What is the brain doing when it plays the same dream, again and again? The neuroscience of recurring dreams gives us some insight into how they happen.
Dreams are very weird
“THINK ABOUT IT: You’re hallucinating four to six times a night as your brain attempts to synthesize and understand your experiences and memories. Recurring dreams add another layer of mystery. Around 60 to 70% of adults report having at least one recurring dream in their lifetime.”
Brain activity during a recurring dream partly depends on the dream’s content.
Different parts of the brain may be activated by different dreams
- Dreams which are very visual activate our occipital cortex.
- Dreams which involve dancing at a disco would activate our auditory cortex.“
- Dreaming of the same thing every night means you’ll activate the same group of structures repeatedly.
Emotions play a role in recurring dreams
“One of the theories regarding the function of dreams is that dreaming permits the emotional content of experiences to be processed,” If a dream keeps coming back, its emotional content is clearly important to you. This is why one of the most important mechanisms for generating dreams is the limbic pathway, an electrical brain circuit that regulates our emotional and behavioral responses when we’re awake. “When a person experiences recurring dreams, the limbic pathway is being activated in the brain . . . And it often lights up the amygdala, an almond-shaped area that processes emotions.”
“Along with the amygdala and the limbic system in general, repeating dreams can also involve the reticular activating system, or RAS. It’s a part of the brainstem that filters information to help us focus on important things, like emotional issues.”
“Research* showed that recurring dreams might occur because of something called psychological need frustration, where you’re not getting what you need from waking life — whether it’s feeling respected, close to others, or in control. They can also be based on memories or traumas from your past. The RAS, the limbic system, and the amygdala combine to make the same dreams resurface again and again as your brain grapples with processing your problems and finding a solution.”
“There’s another neurological reason dreams can keep coming back, too. “People with post-traumatic stress disorder will very frequently have recurring dreams or nightmares related to the trauma, and it is proposed that because of the extreme emotion of the experience, people wake up during the dream. This means that the dreaming process is never completed, and the emotional memory is never fully processed.” The brain will keep trying to finish its nocturnal job, and get interrupted every time. This could happen with benign dreams, too.”
Your recurring dreams might be annoying or strange, but they could show that something’s “stuck” in your waking life. And that could be a valuable clue to finding some peace, day and night.
Dreams that come back over and over again are trying to tell you something.
ARE YOU LISTENING?
*Research published in Motivation and Emotion in 2017
- The human eye can see green better than any other color in the visible spectrum
- The color has many associations, from disgust to tranquility
Green (the mixture of blue and yellow) can be seen everywhere and in countless shades.
Humans are trichromats, meaning we perceive three primary colors: blue, green and red. The retina in a human eye can detect light between wavelengths of 400 and 700 nanometers, a range known as the visible spectrum.
The color green resides in the middle of the spectrum, at around 555 nanometers. This wavelength is where our perception is at its best. Because of its position in the center of the spectrum, both blue and red light waves are enhanced and better perceived with the help of green waves.
The Evolutionary Advantage of GREEN
Keeping you calm
“With less strain to perceive the colors, our nervous system can relax when perceiving the tone.”
Helping you live longer
“After the eight-year study was completed, the data revealed that participants who lived in the greenest areas had a 12% lower death rate than women living in the least green areas.”
We have a big list of books we recommend–on neuroscience, happiness, meditation, your mind-body connection, talent versus effort ….. even psychopaths!
Here’s a sample of 4 of the books you’ll find when you
The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge
Recommend to anyone who has to overcome a limitation or make a change
“The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to get Good at it” Kelly McGonigal
Makes a case for going after certain kinds of stress, and how stress and meaningful life are linked.See post about this book: The Upside of Stress
“The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works and What You Can Do to Get More of It”, by Kelly McGonegal, PhD
See our post on this book: Book Look – Did You Know Your HEART RATE can influence WILLPOWER?
The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity – And Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, Daniel Z. Lieberman MD, Michael E. Long, et al.
Tell us about your favorite books in the comments!
For more- Click here for “Need to Read”
Have you been feeling less alert? Less clear headed? More emotional? Feeling mentally fuzzy? than before Covid 19 appeared?
It isn’t just lack of sleep. Our brains actually change how they work in very stressful times.
Neuroscientist Hilke Plassmann calls this Covid Brain.
She explains why, instead of being clear headed during a pandemic, you may be having trouble concentrating. The area of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, that does the planning, thinks analytically and uses your working memory is overwhelmed when:
- It gets unclear or contradictory signals, which hinder your decision making ability.
- It has no previous experience to draw on for an event like a pandemic, and looks outward but finds the signals are not consistent.
- Higher sensitivity to outside information and decreased ability to think analytically keeps us unfocused and anxious.
Here are some tips to help your brain cope:
1. How you think about stress matters
It isn’t the stress itself that gives us difficulty, it is our thoughts about the stress. If you think of stress as helpful in managing difficult times, it becomes less harmful, maybe even helpful This may be even more true now.
“Regarding stress as a catalyst for positive change rather than a threat, for example, can promote clearer thoughts and keep negative emotions at bay”.
2. Music can change your mood
“Something as simple as listening to music can restore our equilibrium. Indeed, one study linked emotions induced through music to activity in brain networks that are essential for generation and regulation of emotions. Playing music in the background while working can also bolster productivity in times of stress by sustaining mental attention and sharpening focus,” Plassmann says.
3. Meditation helps your brain
Much research shows that meditation helps you manage your own brain.
Developing ways to regulate your brain, your stress levels and your mood will be a benefit long after Covid 19 is gone.
When I was studying hypnotherapy there was a simple but effective “induction” for self hypnosis. A variation can be used to help “ground” your brain in the here and now and redirect your attention from racing, non-productive or anxiety-provoking thoughts to the present moment by intentionally engaging your five senses:
5-4-3-2-1, in which you pay attention to: Five things that you can see around you, four things that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste in your mouth.
You can repeat the same thing more than once as it matters less what you sense and matters more that you simply pay attention to what your are sensing in the present moment.
Nor does it matter how you identify each. You can:
- Write these things down,
- Say them aloud,
- Mentally make note of them
For example, since I’m writing this post when I do the exercise now, I type them:
Sight 5 – I see my computer. I see my hands on the keyboard. I see the blue shirt I’m wearing. I see the veins in my hands. I see the lamp across the room.
