (Tone/language).

Tone-

Often when we speak to our baby (babies), we often use a rhythmic or melodic tone.  This also builds a comforting connection with your baby because it is soothing. Tone is important obviously, because tone can also be rage filled, angry, or aggressive etc and your child’s nervous system will pick up on that too as it is stress inducing.

Language-

Reading to your baby/child has been the foundation for early childhood education.  Every teacher knows that reading and engaging your child in conversation helps to engage your child’s brain, creating more neural networks (brain pathways). In doing so, it increases your child’s learning ability.  There have been studies regarding the differences in learning abilities of children from affluent environments and less affluent environments, with children from affluent environments flourishing in school while children from the less affluent environments have difficulties excelling.  How does this happen?  There are various layered reasons or contributing factors as to why children from more affluent environments have been found to have greater learning abilities, but I’m only going to address one aspect contributing to this issue: Stress.  Stress impacts your connection with your child.  Stress impacts every connection in your life, period.

Here’s how stress can impact the child’s learning abilities.  A parent(s) from a lower socio-economic situation is concerned with the basic survival of their family.  In addition to raising their child and worrying about their well-being, parents from a lower socioeconomic background have the stress of making/finding enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table etc.  Single parents can go in this category too.  The more stressed you are, the more limited you get in your thinking.  Meaning, you don’t have the time, space or the luxury to contemplate the meaning of (your) life.  This can carry over unknowingly in how a parent interacts and engages with their child.  One’s scope gets smaller under stress and that can include language. The parent may be focused on “don’t do that, you can’t do that, stop it, be quiet etc.”   If this is the most of the conversation you have with your child, then your child’s vocabulary will reflect that, limited vocabulary.  Lack of engagement also impacts the brain’s development where the brain becomes pruned in that area (no new brain networks are created), limiting their learning abilities as they grow older.  Expand your child’s language through conversation and reading and you expand their ability to learn. With each conversation, you’re  helping your child create new brain neural connections and pathways.  From an attachment perspective, when you’re reading and engaging with your child, you’re also being present with them, connecting with them.  This is something that you can do and change right now, in your own home.  Teachers can only do so much.

Which brings us to Energy.  This isn’t one of the 5 tangible senses but it’s important because it’s about being present, energetically present to your baby/child. I know it’s impossible to be 100% present 100% of the time, but in the field of attachment (connection) we’re concerned more with consistency and quality.   Many adults will often say, “My child is too young to realize what’s going on.”  Ummmm…yes they do.  Children/babies soak up their environment and their experiences through their senses and nervous system (body memory).

A parent can be physically present but not energetically/emotionally present and various behaviors can contribute to a sense of disconnect, such as depression, addiction (including workaholic), substance abuse, video games etc.   This can translate into a parent being physically present yet emotionally/energetically distant and unavailable.  Some of you reading can relate personally to this, or some of you can relate by the men/women you attract into your life.  If you’re still negating the energy aspect of this:  Think of a time you spoke to someone, a family member, partner, spouse or co-worker. As you spoke, they bobbed their head to acknowledge they were listening, however, you could feel or sense that they weren’t really listening to you. They were physically present, but not energetically present to you and you felt a disconnect in that moment.   It’s the same for a baby/child.

Lastly, smell.   Babies can identify you and connect through their sense of smell. Having a blankie with your smell on it as they go off to childcare will keep your baby connected to you through smell.

In the theory of attachment, connection is the name of the game.  Connection = Better Health.

Attachment Theory Explained Through the Senses- Part 1

taste

I’ve been interested in attachment theory since I studied the theory during my master’s program. I look at the world through the eyes of attachment (connection),  how that connection can be altered or disrupted,  how does connection or lack there of affect a child’s development (and adult) and how can it help us heal.  I know, it sounds like I’m in a proverbial existential crisis.  For me, attachment is actually the science of spirituality of all things being connected. So, let’s get started.

