MANAGING STRESS IN OUR LIVES

Saturday
May062017

COOPERATION VS COMPETITION

Which one did you vote for [cooperation or competition]? Or is that silly as we need both to live healthy and happy lives? Is some competition ok and other kinds not ok? Is cooperation always better?  Which one brings people together?  Which one recognizes individual effort?  Which one gives you winners [and losers]?  Which one is the foundation for one's life? 

Well, tally up the answers and see who won!  Can cooperation win? Is it hard to separate competition from our every day lives? Is the significance of sports linked to competition and winning and losing?  Or is it linked to being part of a team and sharing experiences with others? I have often seen players [competitors?] at the conclusion of games [competitions?] greet each other warmly and with what seems like caring for each other or do you think this display is not real? I have also at times seen the coaches not show any caring and occasionally see a coach not shake hands and walk away instead.  

Well, who cares whether the players or coaches care about the other team?  I care and I suspect that you do as well.  If they do care about each other then maybe competition is not the main thing but a way of valuing how well a group of people work together [cooperate?] and testing this against another group of people working together.  So, competition helps people learn the importance of working together and the value of sharing life with others? This may seem like a bit of a stretch but if indeed we are meant to be pack animals that do not exclude other packs then this could be good preparation for life.  What do you think?

 

Friday
Mar032017

WHEN ARE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS SIGNS OF ANXIETY?

It is clear that stress can lead to many types of physical symptoms. It seems that some of the physical symptoms we have are related to past physical symptoms we had that did not appear to be caused by stress. I wonder if the brain thinks that a new situation that we react to in a similar way as our reaction to the original physical symptom, requires the same type of symptom to help us to cope. This may be what happens when people have "pseudoseizures" as these look like actual seizures but there is no evidence of electrical disturbances in the brain that characterize actual seizures.  On the other hand, there is a strong correlation between pseudoseizures and actual seizures as if the actual seizures may have been the model for the pseudoseizures. Then there are physical symptoms that seem related to the impact of chronic stress.  Dr. Sapolsky at Stanford University, in a lecture series from "The Great Courses" entitled "Stress and Your Body," reports that chronic stress can lead to chest pain [heart muscle lack of oxygen], headaches from high blood pressure, obesity, abdominal pain or bloating, acid reflux, difficulty getting pregnant, increased miscarriages, low libido, etc. Some of these symptoms may be caused by actual neuronal cell death that is caused by the repeated stress reactions.

Importantly, even intermittant but repeated experiences of stress can lead to the same type of symptoms. This intermittant stress may represent what happens with PTSD, when past stresses are repeatedly recalled. It takes our brains longer and longer to recover from our brain's response to stress, thus becoming like a constant stress reaction. Apparently our lives are not supposed to be made up of frequent stresses, as our brains have trouble managing these. 

There are a number of physical symptoms related to stress that are familiar to us from our own experiences.  These include: gatrointestinal [GI] symptoms such as pain, cramping and diarrhea; neck pain and pain in the occipital [back of the head] area of the head; and pain in muscles as stress can cause us to tense muscles for extended periods. Stress can also lead to changes in women's menstrual cycles including stopping them. 

I wonder if these physical symptoms are ways that our brain's are helping us cope with the stress even if these symptoms are uncomfortable. What do you think?


Friday
Mar032017

REVISITING HOW TO CHANGE OUR AUTOMATIC BEHAVIOR AND THINKING PATTERNS

Over and over I witness people who come to me for help, struggling with stress that they can't stop or even limit.  They feel controlled by the stress that is usually in the form of worries and fears that they think about over and over.  They have frequently been diagnosed as having an obsessive compulsive disorder [OCD]. In reviewing their symptoms, it appears that they have some OCD type symptoms, but they are mostly focused on repetitive worries and some compulsive behaviors. However, these symptoms do not interfere significantly with their lives. For example, they are not stuck doing things over and over for hours.  So, it seems that their OCD symptoms are coping mechanisms helping them deal with the anxiety that they experience related to past traumatic events. If they can learn to not worry about past events then their OCD symptoms will stop.

Well, what about changing patterns of worry that can control our lives? I mention the worries and OCD type symptoms to emphasize that just as the symptoms are temporary [meant to temporarily help us manage anxiety related to past events] the worries are also temporary as a way of coping with past traumatic events. What is significant is that even though in the past we might have had to cope by worrying, as this helped us to feel more in control as by taking on responsibility when those who were supposed to be responsible weren't and we felt that we were preventing something worse from happening, we do not need to do that now. So how do we convince ourselves and our brains that we do not need to worry anymore.  