Touch 4 – I feel the my laptop on my legs. I feel the floor under my bare feet. I feel pain in my knee. I feel the keys under my fingers.
Hearing 3 – I hear birds, I hear the air conditioner, I hear my fingers tap on the keyboard.
Smell 2 – I smell coffee. I smell the air in the room.
Taste 1 – I taste nothing.
This exercise roots you firmly into the here and now. It can also help to take a deep breath before you identify each sensory item
I’m guilty. I drift off after only a few minutes in Zoom meetings. I pay more attention to the backgrounds than the people. My attention is redirected by someone fidgeting or adjusting their camera. If I don’t turn my own video image off I obsessively notice how my hair looks and try out positions to minimize my wrinkles. judy
Why? It’s the Ringelmann Effect!
Ringelmann* proved there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the group and the size of each group members’ individual contribution. So if we feel we aren’t, or can’t, truly make a difference, why emotionally engage?
And if we don’t have “skin in the game” it’s easy to slide into checking our email, web surfing, or planning our weekend.
Here’s some suggestions to keep the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin flowing in everyone’s brain.
Get The Most From Your Zoom Meetings, even informal zoom get-togethers
Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking.
Stop your webcam video when you don’t need it.
Use the best Internet connection you can.
If you are the organizer or facilitator
Zoom is a substitute for physical inter-personal connection. There are some ways to help everyone connect in cyber space:
1. Even if it seems obvious, begin by stating what the meeting will focus on and the time allotted,
Example: “I’m glad to see everyone here to discuss/review/shoot the breeze . . . _________. Hopefully, everyone has set aside the next hour but if you need to leave Zoom earlier, let us know.
When the basics are said out loud it a shared sense of purpose and control is heightened. Besides, the brain likes specific deadlines with dates or time.
2. Acknowledge/remind the Zoom time lag that occurs, the noticeable delays between video and audio – the time between you speaking and the other user receiving the audio on their end. This helps minimize people talking over one another.
- Ask people to wave their hand to speak or
- Ask people take one deep breath before speaking. It will both relax, help focus and minimize talking over one another
2. Start (And End) With An acknowledgment or emotion Check-in. The most important thing missing from cyber-meetings is emotional connection. “Touch” through a computer screen has to be purposely facilitated as it doesn’t come naturally.
- At the very least (if there aren’t 500 people attending) acknowledge everyone by name
- Have everyone say how they’re feeling by using a simple emotion wheel. People can share in just a few sentences.
- At the end of the meeting you can gently inquire if what they were feeling at the beginning is the same or different to help people refocus on themselves.
3. Ask others to take a role during the meeting. This helps people feel engaged – gives them “skin in the game” which counteracts the Ringelmann Effect. It literally helps keep the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin flowing. At the least, encourage everyone to say something at the onset.
- Pose a question and have each person comment. (It can be a serious question or a silly one.) Ask if anyone has questions – Frequent Questions Increase Blood Flow To The Decision-Making Center Of The Brain.
- Send out an article, video, quote, picture before the meeting and invite comments at the meeting. Questions or topics to ponder keeps the prefrontal cortex in visionary/problem-solving mode.
- Summary maker – creates a summary and sends it out to participants or posts on social media
- Moderator – calls on people to talk
- Timer – Calls out stretch breaks and meeting end
A 5 or 10 minute break every 20 minutes works wonders for engagement. Everyone can stretch in place or get up and move.
4 – Periodically summarize information/topics to help those who have spaced out and others to focus, Normal distractions or interruptions, like people or pets wandering in the room, will happen so it’s good to periodically recap what was just covered with a quick summary to bring everyone back.
These suggestions will help keep the brain in gear but don’t guarantee zooming out during Zoom.
Check out DO YOU HAVE ZOOM FATIGUE for more information
What has or hasn’t worked for you? Please SHARE.
*This effect, discovered by French agricultural engineer Maximilien Ringelmann (1861–1931).
After 1,2 & 3 your stress level is so under control you might not need to read this last post on The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit.
4. FABRICATE! YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE
HOW IN THE WORLD DOES CREATIVE EXPRESSION HELP STRESS?
During creative states of intense concentration your brain wave pattern changes, much like hypnosis. It can be any creative activity -writing a poem, dancing, playing the piano, knitting, sewing, singing . . .
When engaged in creative expression your brain filters out extraneous information and mind-chatter diminishes, lowering the stress response. When the stress response goes down a change in your physiology takes place: cortisol levels lower, heart rate slows, immune responses elevate. It’s not just your muscles that relax!
Here are two exercises to create those calm cues by making up situations and images YOU control. Now that’s incredible!
CALM DOWN COLLAGE
Calm collage by Lucy, age 8
Magazine cut-out collage using just 3 pictures
Here is an incredibly fun, easy, visual way to signal your brain it’s time to cool down and not continue keeping your neurochemistry on a fight or flight course. And don’t forget that CONCENTRATED awareness while you are creating your collage!
ALL YOU NEED: magazines, a scissors, glue and a sheet of paper, file card, a journal page or even cardboard (you choose the size).
WHAT YOU DO:
- Cut or tear out serene peaceful, calming pictures.
- Cut or tear out pieces of color that represent calm to you. For example, if there is a sky-blue dress, just tear out the color from the dress so that the dress isn’t recognizable—just a piece of the color.
- Arrange the pictures and pieces of color on you paper in a way that pleases you.
- Paste all the pieces down.
- Put your collage up in a place where you will frequently see it to give your brain a calm cue.
You will feel pleasantly calm, just like the collage you have created.
If an 8 year old can learn how to do this YOU CAN TOO!
When you lead a stressful life it is often necessary to creatively give your brain cues it needs to:
- Interpret peace, calm and serenity
- Know that you’ve dealt with a difficult situation or person
- Hear that you are safe and not in danger
Stacked writing by Lucy Arndt, age 8
Generally we don’t advocate thinking about, ruminating on pain, discomfort, or negativity as it only strengthens the stress response. Stacked Writing, however, is a way of “releasing” negative thoughts and feelings and decreasing stress levels.