Attachment theory was created by John Bowlby and further studied with Mary Ainsworth. Attachment theory is basically the study between parent and infant/child. The way I interpret this is: it’s a theory based on connection.  And how we connect with infants and children is through the senses.  We feel life, we feel through life.  We are all experiential beings, and kids more so simply because their brains aren’t developed to organize or make reason from their experiences like you can.  For this video, I explain the theory of attachment through the senses of eye contact and touch.

Eye contact is beneficial in creating and maintaining a bond with your child. When you look into your infant’s/child’s eyes and they look at you, a wonderful thing happens. You release a chemical called oxytocin which is the feel good, ‘Im in love’ chemical.  That’s why new moms will often say, “I’m so in love with my baby!” And its true. You are.  This feeling is also great because if you’re feeling so good, so in love then you’re more likely to continue caring, bonding and connecting with your baby/child. This is necessary for your baby’s survival.

The area of the eyes is important because this is also how your baby can develop mirror neurons by teaching through your facial expressions and emotions.  Facial expressions allow your face to come alive and show emotion and we connect through mirror neurons.  When your face expresses sadness, anger, frustration, joy, love, guilt etc, you’re teaching your baby to attune to you which in turn your baby/child will attune to others. This helps in emotional development, emotional recognition (emotional intelligence) and empathy. When this area around the eyes and forehead are in a state of freeze (expressionless) through brow lifts and botox, this can disrupt the emotional development of your baby because you aren’t mirroring those emotions via your face making it more difficult for your baby/child to fully develop the part of the brain that identifies and expresses emotions.  As adults, we can see and know (cognitively) that we are connecting with another regardless if they have had a brow lift or botox.  A baby’s/child’s brain isn’t nearly developed as adults.  They can’t make sense of it and the child may feel a ‘lack’ of connection to their parent because they have difficulty ‘reading’ the parents face.  I have wondered about the long-term impact on children as they grow up – will this stunt their ability to attune to another, to have empathy for another and to identify and express their own emotions.  Also, what is the impact on their relationships as adults?

The second sense is touch.  Healthy touch is imperative for the development of children on all spheres: mentally, emotionally, physically.   There is a school of thought of letting your baby cry themselves to sleep-on a regular basis.  In the theory of attachment, that would be a basic no-no if done on a consistent basis. The reason?  When your baby/child is crying they’re usually in a state of distress and when they’re in a state of distress, their little bodies are flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone.  If the parent doesn’t come to the baby’s rescue or protection to provide nurturing or consoling, then the baby can get the message that:

  1. She/he cannot fully rely on you when upset and distressed (stressed)
  2. The baby/child will have to learn to take care of their own distress and emotions the best way they can. And the only way a baby can take care of her/his own feelings is to fall asleep.

Another aspect is, if your baby/child becomes flooded with stress (cortisol) on a consistent basis with little/no nurturing/consoling, then it can set up your child to turn to other ways of soothing their distress (emotions, stress) as they get older which may impact their emotional, physical and mental well-being.

As always, I hope you learned something new or different.

Remember, if you don’t have kids,  you were one.

 

Laughter really is the best medicine

 

Laugh-Stay-Healthy-The-Health-Benefits-of-Laughter-and-Humor

 

Laughter really is the best medicine.
Yes, I know it sounds cliché and much too simple, but it really is the best medicine. Laughter is actually the second best way to reduce your stress. Why do you think cat/dog videos are so popular? Because they make you feel good and laugh.

Life doesn’t always go as you planned or as you want it to. Sometimes you get served a big bowl of sh!t and still have to eat it. I know, gross.  In those times, it’s often difficult to see the silver lining or even imagine that things will get better. In those times, you can be susceptible to situational depression, consistent sadness, confusion, being in the doldrums where your perception is doom and gloom.  With enough consistency of that thought process and experience, your brain continues to play mean games with you by focusing on all the things in your life such as your work, your home, your body that are ‘wrong.’  You know, all the things that you say to yourself such as, “I have to, I need to, or I should or I can’t.”  When you are in this state, there isn’t much room for laughter because your mind won’t quit, it’s as if your mind is on a perpetual loop refusing you to relax and enjoy the moment, any moment. Hence, you create more stress, angst, and dislike toward yourself and your environment.

