Riding the hamster wheel!
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
It's Friday morning, I am struggling to get out of bed. My bed is toasty warm and the room is cold. My week was long, filled with late appointments followed by early am sessions. I am wiped out! I have not had time to follow up on my mountain of laundry, making it difficult to find clothes. A quick glance at my phone and it reads 7:10am. The 7:10 alarm is my "oh sh*t" alarm. It was preceded by my 4:30 "cardio and conquer the world" alarm, my "it's been a long week" 5:30 alarm and my 6:30 "get in the shower" alarm.
I need to be showered, dressed and out the door on this freezing fall morning in 40 minutes. The blast of punk rock emanating from the bathroom means that my teenager has zombie walked to the shower. I'm trying to be patient; he is still in the shower and I have an early schedule too. Finally 7:20 am I am able to shower. The only option for breakfast is a cup of coffee and a fast grab RX bar. I am in a rush to finish my morning routine. Finally after scurrying about I take another quick glance at my phone 7:50.
Me: "Hey we got to run!"
Me: "Hey have you seen my shoes?"
Son: "Mom, where is my jacket?"
Son: "Don't forget I need money for school."
Me: "Here is the money and your jacket now let's go. It's 7:55."
Me: "Where are the keys I can not find the keys?"
As I rush out the door, with keys and purse in hand, and the kid all taken care of. We arrive just before the bell rings. Days similar to this are not routine, but when they happen they pack a big stressful punch.
Stress and stressors will always be around. No one person is free from stress. They say you choose to allow people to offend you. For many years I thought that was a ridiculous statement. However, it is true. We can hear hurtful criticisms and let them fly by like dust in the wind or we can snatch them up and hard wire that negativity so it becomes part of our personality. I believe words that are not loving, words meant to harm or keep us in our "place" need to be let go. The choice to allow others to define us is always ours. Changing my reaction to hurtful words and other stressors, became a higher priority after diving into the science of stress and neural linguistics (how words impact our brain). As you begin your own journey, be kind to yourself this is a journey and major stressors may throw you back into old hardwired habits. When recognize the old habits ruling your day, stop and redirect your mind.
In the feeling like a sponge post, I talked about adaptive stress versus a maladaptive stress response. Since stressors will always be a part of our life having an adaptive stress response is worth the effort. An adaptive response means we can navigate our way through the stress within 5-20 minutes. Joe Dispenza says, "if you are feeling a negative emotion for more than 5 minutes then you are faking it." I have heard other mindful thought leaders use 20 minutes for the negative emotion time frame. In my opinion working to shorten the time you are focused on the negative is the best solution.
While we are talking about the brain and focus, it is important for you to understand a bit about neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity: Noun, the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning, or experience, or to injury.
Neuroplasticity will always be a part of our human experience. Just like taking a breath or the beating of our heart it is a gift that we should not take for granted. My world is composed of "neuro-nerds" and holistic functional health workers across the globe and we all share a common belief, "neurons that fire together wire together". What does this mean? When we have a thought, we light up our neural circuit and the brain has to interpret that thought. The amount of times we light up a particular network the "bridge" between the networks grows stronger. The stronger the bridge the faster the info/action is accessed and put to use. The frequency is how the info or action becomes hardwired. What we don't use gets pruned away. This is vital to understand especially when the goal is to rewrite a habit/thought. Our dutiful brain wants to make our thoughts become a reality. This is where the power of words come into play.
Let's take the example of losing our keys. Surely most of us have done that before, maybe even often. If not, just know this scenario can apply to variety of common stressors. While on autopilot you set your keys down somewhere that is not the typical key location. The next time you need your keys you feel the stress and anxiety of losing them yet again. At this moment you may jump on the hamster wheel of negative "I am......" statements. Reinforcing the belief that you can not be organized and that you are too scattered. Jumping on the hamster wheel has prompted your brain to initiate the good ol' fight or flight response. You stay in this panic mode for hours, days or even weeks (maladaptive stress response) until you find your keys.