We humans modify patterns of behavior and memory patterns frequently without much apparent effort. We calmly tell our brains to change the pattern and why it is ok to do so. When we have experienced stressful events we are reluctant to recall these events as we fear a return of anxiety as if we were still at risk for something bad happening. This is one reason that the patterns remain even though we want relief from the anxiety. We also tend to react to new stresses as if they are the same kind of threat as in the past.  This tells our brain to keep worrying and being stressed and anxious. We seem to have difficulty recognizing that we now have better coping skills and self-awareness, and are not dependent on others as we were in the past. Therefore, new stresses are not threats to us as they were in the past and we can manage them, so we need to calmly tell ourselves that.  


Monday
Feb272017

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS?

I thought about this old saying recently in light of recent events that have caused a lot of people to feel anxious when watching or listening to the news.  I try to help people who come to me to let go of their worries about things that they hear on the news and often will suggest that they not watch or listen to news, especially news on TV.  I have previously blogged about this and freely confess that I am biased when it comes to this as I have not watched TV news since three-forths of the way through the Vietnam War [about 1970].  I stopped watching because I had friends who had been drafted and were fighting in the war and I did not want to see news about their being wounded or killed.  I had a deferment because of medical school and yet I felt guilty that my friends had to fight in the war or leave the country [I had a friend make this choice].

After the war, I decided to continue not watching the TV news as it was frequently focused on violence and negative things that were stressful to watch and listen to and I did not think I gained anything from watching and listening to it.  It did not seem to directly motivate me to do something about what I was witnessing on the news and would instead lead me to feel stressed and then be less able to do something to counteract what appeared to be happening.  It was not as if the negative news was balanced with positive news.  Even if it were, I believe that the negative news would have more influence over me than the positive. I have joked with people that I don't know what country I live in or which state, etc. Of course that is not true. I get my news from radio [unless it is a negative focus or is describing violence] and print sources that includes reading news on the internet.  However, I avoid looking at photos depicting violence, etc.

Avoiding TV news and references to violence would be difficult for a lot of people. Since watching the TV news makes a lot of people anxious and feel stressed and pessimistic about the future, why do they watch it?  I had several people who watched the air planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City thousands of times. They couldn 't stop themselves.  It seemed to represent a hope that the next time they watched it they would find out it wasn't real after all.  Maybe the same desire keeps many people watching TV news in hopes that it will also turn out to not be real. Well, that puts control over stress in our lives directly in the hands of those who control the news that is shown.  

I encourage people to take back control of their lives and the stressful events that they expose themselves to. To me this means no TV news and no violent shows and no overwhelmingly painful commercials about dogs and cats being mistreated or children suffering from cancer.  It is vey hard to erase those sad faces from our brains and yet having them there does not help those animals or those children.  It can keep us from being more active helping those in need as we are preoccupied coping with the stress of remembering these events and the hopelessness that often comes with it.

So, no news is good news!

Saturday
Feb252017

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK [PRAY] FOR

Regarding our relationship to God, I have often wondered about what we ask for and why we seem to ask for what we already have, or at least are freely given.  I first thought about this when I became aware of how often Christian religions encourage their congregations to say prayers that ask for things that are already freely given.  So, why is this?  Is it a way of reminding people of what is being offered to them already?  Is it a way to strengthen someone's knowledge of doctrine so they will be more obedient? Or, is it a way of avoiding facing the responsibility that each person has [according to my understanding of the belief systems that represent Christianity today] to choose to accept what is offered freely to them. It appears that each person's choosing is critical to their opening thenselves up to receive what is freely offered.

In my work with people who come to me for help, they frequently avoid making choices that would help themselves and instead they take on responsibility for others. This taking on responsibility for others seems motivated by fears that things will get worse if they don't do this.  Their lives are then occupied with worries about what others will do that could end up making things worse.  This worry will then close them off from being able to choose to accept something for themselves, especially something that is freely given. If we live our lives feeling at the mercy of what others do, then we will not trust that anything can be freely given and we will believe that we are at the mercy of others [God?], and have to hope that what we need will be given to us, undeserving as we feel we are. Of course, since we only give to others as they are our responsibility, we can not have any needs ourselves.  So, forget having your needs recognized and responded to.

You might be able to tell now why I am concerned about how we pray as it seems that often we pray not that we will make the right choice and choose to accept and embrace what is offered to us, but instead pray to be given what we already have as if our choosing will do nothing.

It did occur to me that it might be hard to come up with ways to pray that focuses on our choosing and accepting what is freely given to us.  Of course, one prayer could be simply "please help me to choose what is offered to me." Another could be "open my heart to choose and accept what is offered to me and share this with others."  Another could be "help me to set aside my worries and fears that I might choose to accept what you offer to me and become stronger in my faith and hope and love."

In my work with people who come to me for help, I encourage them to choose to accept themselves and their strengths and then share these with others. You could say that their abilities are freely given to them and that choosing to see those abilties and then use them is similar to the prayers I have written above.  To be able to care about and love others, it seems that you have to be accepting and loving towards yourself first.

Therefore, how someone prays can make a big difference in how they feel about themselves and their fellow homo sapien sapiens, [and really all living things]. What do you think?

 

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 31 Next 5 Entries »