Here’s where laughter comes in.

Laughter breaks up that pattern. Laughter breaks up any stress pattern. Comedians are adept at this. They take painful experiences and tell it in a way that makes it funny.
Laughter actually sets off chemicals and hormones that make you feel good by increasing dopamine levels. If you’re flooded with dopamine, you’re feeling pretty good, thereby reducing your stress levels by reducing the cortisol and epinephrine in your system.  This increases your immune system and mood.

funny-baby-laughing-laugh-videos

What Joy in this little face.

The field of psychology has many theories and thought forms with positive psychology being one disciple.  Positive psychology is self-explanatory, focusing on the positive (your strengths) changes/increases your mood and overall satisfaction in life. This is a fairly different perspective than primarily focusing on problems (what’s wrong) within your therapy.  For some people, positive psychology may sound too simple, quackish or too woo-woo.  But, you don’t treat or heal trauma and stress with more trauma and stress. Doesn’t happen. That’s science.

Truth be told, there was a time in my life where I struggled with situational depression/overwhelm meaning that I was so focused on feeling sad, focused on what was wrong that I trained my brain to keep focusing on what was wrong, what needed to be fixed or changed in some way instead of what was right as it was. When I was stressed to the point of literal burnout and my health was impacted, intuitively my body turned toward joy and laughter.  I was so stressed that I literally couldn’t take in any more trauma or stress in any way, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically. Instinctively, I stopped watching or surfing the news online, if I did look at the news, it was only good news. I didn’t look at anything gruesome or violent nor any entertainment gossip. I didn’t reach for my phone first thing in the morning.  Here’s what I did. I only looked at feel good cheesy movies, good news, funny tv shows,  stand-up comedians, and movie cartoons. Although movie cartoons always make me cry, a la The Lion King etc., I laughed and enjoyed myself more often than I worried or felt stressed.

Guess what happened next?  My stress levels went down, I began to lose weight without trying, I wasn’t anxious, sad or irritable, I slept through the night, and my body began to heal.  I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the silver lining, the possibilities in my life.

4595854+_9d166ff58072e6e2ff05dddb5e213cc8

Even the President takes time to laugh…

Colleagues and friends looked at me strange after I disclosed, thinking I put my head in the sand, away from the world or lived in woo-woo land. I didn’t put my head in the sand but I did disconnect from taking in all the doom and gloom, the violence, abuse and neglect that permeates the news, many people’s experiences and the world in general.

I recommended and still recommend unplugging from stress as homework to clients. However, clients are also hesitant to do this as homework, even though they want to change their lives and experience less stress.  They often think, “How can something I see online or TV, or the conversations I have with others impact my sadness or depression?”  There is often resistance for various of reasons,

  1. It’s ‘too simple.’
  2. It’s work. Some say they want change but don’t really want to do the work.
  3. It disrupts their life in a different way, meaning it changes their life in some way.
  4. They’re stuck in their negative frame of thinking.

We are taught to believe that ‘it can’t be this simple,” but it can.

For the person who has difficulty with seeing the positive in self, life, or your environment, begin with laughter.  Laughter is contagious, it lifts your mood, helps you forget just for a moment about what’s ailing you. Laughter decreases your stress hormones and increases your feel-good chemical hormones, thereby increasing your immune system.

005

For a 1 week: Shut off the news, watch only things that make you laugh or feel good. Engage in conversations that are positive.  If you find this difficult to do without hurting others’ feelings, take some alone time away from the situation or people involved if you can.  Notice what happens. Notice what happens if you find it difficult to do. Do you automatically reach for something negative, that will induce negative feelings and stress in you such as judgement, scorn, sadness, anger, apathy, or overwhelm?

