I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels like the world is imploding at so many levels that it is sometimes hard to get through a day.
How are we supposed to handle the bombardment?
• I think of the impact of four hurricanes hitting our coasts and Puerto Rico and the amount of destruction we have seen.
• I look at the complexity and dissonance of our entire political scene.
• Then the Las Vegas shootings, which killed 58 people and wounded many more, was just alarming.
• Every time we go to a major event or use an airport, it becomes glaringly apparent we live under a constant threat of terrorism.
• On top of that we have the normal stresses of life that can seem overwhelming: with jobs, family, health, finances and general busyness.
It just seems like too much to bear.
There is a neurological phenomenon called “allostatic load” which is the wear and tear on the body due to chronic toxic stress.
When there is constant neuroendocrine response to chronic stress, this condition erodes our health and mental resilience.
Our brains are designed as a predictive regulation organ to handle our internal sensations. Part of that is the ability is to anticipate and mitigate uncertainty.
When we are not able to anticipate and mitigate uncertainty, our brain becomes dysregulated. If that dysregulation continues, our stress responses become activated and a number of physical, psychological and emotional consequences occur which can be destructive to our bodies
Allostatic load can even effect our brain architecture and create systemic pathophysiology.
I could go on about the impact of toxic, chronic stress which is filling our world with little relief in sight.
We cannot go on and on absorbing this kind of stress without it having significant impact to the quality of our lives.
Because we are so media-exposed and have such stressed personal lives, there is a real possibility we are creating a very unhealthy lifestyle that can be difficult to manage.
We need to be aware of the impact of toxic stress on our bodies.
Most of us can detect when we are over the edge and cannot cope. Therefore, in those lucid moments, we must come to an understanding of that impact and engage coping measures to help us regulate.
Certainly, turning off the world can be of great help. For instance, putting our cell phones away, turning off the news, and immersing ourselves in a personal quiet space can be very helpful.
However, being dysregulated means we are presently using a lower part of the brain where our fight/flight or freeze responses lie.
In order to mitigate those responses, it is important we engage in (what are called) somatosensory interventions. In layman’s terms, that means we find ways that regulate us that are sensory (corporeal).
These interventions calm our brain, allow us to activate its cognitive centers, thus relieving us of the chronic stress.
Activities that help chronic stress:
• nature walks
Tactile and inspirational activities
• martial arts
• petting a dog
• muscle relaxation
• prayer and meditation
These and other types of relaxation are all helpful ways to deal with our stress.
Putting in breaks for regulation regularly each day can also help us find relief and release from the stressors of life.
As always, healthy relationships, connection and fun with others are also incredibly helpful for brain regulation.
Most of us are just not aware of how allostatic load is having an effect on us.
Some of us are even taking medications for that regulation.
We are not consistently intentional about putting space in our lives for regulation and reprieve from that chronic stress.
If you feel like your life is presently all too much, put in some spaces for the things that regulate you and take those breaks during each day even if it is for just a few minutes.
The impact of chronic stress is real and without some intentional effort, it can have devastating effects to our lives.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside