Posts tagged ‘stress response’

April 24, 2019

#569 – Live Better with RA – Tip #5

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Image courtesy of Samantha Mesones.

Tip #5 – Laugh and/or Smile

I was recently reminded about the healing power of laughter. I had injured myself doing some leg exercises with weights, which were too heavy. (It’s a reminder that I’m more delicate than I think I am!) One evening, I watched a number of YouTube videos featuring this great observational comic, whom I found to be laugh-out-loud funny. The next day, I felt significantly better. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Find what tickles your funny bone and indulge.

The Power Behind a Smile

So, you haven’t had a good laugh in awhile. Try on a smile for a boost of happiness. On page 37 in Connected – How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, the authors explain:

If your friend feels happy, she smiles, you smile, and in the act of smiling you also come to feel happy. In bars and bedrooms, at work and on the street, everywhere people interact, we tend to synchronize our facial expressions, vocalizations , and postures unconsciously and rapidly, and as a result we also meld our emotional states.”

Even if you don’t feel happy, there’s value in turning that frown upside down. A study in the Association for Psychological Science shows that smiling, whether it be a Duchenne smile (the muscles surrounding both the mouth and eyes are engaged), or a standard smile, can help to reduce the body’s stress response:

The results of the study suggest that smiling may actually influence our physical state: compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.”

It can be hard to smile and laugh when you are enveloped in a red-hot flare, when sleep is elusive and the worries accumulate faster than ants on your picnic table. You want to  break the cycle, so you have to start somewhere. A smile, even faked, can be of value. Combine it with a lot of the other strategies you’ll find on this blog and that faked smile may just become real.

Do it for the health of it!

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July 24, 2012

#309 – Finding What You’re Looking For

Image courtesy of Thomas Römer.

I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told from the point of view of Enzo, the beloved dog/companion to Denny, a race car driver. (Warning! Tears may be frequent!)

In addition to taking you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, you glean some invaluable driving tips. The tip that most applies to this post is, “The car goes where the eyes go.” Similarly, I think we go where our thoughts go.

It’s important to notice what’s not working well, but it’s made a bigger difference to me to notice what IS working well. How often are you appreciative of your good days and all the small things that help to keep you mobile? (I’ve written about many of  those things over the course of this blog. When I was first diagnosed thirty-five years ago, very little was available in terms of assistive devices and assistance, for that matter.) I’ve even learned to appreciate my not-so-good days, though it has taken some practice!

You can get bogged down (depressed, anxious, upset, angry…) about your condition, which only serves to trigger the stress response. Learning to transform your stress is a key factor in self-management.

My only wish is that I had this information when I was first diagnosed. Perhaps I could have averted a lot of the joint destruction that I have. The great news is that you can take advantage of all this information and put it to work for you.

The first step is to develop an awareness of your thoughts. Then learn how to re-direct your thinking and feeling by replacing it with something more constructive, like implementing heart-based stress techniques that not only transform your stress, but also serve to enhance your performance. Repeat often.

Change your perspective and learn to find what you’re looking for – stable or improved health!

May 2, 2012

Inflammation Vacation

Over the decades, I have tried many things to help me manage my flare-ups.

One of the very best things I’ve done, and continue to do, is to transform my stress on a daily basis. As a result, I am able to take inflammation vacations. It is also the reason why I have transformed myself into Auntie Stress – I want to share what works!

I have far fewer flare-ups (say that quickly five times in a row!), and when I do, not only are they much shorter-lived, but I am better equipped to transform  the pain.

Stress, our interpretation of the situations in which we find ourselves, activates the stress response; fourteen hundred chemicals flood our system, all designed to help us get the heck out of dodge, er, I mean danger.  However, the things that many of us stress over are not truly life or death situations – the ones our forebears faced when they faced lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Well, woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers.

We have inherited an ancient operating system which has worked well over the millenia. So well, that we may be operating on a basis similar to the kid in the movie The Sixth Sense, only instead of seeing “dead people”, it’s an often unnoticed threat/perception that leads to: “I see danger, I see danger everywhere!” So, rather than being an acute, immediate response to danger, as was intended, the stress response becomes chronic; activating on a frequent and regular basis, based upon how often we are soaking in negative thoughts and emotions.

Those chemical changes contribute to the inflammatory response, especially when the “tap” is opened on a regular basis. Without techniques to transform those negative thoughts and emotions, your body is doing what it was programmed to do so very long ago, prep for fight or flight. Accordingly, it releases a cascade of chemicals designed to help you deal effectively with the situation, whether it is real or imaginary.

How to pack for your own inflammation vacation:

  • Cultivate an awareness of how you are thinking and feeling.
  • Learn what stress is and more importantly, how to transform it.
  • Practise. Practise. Practise. This is easy to do since you are thinking and feeling anyway. Why not make it count?
  • This is an enjoyable process, especially since the reward is an inflammation vacation.

When you are ready for a change, I’d love to take you through a destress program. It starts with the heart, goes to the brain and is felt and noticed within and without!

Begin with this exercise: Every Breath You Take.

Image courtesy of Yoshi Aka. Arrigato!

February 8, 2012

The Lunch Table – Choose Wisely

Choosing your lunch table is as important as choosing what you eat for lunch. You may be placing an order for something you didn’t want.

A good mood may quickly dissipate when you choose to sit at the Complainer’s Table at lunchtime – you know, the one where the boss stinks, the government sucks, gossip reigns and the world is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Constant complaining is a highly infectious virus. It can cause a drastic change in your mood, infecting you by dressing you up in stress.

As you flounder in the pool of negativity, your body responds with a cascade of fourteen-hundred chemicals – that’s the stress response that has been elicited., although technically, there is no real threat to your life. The stress response is an inherited , pre-historic function that was necessary for survival.  Woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers, oh my!

How you think and feel impacts the chemical cascade. Your beautiful body is responding accordingly.

Just as you have a choice of where to sit at lunchtime, you have a choice of how you think and feel. The great news is that you can learn and practise a new, healthier way of thinking and feeling.

Hint! It has to do with the heart.

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