I’d love to know how it goes, if you’re willing to share.

 

I love the woo-woo with a science eye.

 

Touch as Food

images-6Can you recall a time as a child when your mom/dad cradled or held you?  How about if mom/dad touched your forehead to determine if you were really telling the truth about feeling sick enough to stay home from school?  What about when you cried? Or were elated and excited about something?

Touch is the most important element in development and nourishment for life itself.  I know, some may be thinking, “Wrong! We can’t survive without food, or we’ll die.”  That’s also true.  There have been various studies on the power of touch on infants and development.  One troubling study involving infant monkeys that were fed food but touch was withheld.  The result: they withered and died. The video was and is heartbreaking, extremely painful to watch and I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s basically animal cruelty in the name of science.  Yes, all beings need food, but touch is the elixir of life.

Touch is such a powerful healing tool, but our world, especially as adults, lose that element.  As adults, we are often much more focused on work, keeping our lives and family afloat that we often forgo touch.  We get caught up in the daily grind of living and we think touch is expendable.  It’s not.  We may have spouses and partners, accessibility to touch within our grasp, but we still forego it.  Unfortunately, many children and adults don’t get touched enough or at all, by no choice of their own.  One may have grown up in a family system where “Hugs, physical nurturing and I love you’s’ were sparse if not rare, so the outward expression of love through touch may be uncomfortable.

intimacy

Touch and physical nurturing are imperative to our growth and development as children and it doesn’t stop being important just because we grow up.  Often times, people think that only the elderly suffer lack of touch, but that isn’t so.  The elderly population may be the largest population, because we are a consumer-throw-away culture of anything or anyone that gets too worn and old. However, in addition to the elderly population, lack of touch impacts children, singles, couples and the closest of long time married couples.  Couples will often report a lack of touch or sustained (intimate) eye contact with their partner.  Even the closest relationship can be devoid of hugs, hand holding or sustained eye contact, just because.

Let me be clear, the touch I’m speaking about is safe, kind and loving. Intimate touch where you connect with another in a non sexual way.  Sexual touch has many benefits, closely linked to the benefits of non sexual touch.  However, sex can often be confused and expressed as the only touch resource.

When I work with clients, using energy healing such as Reiki and cranio-sacral, I have noticed that by just holding the clients head, or placing a hand on the forehead often elicits feelings of love and sadness in addition to relaxation.  The client often remembers nurturing touch, yet realizes how much that doesn’t happen in their life presently, leading to a feeling of sadness and longing.  We are so much in our heads, our minds never stopping to the point that we negate our bodies.  I have found in my experiences that a whole session can be based around cradling the clients cranium.

There are various reasons why touch is such powerful healing tool.

  • Being touched, such as hand holding, being held, or hugged can mimic a time when you were a child being lovingly touched by your parent or caregiver.
  • Because of the previously mentioned, touch helps yourself and another to regulate your emotions.  For example, if you’re feeling sad, angry, or fearful, a touch of hand or a hug can calm you down by calming your nervous system.  You can do this for another too.
  • The body, your body, holds memories of experiences in your life that are remembered (stored) on a conscious and subconscious (body) level.  Past experiences that you think don’t currently matter or impact you, actually do.   Working through the subconscious through touch allows the deep memories and experiences that may have no language to surface.  This can assist you in becoming aware of and releasing old emotions and beliefs.
  • If you have experienced abuse (physical/sexual) or neglect (haven’t been physically/emotionally nurtured as a child), touch can help you to become re-acquainted or know what healthy nurturing touch is and what it feels like.   People who have been sexually abused can become highly sexualized and equate most touch as sexual.  Furthermore, the individual’s identity is often wrapped up in sexualization of self and others.
  • Touch build’s intimacy and trust between partners as well as parents and children and friends.
  • Touch is imperative to thriving child development.  Touch helps the brain and body to develop. Without touch for the child, the brain can atrophy in certain areas and make brain development (emotional intelligence and cognitive development) more difficult.  Lack of touch can also greatly affect a child’s immune system decreasing their physical health.