What you need: A piece of paper and a SMOOTH writing pen. If you have a journal use that. When you are done no one can decipher what you wrote so anything goes!
• Write non-stop for 15–20 minutes (set a timer so you aren’t constantly watching the clock).
• Write on top of what you’ve written. Keep turning the paper as you write. Fill the page with sentences, phrases all on top of each other so that what you wrote is indecipherable.
In this part 3 we continue with ways to reduce your stress:
2. ELIMINATE STRESS CUES
Get rid of stress cues in your life: Move to Tahiti, become a Monk, get a chauffeur, calm down—this category is more difficult than we originally thought . . . but not impossible.
Your bodymind wants you to live and prosper. It’s smart but limited. It can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening to you and what it perceives from the cues it receives through your sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, thoughts and mental imagery. Remember the rhino-cars?
So you need to eliminate, or at the very least avoid, cues that your smart but limited brain might perceive as threatening or dangerous.
Stress cues in your control to eliminate:
- Reading tragic news stories (full of sight & sound stress cues)
- Watching TV news or crime programs (particularly before bed)
- Listening to certain rap music
- Spending time with “toxic” or negative people
- Worrying about what you can’t control (like earthquakes)
- Thinking negative thoughts
You control what images, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts you expose your brain to. Even if you live in a war zone or are a police officer on gang patrol, with no control over the images and sounds that surround you, the one thing you do have control over are your thoughts.
3. CONCENTRATE! ON CALM CUES
When stress is chronic, it’s most effective to periodically give your brain a calm cue though-out the day and evening. In other words, you “chronically” cue your mind that it no longer has to keep you on alert, ready to flee or fight, because you’re not in danger.
These two favorite breathing cues of ours are quick, simple and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Super Simple Signal Breath
In order to do this anywhere, anytime keep your eyes open and breathe through your nose.
- Take a deep breath, expand your lungs and hold the breath for a moment before releasing it slowly, gently through your nose.
- Let your body relax, deepening a sense of comfort in any way that’s best for you
- Breathe normally and naturally…until your next Super Simple Signal Breath.
Because our autonomic nervous system has our breathing on “automatic pilot” we easily can forget to take this purposeful Super Simple Signal Breath.Here are some reminders that have worked for others to take a Super Simple Signal Breath:
- Every time the phone “rings” or you text
- Wear a bracelet or your watch on the “wrong” wrist
- Put a post it note on your bath room mirror, car dash board
- Write “B” for breathe in your appointments calendar
One Breath Cue with Safe Thought Cue
Try it NOW as you follow the instructions:
- Take a deep, full breath, expanding your belly outward.
- Hold the breath for a count of 5.
- Very slowly, gently release the breath through your nose and relax your body in any way you choose contracting your belly inward.
- Tell your brain (silently) “I’m safe, right now.”
Don’t wait to feel stressed to purposely breathe. The more you practice the breath cues when you’re not stressed the easier it is for the brain to respond automatically and the quicker it will work when you are stressed. We’ve taught many people with severe anxiety disorders to do these one-breath exercises. Everyone reports it is one of the most effective things they have ever tried.
The hard part is remembering to do it.
You already know how to breathe. It’s free and in your control.
You have a BODYMIND
Ever wonder what your neck was for?
Bodymind? You’re probably thinking, “a typo.” Research has proven that your body and your mind are connected by your neck and are inseparable. The body talks to the mind, the mind talks to the body, the body talks to the body and the mind talks to the mind. You’re just one big, interconnected bodymind.
Now, let’s take a quick look at stress so you will know what’s happening in your own bodymind.
The stress response is simply “Fight or Flight”. Its purpose is keeping you safe, out of harms way. The problem in today’s world is our brains don’t actually know what is dangerous: See a picture of fighting on TV and your brain gets the message you are in danger; Your brain thinks that the 11 ton cars traveling down the freeway are like rhinos charging. More danger.
Your brain desperately wants you to survive and any cue it perceives as possible danger – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, thoughts & mental images – tells your bodymind to fight or flee from what is going to harm you. In some cases the freeze response is momentarily activated so that every part of your being is on alert giving time to decide whether to fight or flee.
When the stress response is activated blood is directed away from your intestines, stomach, brain – whatever organ isn’t needed to run or fight:
Ever get light headed? -it’s not time to think, just act: diarrhea?-let’s lighten the load; butterflies/queasy?-not the time to digest food. When you feel “shaky” it’s your blood being directed to arms and legs so there’s energy in that one-two punch and speed in your step. Lots of other things happen too, but you get the idea.
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for!
Stress Reducing Exercises & Activities
Try the exercise & activities from each of these four different approaches to find what works best for you.
1. DUPLICATE FIGHTING & FLEEING
2.ELIMINATE STRESS CUES
3. CONCENTRATE ON CALM CUES
4. FABRICATE YOUR EXPERIENCE
First a word of safety
(We don’t want to have your brain perceive danger).
All the physical activities must be done only to your individual capability. If you have any medical/physical issues see your doctor/health care practitioner first before you try any of the physical exercises.
1. DUPLICATE FIGHTING & FLEEING
Trying to calm down usually only increases the stress response. Your bodymind is telling you to moooove!
Conventional advice is to “relax” when you’re stressed. I don’t need to tell you…but I will anyway: It’s near impossible to “calm down” the fight or flight response once your adrenalin is pumping. So let’s creatively use what our bodymind is doing and GO ALONG WITH THE PROGRAM-let’s duplicate what the fight or flight stress response is preparing us to do.
Once the stress response is triggered the neurochemistry is already in your cells telling your body to run or fight before you are consciously aware of the stress response. It takes, on the average 20 to 30 minutes for the neurochemicals to metabolize out of the cells.
Do physical activity for 20-30 minutes, the stress response will pass.
Walk to the store
Do jumping jacks
March to music
Take a hike Clean a closet
Samba, rumba & mambo
Scrub the floor Build a shed
Walk the dog
Ride a horse
Mow the lawn
Paint the ceiling
When you don’t have the space, time or availability to do a “Moving Experience” physical focus is a way of directing some of that adrenalin into a positive place. Next are two quick and easy physical focus exercises that you can even do in public.
STRETCHING THE POINT
- Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms down, strrrrrretch forward.
