The Stress Response?


Stress?  Researchers define stress as, “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand”

Day 1 of my MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and it was definitely interesting.  Today was a highly administrative day, meaning we had some paperwork to do.   We had some questionnaires to fill out and they will be used as a tool to help the therapist evaluate our stress or anxiety levels.  Plus we were told that every week we have to hand in a sheet recording our meditations done and describe how they made us feel.  I feel they will irritate me…but apparently the whole idea of MBSR is to make observations and just let it go… I guess I have to stop overthinking it……   All this documentation is a way for the therapist to gather information on each of us and know how to steer the group.   I have to say I am very intrigued by the process.

We were also asked to reflect and write out what we expect to get out of the course and/or explain why we signed up for this course.  For me, I signed up because I generally love learning new things and wanted to see what meditation is all about plus it had me at the title.    Stress Reduction?!  Everyone is stressed these days aren’t they?  So stands to reason why wouldn’t I want to learn how to reduce stress?  We were asked to write down our goals as well. I thought about it and wrote that I wanted to learn to control my anxiety, control my hot Sicilian anger and basically get and feel happier.  I am tired of the constant brain chatter and worry…I know it’s useless to worry but I don’t care if someone says don’t worry, it isn’t very easy to shut off.   So if this MBSR helps even a smidge it will be worth it.

I told Dr. Triple A that I feel like I step out of myself in a crisis.  Basically I feel I am an observer and just automatically handle the situation.  I shut out the emotions and go robotic and do what has to get done.  I have been told by several people that I handle a crisis well.   Maybe?!  She explained she is much the same way and questioned whether I feel depleted after such an event.  I nodded.   She basically explained meditation will help so that I don’t feel so depleted afterwards.

Then, I said, however on the other hand, I can fly off the handle over spilled milk…or a non significant incident.   I find I am off balance…call me crazy?! LOLOL.   I personally don’t get why I fly off the handle at the smallest of things…  I logically even think as I am flying off the handle why the hell am I so bothered about something so insignificant?!  My tolerance feels a little lower since the cancer diagnosis….   Apparently meditation will help us to get some of the balance back.

She also provided some hand-outs that basically help put things into perspective about this imbalance.  Some of what it read described our body’s response to stress which is the fight or flight response.  This is a set of physical changes in the body that take place when we sense real or imagined danger.  Your body redirects resources by shutting down digestion and redirecting blood flow to your major muscle groups so that you can fight or flee a threat.  Explains my digestive issues!!  Some of the changes you might notice are rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth and shakiness etc.  This response historically helped us survive physical dangers, but can also occur because of negative thoughts and emotions.    For individuals who have experienced traumatic events, the brain can find it difficult to separate dangerous or threatening situations from non-threatening situations.   This bolded line sang out to me…  This result is a chronic stress response.  As you might imagine, being in a chronic stress response can be harmful to your physical and emotional health.   Yup have to say I think I have felt under stress for years and it explains things… My husband’s near death experiences…I swear I am suffering from PTSD.  Work was a constant stress as well…lots of pressure.

It also said when we are stressed, the brain can set off a bunch of changes throughout the body.  Hormones take charge and begin to signal changes in cells that in turn set off an inflammatory response.   It went on to say chronic exposure to stress, mood stabilizing neurotransmitters can become so degraded that the self regulatory response is chronically over activated.

There was a bunch of scientific stuff about changes in the brain and redirection of neurons from the self regulating center to lower regions of  the limbic system (part of the brain that controls our emotions).  The article talked about top-down to bottom up control.  Top down ( non stressed) response or the prefrontal cortex is activated first.  If we perceive a threat, there is a bottom-up reaction and the amygdala is activated first, setting off a cascade of stress-related changes throughout the body.   I just love science, I do have a major in biology so I find this information fascinating.

Anyway I hope your mind didn’t glaze over reading this.  Basically there is good and bad stress.  Good stress?!    Well things like getting married or retiring or having a baby can be stressful but are positive events.   Meanwhile losing a job, death of a loved one or dealing with an ill relative or friend are stressful negative events.     Stress can be a problem when the demands of stress outweigh our ability to cope.   Too much just isn’t good for you.  Basically stress cause wear and tear on the body and leads to physical and emotional illness.     Can’t wait for week 2.

I was contacted for my other course called Picking up the Pieces -Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer.  That starts in October and I already have homework.  I have to read the first 5 chapters of this book I picked up yesterday.   I am already on chapter 2.  It is an interesting read.

So, I am keeping fairly busy between these 2 courses and I also re-started my membership at a studio called “The MOVE”.     They have a number of different fitness classes, like zumba, kelani, pilates and Red Warrior…  I had put my membership on hold over the last nine months during my Cancer treatment.  It is so good to be back.  I love this club and it’s members and instructors.   Wonderful place that is just a “feel good” place.  I highly recommend it…..

My focus is all about healing and feeling better…mind, body and soul.  I am determined to live out my remaining days, whatever it ends up being, doing stuff I love to do.

I was also connected with a coach for the BWEL (Breast Cancer Weight Loss) study and will have a session in a couple of weeks to start that journey.

Anyway for me, “busy” is good.   I just have to make sure it isn’t too stressful juggling all this stuff at once.  So far so good.

I know some of you are under a lot of stress as I type this!!!  Sometimes while in the middle of a crisis all you can do is just do what you need to do to get through it.  I am cheering you on!!

I copied out something I found on the world wide web that are some healthy ways to deal with stress

  1. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Seriously it can be hard eating healthy on a good day but make sure to stay hydrated and nourished for energy!!
  2. Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
    • Sharing how you feel with someone trusted is often a good thing…it’s good to hear another perspective or just get a hug 
  3. Avoid drugs and alcohol.
    • Yes but sometimes a glass of wine might help but don’t get carried away because it may reduce your coping abilities
  4. Take a break.
    • Agree with this, if you can take a break please do it and try to look after yourself…maybe treat yourself to a manicure or massage

If there is anything I have learned it is “Just breathe!”   Take a deep breath and exhale!

And this too shall pass and you will be stronger because of it!!


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