“Discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.”
― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
It would seem this summer has been more stressful than usual in our world. There are wars and terror attacks, more conflicts around the world, at least one crazy, dangerous dictator, and the devastation of hurricanes, typhoons, fires and other natural disasters.
Poisonous snakes lurk in the waters of the streets and houses in Houston following Hurricane Harvey. There may be exposed-but-unseen needles and infectious water-borne bacteria. What about the chemical plants with their toxic fumes and liquids now unleashed by the flood? Who is going hungry or is in need of urgent medication or other medical help?
Meanwhile the smoke from massive fires in Washington State extend all the way into Colorado, causing air quality alerts and obscuring the mountains from Denver’s view. In California, mass evacuations were called last weekend due to the largest fire in L.A.’s history. Yes, we’re in stress! (And let’s be sure to watch the news to become more so!) Many times you and I don’t know what to DO about it all. We’re absorbing all this stress, but don’t see a way to discharge it—no way to truly help. However, there is a significantly higher chance that you will be harmed by something over which you DO have control.
WHERE IT ALL STARTS
It can begin with a crisis and your body responding with a temporary surge of strength. We’ve all heard those reports of a mother lifting a car off her baby. In my family my 130-lb mother, stopped the potentially life-threatening fall of my 175-lb father by grabbing him as he was sliding off a steep-mountain roof).
The physical change can be heralded by roaring headaches or nausea, or both. Worse yet, it can lead to PTSD symptoms and open the door to many chronic diseases. Just watching the news can bring on symptoms. We’re in the “soup” too much. (Did you read last month’s article on a great way to handle the stresses of modern life, “Unplug from it All“?
ARE YOU SITTING IN THE CROSS-HAIRS?
As I write this article, many of us are sitting in the cross-hairs of Hurricane Irma, following in the wake of all the horrendous happenings of Harvey in Houston last week. Do you feel like a sitting duck? Are you worried about being properly “prepared”? Do you envision the worst? Did your Peace of Mind leave town? It’s time to address this State of Mind NOW, along with making all your preparations. Your health and safety may depend on it.
Our second highest number of acupuncture patients has always been people seeking balance and peace from life’s stresses and anxieties. Acupuncture is very effective, and first-timers are usually quite surprised at their new sense of calm.
STRESS: AFFECTS ON THE BODY
Stress slows down key bodily functions. You don’t need energy going to the digestive and immune systems if you are running from the tiger. All resources need to be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscles.
The body changes in the following ways during stress:
- Blood pressure and pulse rate rise
- Breathing is quickened
- The digestive system slows down
- Immune activity decreases
- The muscles become tense
- A heightened state of alertness often prevents sleep
THE HIDDEN DANGER
While these are all body responses designed to help us fight or escape from danger, we can’t lose sight of the real danger of being in continual stress for a long time. These dangers include cancer, PTSD and mental illness, chronic headaches, digestive illnesses, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic diseases. Be aware there’s no fooling around with these stress chemicals. When “the tiger” is always there, stress hormones continually bathe your nervous system and deprive your organs, cells and immune system. Your health is at risk.
PUT ON YOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL ARMOR
Anytime we become aware of stress building up, we can put on our Psychological Armor in order to become the decision makers of our own Reactions and Actions. But how? One excellent way is a 3-step process I learned recently from Rev. Cynthia James:
1) Review and Assess the Current Reality,
2) Open to Possibilities, and
3) Reinvent Your Reality.
STEP 1: REVIEW AND ASSESS YOUR CURRENT REALITY
How we react to a difficult situation will affect our actions and health. A person who feels they do not have the resources to cope will be more likely to have a stronger reaction, and their reaction can trigger health problems. Stressors affect individuals in different ways because we all have different “maps” of how to deal with specific circumstances.
But step back for just a moment (if the tiger isn’t pouncing right this minute). Review your circumstances. Assess your Current Reality. Are you or your loved ones injured or your home damaged, or is it still only the possibility of injury or loss? Whatever the circumstance, bring yourself to the PRESENT MOMENT. It’s truly the only moment you can decide to change.
STEP 2: OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES
When we are in a state of mental awareness and creativity, we have some sense of control. Right away, doing this can stop or ease the bodily stress changes and bring you back to a state where you can think rationally…and creatively. You’ll more likely see possibilities to aid yourself and others.
Plan on Being a Tool for Good
For example, what can you do as a community of neighbors? Plenty. Let’s say that the disaster brings down the electric power grid. In Florida with high heat and humidity, one person on the block with a generator (and willingness to share) can keep their house cooled and share it with another neighbor who is elderly or immune compromised. And, of course, the generator owner is the person who should pack as much food from their neighbors as possible into their refrigerator and freezer to keep the community food supply safe.
What Else Can You Share??
What SKILLS do you have? If you are a Handy Person and can help construct/reconstruct, do that. If you are a community builder, do that. If you are a Hugger, do that. If you are a Healer, use those skills to help others. Plan on being a Tool for Good.
We know that people have accidents. It can happen quickly by turning and lifting the wrong way, and a person is “down for the count”. This sort of injury—and many more—are bound to happen during a natural disaster. Acupuncture can help, so we’ll do our best to have needles handy. The Providers at our clinic can also provide acupressure, powerful stretching techniques, and various types of massage, including TuiNa (Chinese Medical Massage). Energy Medicine can calm pain and anxiety as well, and we have several modalities, including Reiki and Polarity Therapy. Read last month’s article “Unplug from it All” for a description of one such tool you may not know about.
STEP 3: REINVENT YOUR REALITY/CIRCUMSTANCES
After Reviewing and Assessing your Current Circumstances, then Opening to Possibilities, this third step delves into your belief system and power of intention. Call it positive visioning or prayer work from any faith tradition. It is a State of Positivity, and it’s time to move into the feeling of the possibilities you desire.
To be clear, you must do more than Think Positive. If you wish to experience rain, you must FEEL the rain on your face. If, as you reinvent your circumstances, you wish to feel dry land, FEEL the grass or the sand under your feet. This creates a flow of healthy hormones to counteract the stressful ones. It leaves you in a healthier and mentally-clearer state. And then, gratefully look for evidence of the positive circumstances.
Oh, and while you are creating the feeling of the circumstances you desire, be sure to stay attuned to your plan of action and what’s happening in the moment so you can take appropriate action. An old phrase I’ve heard many times is so true: “Treat and Move Your Feet”. Do your part to stay safe and help others do the same.
BUST THE HIDDEN DANGER TO YOUR HEALTH
The most costly Hidden Danger in Natural Disasters is Stress and all the long-term health damage it creates when it continues on and on. When the immediate danger has passed, please come see us (or another acupuncturist or skilled energy-healing practitioner in your area) to help re-balance your nervous system to a smooth flow once again.
In Safety & Health,
Dr. David and Deb Martin
And all the Providers at Lotus Blossom Clinic
Serving the Greater Fort Myers area with Chinese Medicine, Food Healing Science, Energy Healing, Natural Esthetics/Facials, Emotional Breakthrough Coaching and more.
“Stress: Why does it happen and how can we manage it?” MedicalNewsToday, July 28, 2017.
Reverend Cynthia James, “Grace Under Fire”, Mile Hi Church.