- Raise your arms high over your head.
- Stretch them, try to touch the ceiling.
- Pull your arms toward the back of your head and holdfor a moment.
- Let your arms drop back to your sides.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS
- Pretend you have a whole lemon in your left hand
- Squeeze it hard. Try to squeeze all the juice out.
- Feel the tightness in your hand and arm as you squeeze.
- Now drop the lemon (you can clean it up later)
- Notice how your muscles feel when they are relaxed
- Take another lemon I your left hand. Try to squeeze this one harder than the first lemon.
- Drop the second lemon and relax.
- Repeat this sequence using your right hand.
Adding thought to movement and your brain helps potentiate the activity.
NOW LET’S CONCENTRATE ON YOUR THOUGHTS. Remember, thinking is a cue to your brain.
First, what is a mantra? In this case it’s a positive statement you repeat over and over in your mind. We like to combine mantras with movement. So when we walk or exercise we’ll silently repeat a positive statement in rhythm to the pace.
Here are some to choose from. You can mix n” match. They don’t have to rhyme; it’s just incredibly more fun.
• 3-STEP Mantra: “I am safe”
• WALK AROUND THE BLOCK Mantra: “I feel good in the neighborhood”
• BREEZY DAYS Mantra: “Feel the balm, I am calm”
• IT’S FATE Mantra: “I feel good, I feel great, calm and tranquil is my fate!”
Better yet, create your own and e-mail us. We will share them with others.
This is the first of 4 posts giving you FOR FREE a look into our . . .
Incredibly Creative Stress Kit
written and illustrated by Slightly Stressed
Peggy Arndt & Judy Westerfield
Why The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit?
There are gazillions of books, articles, apps, tips & tricks on stress. What’s new? Why should this be different?
Most stress reduces are often boring, time-consuming or illegal. The purpose of this kit is to provide you with things we’ve tried that:
Are quick & easy
Have a creative twist
Are based on current neurological research
Work WITH your mind & body instead of trying to changethem
And… if you do them, they work!
First, take this scientifically based, unscientifically worded Stress Test. (The asides are ours*).
*P.S. No matter how we’ve worded the Stress quiz, all statements, in both Parts I and II, reflect REAL stress relievers and REAL stress inducers.
Part I- Stress Relievers Test
Scoring: Give each statement a score of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5
- 1 – Yes, Always, Absolutely. I’m near perfect
- 2 – Usually
- 3 – Occasionally
- 4 – Almost Never
- 5 – Who ME? Are you kidding? Never, No way
____I give and receive affection regularly. (quantity, not necessarily quality)
____I have a circle of friends/relatives who are supportive.
____I exercise to the point of perspiration at least 3 times a week.
____I gave up smoking or have never smoked. (This refers to anything you put in your mouth and light on fire)
____I drink fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks a week (including beer & wine!)
____I am the appropriate weight for my height. (Not measured by runway model standards, please)
____I have such a flat mid-section you could serve drinks on it. (Must be fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks/week)
____I have an income adequate to meet my basic expenses. (And I use it for my basic expenses!)
____I get strength or solace from my spiritual/religious beliefs.
____I have people I am in touch with who I consider to be friends. (And they consider me to be a friend)
____I eat at least one balanced meal a day. (Translation: I eat fruits & vegetables once a day)
____I get 7-9 hours of sound sleep at least 5 nights a week.
____I am in good health- hearing, teeth/gums, eyesight. (I floss my teeth at least once a day)
____I am able to speak openly about my angry or worried feelings.
____I spend less than 4 hours a day watching TV or playing video games.
____I am able to take time for myself at least once a week. (Bathroom time does not count)
____I am able to have conversations with the people I live with about concerns, needs and issues. (The operant word is conversation, not argument)
Part II – Stress inducers Test
Add 5 points for each of the following if they have occurred in the past 12 months and/or you have Post Traumatic Stress symptoms from the experiences indicated:
An accumulation of stressor over months, years or over a lifetime
____I’ve separated and/or divorced
____Had a new baby or adopted
____Had twins, triplets, quadruplets, sextuplets, septuplets (for each child add 5 points)
____Been to jail (either as a “guest” or visitor).
____Become a step-parent
____Had a close friend or relative die (including pets)
____Lost a job, got fired, changed jobs, or retired.
____Sold and/or bought a home
.____Moved residences and/or remodeled my home.
____My wife/partner began menopause (and is outa control)
____My children have become teen-agers and/or are teenagers (5 points for each teen-ager)
____My husband/partner has become a teen-ager (Had a skull & cross bone tattooed on the arm and/or left to buy milk and never came back)
____Became a caretaker for an elderly parent, sibling, or grandchild(ren) (5 points for each person you take care of)
____My 40 year-old child moved back in, sleeps till noon and is not paying rent.
____My mother-in-law moved in, is paying rent and won’t move out.
____Had a serious illness or condition.
____Been hospitalized and/or dealt with insurance companies.
____Been in an accident or caused an accident (even if you weren’t hurt)
____Misc. other: Your stressor(s) of choice______________
_______Sub total Part I
_______Sub total Part II
Find your total Score
Check out your stress level with this highly exaggerated
but accurate scoring system!
Under 24: You shouldn’t’ be wasting your time taking stress tests. You are Calm, Cool & Collected and/or are from an alien planet.
Between 25-60: You should pay some attention to taking better care of yourself. Eat healthy and drink more milk.
Between 60-75: Your new mailing address will be Burnout- Ville. Run to the nearest parlor to have your score tattooed on your bicep as a reminder to slow down and breathe.
Over 75: Move to Tahiti immediately and don’t wait for the boat. (Swimming is a great stress reliever)
Over 200: indicates you took this test while curled up in a fetal position. When you manage to get up, IMMEDIATELY go out to buy milk, start swimming and never come back (you probably already have the tattoo)
If you scored more than 25, stay tuned to this blog for more of the Incredibly Creative Stress Kit
Caffeine, the main stimulant found in coffee, works on a chemical level to give you energy by replacing the biochemical adenosine, which makes you tired.
Your brain on coffee
Caffeine, the main stimulant in coffee, works on a chemical level to give you a boost of energy. However, caffeine is structurally similar to another chemical naturally created in the body, called adenosine, which makes you tired. Similar to how morphine binds to endorphin receptors, the caffeine in your morning coffee binds to your brain’s adenosine receptors, preventing the biochemical from making you tired.