Scan-5

Touch is food. Food for the mind, Food for the Body and Food for the Soul.

Whether you’re single or in relationship, recall how often you get touched in a way that feeds your depth, feeds your soul, or makes you feel loved as you are.

Mantra:

7 Hugs a day for a healthy heart.  The number is negotiable.

Exercise:

Ask someone close to you, parent, child, partner, friend for a hug.  They most likely need one too.

 

Your Stress Set Point

Stressed_grande

You may have heard of  a ‘weight loss set point,’ in which the theory suggests that a person has a certain set weight point that their body likes to be regardless of how much weight lost.  But, are you familiar with the stress set point?  I think the focus on a person’s ‘set weight point’ is actually the ‘stress set point’ of the person, considering stress is often  the culprit for gaining and losing weight.  However, weight has been easier to study, simply because there is a tangible and finite result to measure.  Stress is not.  Stress is ambiguous, sneaky, encompassing and often, we don’t know we’re under stress until something isn’t working or reached a breaking point.

Everyone has a stress set point, and this set point is basically the level of stress that your nervous system is used to, regardless if your stress level is wreaking havoc on your body and overall well-being.

Why is knowing your stress set point important? Simple, it will affect your mental, emotional and physical health and your relationship(s).

A person’s stress set point will often tell me (and you) 3 things:
1. Your stress set point will tell me your level of intensity.
2. It will tell me how comfortable or used to this intensity or chaos you are.
3. Your stress set point (and level of intensity) will tell me whether there’s a possible addiction or an addictive personality.

How does this stress set point get established?
Well, your stress set point becomes established by the stressful or traumatic experiences you have in life. The experiences can happen in childhood and or adulthood. There are various elements to this such as stress hormones and intensity level, but I will explain this simply.  Below is a picture of a Temperature thermostat model with zero (0) being calm with the least amount of stress to the nervous system and 10 being the highest amount of stress to your nervous system.

Distress thermometer FINAL EN
Let’s say you’re born and your nervous system starts at 0 (zero) with little to no cortisol (stress hormone) flooding your system because your family environment is calm and all of your physical and emotional infant/toddler needs are met. Then as you grow older and move through life, you experience a stressful event(s) such as consistent neglect, beatings, being bullied or constant state of perfectionistic family expectations. These are only a few stressful/traumatic examples that children can go through. With each stressful experience, your nervous system becomes flooded with stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), increasing your stress set point (tolerance level) up to, let’s say a 6 or higher. At this level, your body becomes accustomed to being flooded with stress hormones.

I’ve given you an example that included experiences in childhood, but as you know, stressful and traumatic experiences also happen in adulthood. This can mean that if your stress set point was a 6 during childhood, and you further experience a major or multiple stressful experiences in adulthood, then the cycle begins again increasing your stress set point (tolerance).

However, when your body has consistent time to decompress and reduce its stress level from a 6+ to a 4 or less, you most likely will feel uncomfortable as if something is wrong and subconsciously create a stressful situation to increase the amount of stress hormones flooding your body, bringing your stress set point back up to a level 6.  This can create a need for intensity by seeking out stressful experiences to induce stress hormones flooding your system.  The higher your stress set point, the higher your intensity level.  You need intensity to keep feeding your stress level.  This is a way for your body to become ‘addicted’ to the flood of stress hormones, even if you are sick and tired of feeling stressed, and for the addictive personality this can feel the most comfortable.

I say ‘addicted,’ because like anything your body experiences, you can create a tolerance level, just like you can with drugs and alcohol. You may begin with using substances casually, yet you like the feeling it gives you, then you begin to use more or more often building a tolerance level for that drug. Over time, you need more of the drug/chemical (stress hormone/intensity) to get the same feeling as before, but often leaves you feeling worse.