Losing your keys in the future is now hardwired to the negative hamster wheel, because of the frequency and similarity in your response. The lovely hamster wheel of negativity now brings about a changes to your physiology, through the initiation of the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system. The following is a list of changes our body endures when we enter fight or flight?
Cortisol is released
Adrenaline is released
Heart rate increases
Immune system- initially it is suppressed to provide an energy burst for all the bodily changes
Tunnel vision- Laser focus is initiated and for some multitasking and communication skills are lowered, for some it may not even be an option
Digestion- inhibition of the stomach and upper-intestinal action slowing or stopping digestion
Blood flow travels out to the extremities, placing flow to the organs on halt
Vascular changes- some vessels constrict while others dilate for muscle activation
Creativity is shut down
Learning is not an option, that takes energy
Our brain goes into autopilot, using behaviors attitudes and movements that you have hardwired from past experiences
Cellular growth is shut down, because your body needs all of your energy reserves to take flight from the neighborhood saber tooth tiger.
Digestion the breakdown and feeding of cells is halted, again it is an energy supply and demand issue
Increased muscle and fascial tension in order to provide extra speed and strength
Increased inflammatory response, think about it our lymph system carries our immune cells, if we are cut open we need our defense system ready to protect
When we hard wire our stress response, these physiological responses can be initiated by something as simple as a glass not being put in the dishwasher "correctly". That may seem difficult to understand but tune in and listen to your body. The physiological changes are accompanied by an energetic shift; increased heart rate, rapid breathing, a "welling up" of emotions/anxiety. If you have experienced this before, then slow down and begin to rewire your stress response.
When a person finds themselves getting stressed over the small things, like the glass placement, they are now in chronic stress mode. Chronic stress allows some of the above physiological changes to be triggered with the slightest bit of stress, sometimes without a warning. The stressor can even come from an inner cellular or gut issue. Depending on far we have sunk into the "stress quick sand" the stressor does not have to come from an outside source. Let me explain the "stress quick sand" thought; when an issue is hard wired you no longer have to think about it. Take walking for example, when was the last time you had to think about putting one foot in front of the other? When was the last time you had to remind yourself what letter came after x in the alphabet? These are both great examples of many hardwired neural networks.
Chronic stress has the ability to influence our genes and open the door for autoimmune issues to become a part of our life. Chronic stress effects our immune system, our sleep patterns, even the quality of our cellular health. Stress has a direct connection to a burdened liver, kidney and poor gut health. Remember, what we put in our mouth, whether it is food drink or medicine it passes through our liver, kidney and gut for breakdown in order to supply our cells with nutrients. Everything we put in is a source of information for our body to utilize, which means quality of food and drink does matters.
Chronic stress goes on for years or even decades changes our gut health. Over time the maladaptive stress response inhibits our cellular quality, meaning the cells produce a low quality product. which interrupts our ability to break down and absorb nutrients. SIBO, IBS, and food sensitivities are all examples of some of the ways poor gut health may be displayed due to chronic stress. Gut health can be improved, as the cell lining o your gut is replaced every 5-7 days.
In August, I took a Functional Health and Movement class. I was initially interested in it because of the information about inflammation. However, the class was mind blowing and packed with tons of gut health info and manual body work to support the gut and influence the lymphatic response. Since this class I have a whole new take on how vital manual bodywork, movement work and stress management are for our self care. We get one body and trillions of cells that are constantly growing, reacting to and producing more cells based upon our brains environmental influences. If this is the first time you have ever heard of this information and you have questions reach out or better yet schedule an appointment and learn more about just how magnificent your body is created.
As Dr Stewart Gillespie says, "Autoimmune is not a disease, it is a stuck system. You un-stick the system you change the expression." Stress may be the reason why our system gets stuck. Join me in the adventure of learning to love movement and your body again.