What are the health benefits of coffee?
- Builds your adrenaline supply which increases your heart rate and allows blood to pump faster.
- Prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed into your system, which allows it to linger in the brain for a longer amount of time, causing you to feel it’s positive effects (such as happiness) for a longer amount of time.
- Boosts metabolism and increases physical performance/muscle strength.
- When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause anxiety, heart palpitations, and sleeping problems.(According to Consumer Reports, up to 400mg of caffeine per day (which equals two to four 8 ounce cups) can be part of a healthy diet, however anything over 600 mg per day is too much.)
- Helps with your nutrient intake (the vitamins B2, B3, B5, manganese, and potassium are all found in coffee)
- Lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Helps fight depression symptoms
- Provides a source of antioxidants
- Can cause your brain to function at optimal levels, making you smarter
This lingering of dopamine is what often triggers the brain to crave more caffeine. (While dopamine itself isn’t inherently addictive, it does play a large role in many addictions.)
The more coffee you drink, the more adenosine receptors are formed, meaning it can take more coffee to keep you awake now than it did when you started drinking coffee as a young adult.
According to research, caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours.
- Within the first 10 minutes, the caffeine enters your bloodstream and is pumped throughout your body, causing an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Up to 20 minutes after intake, caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors, neutralizing fatigue. Dopamine levels increase and linger, which provides the drinker with an alert and focused feeling.
- Within 30 minutes, your adrenal glands shift into high gear and begin producing more hormones. During this time your vision may become sharper due to your pupils dilating.
- Within 40 minutes, your body begins producing more serotonin, which improves the neuron function within your spinal cord – this leads to improved coordination and muscle strength.
- After 4 hours, your metabolism increases, which is why you burn energy faster. Your body begins to break down stored fats during this time.
- Within 6 hours, the liquid coffee has gone through your system and you will likely feel the urge to urinate, during which time approximately half the caffeine you consumed is expelled.
Consuming caffeine when cortisol levels are high decreases the health benefits.
Cortisol, a naturally-occurring stress hormone, has a very distinct circadian rhythm that is regulated by the brain’s central pacemaker. Interrupting this rhythm can lead to metabolic abnormalities, fatigue, and poor quality of life, (2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism).
Consuming caffeine when your cortisol levels are at a natural peak can lead to interference in the production of cortisol and an increase in your tolerance, which can impact your response to stress and will cause to you need more and more caffeine as time goes on.
When is the best time to drink coffee?
The cortisol levels in your body are at a natural peak three times per day, one of which is in the early morning.
*To get the most positive impacts of your daily caffeine intake, drink coffee between 10 in the morning and 12 noon or between 2 in the afternoon and 5 in the evening.
This will allow your brain to make the most of your caffeine surge, as it’s not replacing any other important functions, such as the cortisol release that naturally happens several times per day.
Originally posted on CURIOUStotheMAX
clink on the link to see special posts: how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic
Watch this spinning dancer to determine if you use your left or right brain.
Can you make her spin in the opposite direction? It’s possible!
- She spins clock-wise if you are right brain dominate
- She spins counter-clock-wise if you are left brain dominate
It took me forever to get her to spin counter-clockwise and then she reverted almost immediately right back to clockwise. I’ve always known that my right brain is the alpha-dog. (jw)
What Do Split-Brain Patients Tell Us About the Whole Brain?
“When our hemispheres are surgically separated, our right brains demonstrate themselves to be highly intelligent and even better than our left brains at certain tasks, such as understanding emotional body language, facial expressions, and tones of voice. Their speech ability is quite limited though, and if their thoughts and feelings are going to be put into words, the information needs to be sent across the corpus callosum to the left-brain speech centers. Once there, it may be directly expressed, but it can also be altered, edited, suppressed, or even ignored.
Our ability to think rationally and to use speech and numbers has allowed us to build on our imaginative abilities and emerge as the most dominant creatures on earth. Perhaps because of this evolutionarily new and astounding power to alter our environment, the left brain has become a little over-impressed with itself. Because it alone has the ability to name things, it calls itself the dominant, or “major” hemisphere! That’s fair, because it can and does provide an override function in relation to the more emotional right brain, but it makes a serious mistake when it thinks that it is the only hemisphere that counts. While logical thinking is necessary for building skyscrapers and flying to the moon, it is nearly useless when it comes to creating and maintaining an emotionally intimate relationship, or responding to fast-developing threats.
“The split-brain research showed us that we have another type of intelligence that co-exists with our usual way of thinking about and describing our world. This intelligence has its own perspective, priorities, form of information processing, and motivations. It influences our daily lives much more than we know.
“This intelligent “unconscious” mind undoubtedly lives in not only the right brain, but in other areas of both brain hemispheres and parts of the limbic brain that lack direct access to speech.”
“It has eons of evolutionary experience that can guide us or help us solve problems. It tends to think in terms of how things are connected, rather than how they are different, and it excels in recognizing both spatial and social relationships. Bringing this emotional/intuitive intelligence into our problem-solving and emotional coping efforts greatly expands our ability to worry well; it lets us use all of our brain capacity to resolve rather than create worry and stress.”
Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD is the founder of The Inner Mammal Institute and author of many fascinating books about brain chemistry and mammals, humans included. She is Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, EastBay.
This infogram is one of many interesting, informative and valuable resources. Take a look!
“. . . when the going gets tough,
the smart do something else.”
Listening to the news can be overwhelming – rising numbers of COVID-19 infection, death tolls, businesses tanking . . . Often buried are the incredible advances being made in many fields. This one caught our eye because of the wonderful possibilities
Breakthrough new research became available on April 20, 2020 discussing how neuroscientists created artificial neurons from protein strands to behave like live ones.
“Neurons are the nerve cells and nerve fibers that are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that function to process and transmit information. In vertebrate animals, neurons are the core components of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.”
“This advance could mean it would be possible to use artificial neurons and fuse them with live ones in the future, allowing science to easily treat spinal cord injuries and paralyzed people. Progress in artificial intelligence could also lead to energy efficient machines powered by AI in the future.”
