By Sue Peck PhD, GNP-BC, APNP
Research shows that 75 to 90 percent of the visits clients make to their doctors are stress related. Stress comes in both good and bad forms. An upcoming prom or graduation for a teen: something they’ve dreamed of for weeks! The wedding of a close family member to someone we believe is their perfect match. The death of someone dear to us. A long-term illness of ourselves or a family member. A poor work situation. And then there’s the day where the alarm didn’t go off, you got a speeding ticket or a flat tire on the way to work, steppe in an ankle-deep puddle running into the work site, and the person next to you was. These are examples of stress we’ve all experienced. When stress keeps building and we are unable to get away from it, our body works harder to maintain an even keel.
During stress, the adrenal gland, which sits just above the kidneys at the bottom of the ribs on our body, kicks out adrenaline. That adrenaline is a prod that keeps poking the organs and reminding them that they aren’t doing enough! We can tolerate short-term bursts of the prodding, but if it goes on for a long time, our body runs out of steam. If we drive a team of horses and keep whipping them to go faster, they will, until they become too tired. The horses will slow and may even become injured if we keep urging them to perform. Our body works the same way when we’re under constant stress. No matter how much we sleep or slow down, it’s not enough. When our body becomes worn out, we get sick; we get colds, flu, or other illnesses; we have flare ups; and cancer cells mit grow.
The opposite of the stress response is the resting and repair (R&R) state. Our body does its healing work, nutrition goes out to the cells and tissues of the body, and repairs are made. The R&R happens mostly during sleep. But when we are very stressed, sleep is affected, too! We wake up at 2:00 a.m. worrying about what we have forgotten, have to do, how we will do it, and where to go next…and then it’s 6:00 a.m., and we have to get up, and we feel exhausted. Then we have to move into another day of stress when we have not even recovered from yesterday!
So what do we do about it? It’s not our fault the electricity went off last night! It’s not our fault our co-worker has some issues! And even for that prom or wedding, we need to fitthe planning in alongside of how the rest of life just goes on! First step: BREATHE. That’s right. BREATHE. Take a huge deep breath and let it out. As you see the breath come into your lungs, it brings clean, healthy air. And as you let it out, it releases the tension. More cleansing occurs with the next breath in, the problem releasing more as you exhale.
Breath work is a first step to stress relief. Its one of the treatments we can use to help control the stress in our lives. When we become focused on moving the breath within us, relaxation can occur. Relaxation helps initiate R&R and can help our sleep.We can build on that breath work by changing the images in our mind’s eye. A treatment clients find great success with is guided imagery.
We work together at visits to develop images of the way we wish things were and of how we act and react. We’ll explore images using our six senses: What do you see in the situation? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you feel: both physically with your body and in your gut or your heart?
There are many examples of situations where clients use guided imagery successfully. One is in preparation for labor and delivery; the mom is very relaxed and the labor and delivery goes very smoothly. In some cases, the nurses or midwife are waking the mom up with each contraction to push as she is so relaxed. Flying in an airplane, going to the dentist, or getting a shot can be smoothed with guided imagery. A child that has bedwetting can learn guided imagery using a faucet. When I worked at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, we used guided imagery to relieve pain in patients who had extensive burns; the patients didn’t need ANY narcotic medications with their dressing changes. A young man with massive injuries after a motorcycle accident needed NO pain medication during dressing changes while he drove his race car around the track in his mind’s eye from his hospital bed.
Make an appointment with me, and we’ll work on guiding the images you need to relieve stress and create healing for you. Call 715-832-1953.