Intensity can come in the form of high stress jobs, sports, extreme sports, multiple partners (affairs), intense or chaotic relationships and chaos in general. Just a few examples.  Seeking intensity (or your stress set point) is a means to feel ‘normal’ by inducing stress into your system and can also be a set up for addiction to take place.

9ecae12adb865e5f9c56e68d619aebfb
The good news: Your stress set point, like your weight set point can be changed. The bad news: it takes work. I know, fun times.  Consistency is the name of the game. With consistent ‘work’ at reducing your stress and intensity level to  calm your nervous system, your set point can be lowered which is the place where healing, flow and creativity happen.  Learning your stress set point will help you gain awareness into patterns and behaviors in your life (Do you have an addiction or addictive personality?), your relationship dynamics (Do you seek out or create chaotic or intense relationships?), and your health (Is your health impacted in any way or do you seek out substances to quell?).  Awareness allows for choice in how you want to live.  Oh, and I almost forgot,  a natural by-product of reduced stress is weight loss.

 

 

#1 Stress Reducer

Baby-sleeping-on-bed

 

I’ve posted about stress, but I haven’t yet posted about what helps reduce stress. The #1 stress reducer : Sleep. Ahhhhh…sleep. I don’t know about you, but I love to sleep. So much so that my favorite room in the house is my bedroom, and my favorite piece of furniture is my bed. But lately, I haven’t been getting the restful sleep that I need or that I’m used to.

Sleep allows your body to rest and realign, allowing your brain to process and dump the day’s experience. Deep sleep is what we’re after because it is in the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep that our brain waves move reeeaaally slow. There are no eye or muscle movements.  This is Delta sleep stage. This sleep state induces healing. If we find ourselves getting continuous or more light sleep than deep sleep, your body and mind will not have the time or space to rejuvenate or heal.  Lack of sleep impacts your weight, your heart,  immune system and makes you age faster or at least look like it.

nosleep

 

Stress and sleep are closely linked and sometimes it’s like asking the question: what came first the chicken or the egg. Stress can impact your sleep, just think about any time you’ve lost sleep because you were worried about something , a relationship, a job, a performance etc. Losing sleep can create stress. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night or maybe too early in the morning only to find that you’re unable to go back to sleep? The more time passes, you toss and turn, you try different sleep positions thinking and hoping this will help. Instead, you become more stressed out because you see the clock getting closer and closer to the time you actually need to get up and all you want to do is scream “Ugh!!!!!!?”   Frustrating I know. Not sleeping through the night can snowball into more than one night. Not getting enough sleep can lead to stress or compound your stress, and stress can lead to not getting enough sleep because of worry or anxiety. It is cyclical, and they both interact and impact each other.

 

There was a time when I worked at a rehab center, which I liked to call an emotional ER. People would be admitted  because their lives were in shambles due to addictions and trauma. There was constant stress and intensity, so much so that my nights after work looked like Homer below.  I was getting a lot of sleep, but not the deep sleep I needed for my nervous system to Fully decompress, destress or heal. I was in a state of exhaustion.  Many people may find themselves in this state due to situational stress, stress that is due to a certain career, job, receiving higher education (freshman 15 weight gain) demands and expectations.

images

 

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted or stressed, and your body is needing you to sleep, give yourself permission and some time to take a catnap.  This is normal. This is your body telling you that, “Hey, I need to heal. I need to decompress.”  Your body and your mind will thank you.

 

Sleep Well

 

What is Stress? Big T and little t stress

 

 

I’ve written about this previously on this blog some time ago.  This is the second video in a series about stress for your health and wellness.  Each video will build upon the next, and I keep this stuff light, you can tell by my graphics.

If you have any questions or something to be researched email me at info@tejwest.com.