“There is previous work that was published in March connecting live cells with artificial ones. The Internet aided in the creation of a virtual brain using actual live nerve cells. This breakthrough and novel project was created with collaboration from Italian, Swiss and British scientists. The artificial neurons came from Switzerland, electronic interneuron connection from the UK and the live nerve cells from Italy. All these were amalgamated into one functioning system. It means that a live nervous system can be collaborated with the technology into one.”
“The neural networks will be controlled via a regular laptop and can be used, in specially designed devices tailored to the patients and their needs, to compensate for the non functioning live neurons. It is highly plausible artificial neurons will be manufactured for wide use in neurological cases.”
Scientists Find Neuron ‘Nursery’ in Adult Human Nose Tissue
Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Duke Institute for Brain Sciences say they have discovered a thriving neuron ‘nursery’ in the olfactory neuroepithelium, a section of adult human nose tissue.
Previously, studies had been limited to nasal tissue samples from mice.
In the human tissue samples used in the new study, researchers found that immature neurons produced by stem cells represented more than half of the neurons in the samples, suggesting that new neurons were produced in the tissue.
Sense of Smell
“We do not fully understand why people lose their sense of smell, which can occur for many reasons, and our data sets provide a wealth of information about the cell populations present in adult olfactory tissue,”Dr. Goldstein, lead researcher said.
“This is an important step in developing treatment strategies for conditions when this tissue may be damaged.”
Approximately one in eight Americans over age 40 — up to 13.3 million people — have measurable smell dysfunction.
“It will be very useful to use this window to analyze samples from people with conditions in which the nervous system has degeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Goldstein said.
“Alzheimer’s is of particular interest, since these patients lose their sense of smell quite early in the disease process, and we have few treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.”
“While we weren’t able to observe the neurons being made because of the nature of human samples, the molecular makeup of the immature neurons in the sample provides strong evidence that they were made in the nose during adulthood,” said Professor Hiroaki Matsunami, co-author of the study.
“Because the nose is exposed to the external environment, it might be possible we could one day collect these neuronal stem cells from patients and use them to treat their own brain disorders. It is not outside of the realm of possibility.”
The research was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
We’re frazzled. Daily, on our other blog CURIOUStotheMAX we’re posting self-care tools & information that are particularly helpful during this pandemic and unsettling time. It’s a lot of work and we want to share with as many people as possible.
We spend eons, well, it feels like eons, trying to figure out the technical parts of blogging and now “marketing” is new and overwhelming territory for us. We need, we want, your help to un-frazzle and in return we are offering . . .
a FREE PDF on How to do Self-Hypnosis. All we ask is you post a link to our blog on Facebook, using easy steps.
(If we could figure it out we know you can!)
Just click the link above, which will guide you how to share one of CURIOUStotheMAX posts we’ve selected on Facebook. You’ll then automatically be sent the Free How to do Self Hypnosis PDF.
You don’t “do” facebook? Send to:
- repost on a blog
- standing on corners flipping cardboard sign
- ANY other way you can help
If you share in ways other than Facebook, let us know and we’ll send you the PDF link.
Thank YOU in advance! Peggy & Judy
Avoidance of the truth can be hazardous to our health. “When people lie, they are more prone to feeling anxious or blue, and to experiencing frequent headaches, runny noses, bouts of diarrhea and back pain. When people change their ways and start telling the truth more often, however, they can improve both their mental and physical health, says University of Notre Dame psychology professor Anita Kelly, lead author of a new study on the effects of lying.”
“The Notre Dame study looked at 110 people, ranging in age from 18 to 71, over a period of 10 weeks. Half the participants agreed to try to stop telling lies (both major and minor) for the duration of the test. The other half received no special instructions. Subjects took weekly polygraph tests to assess the number and type of lies they had told in the previous week. “Those who were instructed to dramatically reduce lies experienced significantly better health than those in the group that continued to lie,” Kelly says.”
“Her team found that participants who began telling the truth more often experienced 54 percent fewer mental health complaints (such as anxiety or feeling blue) over the course of the study, and 56 percent fewer physical health complaints (such as nausea or headaches). Subjects who began telling the truth more often also reported happier relationships and improved social interactions.”
Surprisingly, the “size” of a lie doesn’t appear to have much impact on its health effects, Kelly says. Both minor lies, like telling a friend you can’t meet for coffee because you “have to work,” and big lies, such as claiming false credentials in a job interview, can negatively affect your health.
“Both white and major lies can be problematic,” she says,”because they can both cause the person to be seen as a liar. Both can violate expectations of honesty in a relationship.” And all of that leads to feelings of anxiety and guilt.
Why Lying Makes You Sick
“Because you know it’s wrong to lie, doing so “goes against what you deem as ‘right,’ and builds anxiety,” Walfish says. The anxiety just increases as you try to keep from being caught. “A person who lies doesn’t want to be found out. They want the whole thing to go away,” she says.
“As a result of all that guilt, or related anxiety and stress, you begin to physically feel the effects of the lies,” says Reef Karim, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience. “There’s definitely a connection.” Your immune system could become compromised because your body is stressed, making it harder to fight off colds and flus. “For some, it’s an immediate effect. For others it’s a slow build of physical problems, like headaches.”
The level of guilt you feel about your lies is a crucial factor in how much they’ll affect your body. “The more guilt or anxiety you feel,” Karim says, “the more physical and mental symptoms you’re going to experience.”
The Power of Telling the Truth
“Just as you try to eat well and get regular exercise to maintain your overall health, experts say, you need to develop the healthy habit of telling the truth. “People need to experience the feeling of freedom and strength derived from telling the truth in difficult situations,” Walfish says. “Taking the leap of faith and telling the truth — regardless of the outcome — is a wonderful feeling of power. You feel you can handle anything.”‘
And that’s the truth!
This was originally posted on Curious to the Max. To see more from Curious to the Max, click here.
If you are sitting down while reading this, STAND UP RIGHT NOW!
My favorite heart health blog, My Heart Sisters has a great post. Here’s a tidbit:
“The Australian study on prolonged sitting adjusted for other factors such as age, weight, physical activity and general health status, all of which can also affect longterm health risks. It found a clear dose-response effect:the more people sat, the higher their risk of premature death.
