How To Make Stress Become a Friend

Worth Reading From Off the Web — Excerpts from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

A major study concluded that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to be negatively affected, and, in fact, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health

So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.

How to make stress your friend

Symptoms of stress — pounding heart, sweaty palms, hyperventilating, etc., — what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That is what one group of participants were told in a study conducted at Harvard University. Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful: That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.

Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters.

So the next time your heart is pounding from stress, think to yourself, “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

Now I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social.

To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. But here’s what most people don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes your heart pound. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

Because of this hormone’s social component, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.

For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties or family crisis, that increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. But that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero.

And the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Read more at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Freedom is One Question Away…

If it’s true that the brain creates 3 thousand thoughts per minute, doesn’t it make sense that many of them aren’t even true?

Write one down. Take a break. Come back to it later and ask yourself, “Is it true?” Wait for the answer.

You may break out into a Big Smile… you might even laugh.

Experience the instant freedom!

Here are some examples:

* She’s hates me, so I must be a bad person.*

She hates me.

Is it true?

No. She seems upset, but it’s unlikely that she hates me.

I’m a bad person.

Is it true?

No. I have a lot of great qualities. I’m not perfect though. I’m ok with that, so, no. I am not a bad person”.

* I can’t get through this — this is killing me *

This is killing me.

Is it true?

It’s not true – this is uncomfortable but I won’t die.

3 Solutions to Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are NOT uncommon.

Some people experience them once or twice in a lifetime while others have them whenever they’re speaking in public or are preparing for an important phone call. In severe cases, sufferers may feel like they’re going to die.

Anxiety is defined as “fear of the unknown”, and historically, it aides in survival. It’s close relative,  fear,  prepared us to choose fight-or-flight in dangerous situations by heightening our senses and dumping the fine-tuning chemicals into our blood stream, like adrenaline and epinephrine.

Yet today, while still protecting us from genuine danger,  fear and panic somehow morphed into a bunch of barely relatable and dysfunctional afflictions:  panic disorder,  obsessive-compulsive disorder,  phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

As your rate of breathing accelerates, you begin to chest-breathe instead of belly breathing (breathing deeply). This causes hyperventilation, where you are blowing off too much carbon dioxide (CO2) . This leads to a rise in blood pH, which in lay-terms, means symptoms like dizziness, weakness, fainting, headache, and tingling in the hands and feet.

SOLUTIONS

1. Focus on deep breathing.

Hyperventilation brings on many sensations, like lightheadedness and tightness of the chest. By learning to tune into your breathing, and then consciously controlling it, you develop a coping skill that you can use to calm yourself down when you begin to feel anxious. If you know how to control your breathing, you are also less likely to create the very sensations that you are afraid of.

2. CO2 Normalizes blood pH.

If you are already experiencing a full-blown panic-attack, breathe into a paper bag.  It will reduce many of the extraneous symptoms of panic and help normalize your breathing by re-balancing your bloods pH.

3. Practice relaxation techniques.

The opposite of a panic-response is a relaxation-response. If you are prone to anxiety attacks,  learn and practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly activities such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation, you are strengthening the body’s relaxation response. It also helps you become aware of the difference between bodily sensations that are relaxed versus sensations that indicate dysfunctional tension. Make time for relaxation exercises every day!

**Note: If these techniques do not help, please see a therapist for a deeper evaluation of the causes for your panic. 

Source: The Neurobiology of Panic Attacks

Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.

 

Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (www.lifelinecounseling.org).

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert