Has Cable News become your Saber Tooth Tiger?
I often visit Hospice patients and, not so often, private clients in their homes for massage / integrative relaxation sessions. This is a typical Monday for me. I am honoured and privileged to be there. To be of service and help in the ways that I know how. It does, however, allow me a different lens to see all kinds of people, in all kinds of environments, in all stages of life, and states of mind. I am grateful for each experience as they give me so, so much to learn and consider.
A few months ago, I arrived at a private client (let's call her Sarah), Sarah's house for her first of many weekly integrative relaxation sessions. Sarah suffers from high blood pressure, and sleep disturbance among other things. She was winded as she answered the door and looked in a bit of a tizzy. Her eyes were wide, she was sweating. She quickly said hello and motioned for me to come in and follow her into the den. Sarah said " I've had this on ALL DAY but I just need to watch this part again, we can take it out of the massage time?" Her t.v. was tuned in to a press conference on a well known Cable News channel. Or what I am now referring to as her Saber Tooth Tiger.
Or one of them.
Stress. Fight or Flight Stress. Saber Tooth Tiger Stress. Unmanaged Stress...
"Stress has been always present since before the beginning of our human evolution. But it is only the last two generations, that we have begun to explore and to try to understand the necessity of stress, the positive effects of stress, and the consequence of unmanaged or negative stress. Stress is neither good nor bad. Stress just is.
It is the stress of the build up of carbon dioxide that causes us to breathe. It is the stress of low blood sugar that causes hunger and inspires us to eat. It is the stress of emotion that causes our hearts to race when we feel love or fear. Stress is necessary, and important. Without stress there would be no great performances in athletics, on stage, or in our lives. Without stress there would be no life itself." (Understanding Stress. www.state.gov)
'Thousands of generations ago we were both predator and prey. Many of our physiological responses were programmed in us to help us prepare to fight or to flee. An instantaneous dumping of complex hormones and chemicals into the blood stream by the brain and the endocrine system at the first sign of trouble allowed the heart to beat more quickly, the muscles to prepare for action, the nose to smell, the ears to hear. We could run to escape or run to catch. We could run faster. We did run faster. The rush of epinephrine or adrenaline into the brain allowed us to escape to avoid being eaten or enabled us to catch our lunch and be fed. (An alternative hypothesis is that you are not here reading this because your ancestors were eaten!) Either way, the epinephrine was used, and the body returned to a normal state of relative calm.
But today, thousands of generations from when this fight or flight type of response was necessary, when the brain experiences a stressor as simple as not completing a work assignment, or being embarrassed in front of a friend, or not doing well on a task, the same hormonal response can occur. The stressor stimulates the brain causing epinephrine to be secreted by the adrenal glands. The heart beats faster. The blood pressure rises. Our muscles tense for action and every fiber of our body is poised and ready! We can run faster. But we don't."
The fight or flight response that helped us to fight off those tigers is no longer appropriate today for us. But the response is still there because much of our physiological response to stress is genetic. Today's saber-tooth tigers are things such as writing assignments, public speaking, pressures to achieve, and things that will trigger the same response.
(Watching cable news ALL DAY, EVERY DAY?)
Today, because there is no need to exert ourselves physically, we don't. The epinephrine and other stress hormones are not used as nature intended and as they were developed. Thus, the body does not return to a normal state of calm for a long time after the incident. Because the stress is not physically relieved it lingers. This heightened, elongated stress response repeated over a period of years results in an increase in health problems.
Medical experts tell us that stress is a major contributor to all forms of disease. Without the appropriate management of negative stress we can expect to see more than 75% of all illness directly related to stress. We will continue to have heart disease as a major killer of adults and we will see an increase in suicide, gastrointestinal illness, diabetes and cancer." (Understanding Stress. www.state.gov)
Shannon's Top 10 List for Managing Your Saber Tooth Tiger -Negative Stress
1) Meditate - Practice Yoga Nidra
2) Deep Breathing
3) Movement - Yoga, walking, gentle stretching
4) Eat Well
5) Eliminate Triggers - limit negative tv, social media, remove unhealthy relationships
6) Loving Kindness - Be as kind to yourself as you are to others
7) Relax your muscles with self care, massage or other bodywork
8) Accept & face your challenges
9) Talk to someone, a friend, a professional
10) Make time for family, friends, hobbies
In case you were wondering... (Sarah) has begun to make some significant changes and encouraged me to share her story. She has identified more Saber Tooth Tigers in her life and has come up with her own top 10 list of managing her negative stress. Of course it will change over time and looks a little different than mine.
What does your Top 10 List look like?
Be Well & Shine On