Stand up is better
Healthy or sick, active or inactive, the more people sat, the more likely they were to die prematurely compared to those with non-sedentary lives. While the death risk was lower for anyone who exercised five hours a week or more, it still rose as these active people sat longer.
Why is prolonged sitting so comparatively hard on human beings? This study’s researchers concluded:
“The adverse effects of prolonged sitting are thought to be mainly owing to reduced metabolic and vascular health. Prolonged sitting has been shown to disrupt metabolic function. Sedentary behavior affects carbohydrate metabolism through changes in muscle glucose transporter protein content.
“Our findings suggested not only an association between sitting and all-cause mortality that was independent of physical activity but, because the findings persisted after adjustment and stratification for Body Mass Index, one that also appears to be independent of BMI.”
In another Australian study reported in the journal Diabetes Care, scientists at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne observed adults who sat for seven hours on some days and who rose every 20 minutes and walked leisurely on a treadmill for two minutes on other days. When the volunteers remained stationary for the full seven hours, their blood sugar spiked and insulin levels were erratic. But when they broke up the hours with movement, even that short two-minute stroll, their blood sugar levels remained stable. The scientists concluded that what was important was simply breaking up those long, interminable hours of sitting.”
I wonder if lying down with my feet pressed against the wall would work?
Read more here: http://myheartsisters.org/2012/04/29/sitting-down/
Originally posted on Curious to the Max Click here for more from Curious to the Max
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Nearly everyone feels lonely at some point. The good news is, for many of us, it’s a temporary condition, perhaps one caused by a life change: moving to a new location, starting a new job.
For others, loneliness can be a way of life, one that may stem not from the number of people around them but from a lack of connection with others. And, research has shown, chronic loneliness can have adverse consequences for your health.
Scientists are still examining the link between mental and physical health and how loneliness affects our bodies. But you may not know about some of their findings over the years.
1. It may affect your brain in a way similar to physical pain.
“A remarkable study led by Naomi Eisenberger, an associate professor of social psychology at UCLA, found that being excluded — which can push you to the social perimeter and, as a result, cause feelings of loneliness — triggered activity in some of the same regions of the brain that register physical pain.
“From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense; our prehistoric ancestors relied on social groups not just for companionship, but for survival. Staying close to the tribe brought access to shelter, food, and protection. Separation from the group, on the other hand, meant danger.”
“Today when we feel left out, our bodies may sense a threat to survival, and some of the same pain signals that would engage if we were in real physical danger are flipped on. In the chronically lonely, levels of the stress hormone cortisol shoot up higher in the morning than in more socially connected people and never fully subside at night.”
2. People who feel lonely tend to experience more nighttime sleep disruptions than those who don’t.
- The link between sleep disruptions and loneliness persisted even after marital status and family size were taken into account, suggesting that loneliness depends on how people perceive their social situation rather than the situation itself.
3. Loneliness can increase your risk for dementia
In a 2012 study of nearly 2,200 older adults living in Amsterdam, researchers found that participants who reported feeling lonely — regardless of the number of friends and family surrounding them — were more likely to experience dementia than those who lived alone.
After adjusting for factors like age, the researchers found that feeling lonely raised the risk of dementia by 64%. But, they cautioned, that does not prove that loneliness causes dementia and noted that the opposite could be true as well, because dementia and its accompanying mood changes could contribute to some of the social withdrawal of loneliness.
4. Loneliness may contribute to premature death
Two other 2012 studies found that living alone — or just feeling lonely — may increase a person’s risk of early death.
One study followed nearly 45,000 people ages 45 and up who either had heart disease or were at high risk for it. Those living alone, the study found, were more likely to die from heart attacks, strokes or other complications over a four-year period than those living with family or friends or in some other communal arrangement.
A second study focused on those 60 and older and found that men and women were 45% more likely to die during the study period (six years) if they reported feeling lonely, isolated or left out. But those who reported loneliness — 43% of the study population — weren’t necessarily living alone.
Researchers said the link between lonely feelings and health problems held even after living situation, depression and other factors were taken into account.
5. Loneliness may break your heart (literally)
People who report being chronically lonely may have an over expression of genes connected to cells that produce an inflammatory response to tissue damage, according to a 2011 study of 93 adults. Although that inflammatory response may be good in the short term, long-term inflammation can lead to heart disease and cancer.
We’ve been posting self-help tips & techniques on how better to survive the pandemic. Most of the posts are on CURIOUStotheMAX, simply because that blog covers a wide range of topics, more than just the mind which is this blog’s focus.
This interview with Dr. Judson Brewer, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at Brown University caught our attention since he touches on many of the same things we’ve been covering. NPR host Shereen Marisol Meraji spoke with Dr. Brewer about what’s going on in the brain when we’re anxious, how to get our “thinking brains” back online, and how not doing anything can actually be helpful to those around us.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Dr Brewer’s responses are in italics & color:
Dr. Jud, everyone, including me, has been saying, “Take a deep breath,” or “I need to take a deep breath” way more lately — to the point where I feel like it’s becoming a little bit cliché. But you say this actually works?
“Yes, this is how our brain works. Fear is a normal adaptive response, but fear plus uncertainty makes our brains spin out in anxiety. And the best way to get our physiology calmed down and our thinking brain back online is literally to take a deep breath.”
“If we can understand why fear is a helpful adaptive response, we can understand how taking a deep breath can help. Fear helps us learn. For example, if we step out into the street and we almost get hit by a car, but step back just in time, our fear response here reminds us to look both ways before crossing the street.”
“We get revved up [and anxious] when the newer parts of our brain, the thinking and planning parts of the brain, don’t have accurate information. And [the newer parts of the brain] start spinning out into these “what if” worry loops. You know, “What if this happens? What if that happens?”‘
“If we can notice that we’re starting to spin out and take a step back and see that our brain is just trying to get control where there’s uncertainty, we can try and get our thinking brain back online. We can try to literally calm our nervous system down by taking a deep breath or feeling our feet as a way to ground ourselves in our direct experience.”
You’ve talked about how the prefrontal cortex in our brains needs very clear information. And we’re in a place right now where information is changing rapidly. So what’s going on in the prefrontal cortex while all of this is changing?
“Well, sometimes there’s not a lot going on in the prefrontal cortex. Let’s say we’re afraid and anxious and maybe we go on social media to try to get more information. We can actually catch something that’s even more contagious than a virus — [we can catch] panic and fear. [Panic and fear] can spread through social contagion, which is simply the transmission of affect or emotion from one person to another. And that actually makes our prefrontal cortex shut down. You can catch a virus from somebody by being near them, but someone can “sneeze” on your brain from anywhere in the world.”
“We can also see this playing out not only on social media, but when we say, go to the grocery store. If someone goes to the grocery store and sees somebody else hoarding toilet paper, suddenly, their scarcity brain kicks in. They might think, “maybe I’m not going to have enough toilet paper.” So they run to the toilet paper aisle and buy all the rest of the toilet paper, even though they probably have enough at home. So when this scarcity mode kicks in, it can also spread panic and fear through social contagion.”
People are trying to control this situation that we absolutely have no control over, right? I’m just cleaning everything that I can get my hands on and I’m never stopping, which makes me feel like I have some sort of control over everything. Is it ever helpful to try and control things in the ways that we can?
“Well, it depends on what we’re doing. So if we’re afraid or panicked and we try to control things, we’re going to actually fall back into old habit patterns. For example, if our habit pattern is to clean, we might start cleaning obsessively in a way that’s not helpful — It could use up cleaning supplies. If we start cleaning our house and nobody’s been in our house for a week, the likelihood that something infectious is going to suddenly show up on our countertops is pretty low.”
“So here, if our brain is anxious and our thinking brain is offline, the likelihood that we’re going to have any wisdom show up is pretty low. So again, it comes back to grounding ourselves and then asking ourselves, “What am I about to do? Is this actually helpful?”‘
“For example, in my psychiatry training, I learned this great phrase, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” The idea is, if I’m sitting with a patient and they’re anxious, I could catch their anxiety through social contagion. Here, I become anxious and then I try to do something to fix them to make myself feel better. When in fact, the best thing that I could do is simply to listen. And I think that applies to all of us.”
All of this feels simple and fairly easy — take deep breaths, feel your feet, take some time to just notice where you’re at and what’s going on around you in this very moment. But how do we make these into habits?
“There’s this phrase, “short moments, many times.” If somebody is going to create a habit of anything, they need short moments of repetition and they need to repeat it over and over and over. So it’s not just about trying to force ourselves not to check the news — that actually fails. You can’t think your way out of a bad habit. But we can tap into the strongest parts of our brain, the reward based learning parts, which feed on reward. For example, when we worry, we get more anxious. But if we can see that when we calm ourselves down — maybe we hug a loved one or pet our dog or take a deep breath— we feel less anxious, then we can start to change our habits.”
How are you talking to people to make them feel better about staying home? What are you telling people to make them feel empowered when they’re not allowed to leave the house?
“Two feelings I’m noticing here are guilt and shame. Guilt is feeling that we should do something when everybody else is doing something. This then can lead to shame about ourselves. So guilt is about a behavior and shame is about ourselves. So I think, again, the first thing to do is recognize what you’re feeling. Are you feeling guilt? Is that leading to a shame spiral where you’re beating yourself up? This can make our thinking brain go offline. We tend to do things that are not helpful when we’re not thinking.”
“If we can step out of that process, we can see that the best and most helpful thing to do is stay home. Because that’s what’s going to stop the spread of this virus. Running out there and trying to do something could actually make this worse. If we can step out of that shame spiral, our thinking and creative brains come back online and then we can think about what skills and talents we have that can be useful.”
The Earth Plays music
for those who listen
The next time you walk to your car, sit in a park, lay on the beach, mow the lawn . . . listen, BREATHE.
Click on the CURIOUStotheMAX link to see special posts
how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic
Click on the CURIOUStotheMAX link to see special posts
how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic
This was originally posted on CURIOUStotheMAX
where we are currently posting how-to techniques and information on coping with isolation, anxiety, depression during these uncertain times during the pandemic (a bit of humor too). Click on the above link to see.
I “stumbled” onto one of their introductory workshops in the 1980’s. I had already been certified in hypnosis but was never comfortable with the idea that as the hypnotherapist I held the key, I had the power, to create change.
When I attended that first AGI workshop it was a eureka moment for me. The process and technique of Interactive Guided Imagery(sm) Marty and David were teaching was how I intuitively did hypnosis: The client held the key, the power, I was the guide. Marty and David are brilliant and innovative. I was hooked and went on to study with both of them and served as an AGI faculty, teaching other health care practitioners how to do Interactive Guided Imagery(sm) since 1988.
I “stumbled” across this video of Marty Rossman and want to share what he teaches about the mind and how you hold the key and the power to create calm.
It is an 1 1/2 hour lecture – easy listening and WORTH your time.
At the end Marty will lead you through an imagery exercise for you to experience the power of your mind-body connection .
“Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant Martin L. Rossman, MD, discusses how to use the power of the healing mind to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, change lifestyle habits, and live with more wellness.” THE HEALING MIND.org
In Part I we described ways the Pandemic has created massive amounts of loss and how it can manifest itself in physical symptoms we don’t always ascribe to grieving. OUR COMMENTS ARE IN RED
Here are excerpts from a WEBMD article on Normal vs. Pathological Grief
“Depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication of it. Depression raises the risk of grief-related health complications and often requires treatment to resolve, so it’s important to know how to recognize its symptoms. Sidney Zisook, MD, a grief researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says people can distinguish normal grief from depression by looking for specific emotional patterns.”
“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the more persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder,” Zisook says.”
“He says people usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief, while people who are depressed struggle with feelings of guilt and worthlessness and a limited ability “to experience or anticipate any pleasure or joy.”
“Complicated grief differs from both depression and normal grief. M. Katherine Shear, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and director of its Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as “a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that does not get better naturally. It happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.”‘
Symptoms of complicated grief include:
Persistent efforts to ignore the grief and deny or “rewrite” what happened.
Complicated grief increases the risk of physical and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, sleep issues, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and physical illness.
How Does Avoidance Harm Your Health?
“Margaret Stroebe, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, says that recent research has shed light on many of “the cognitive and emotional processes underlying complications in grieving, particularly rumination.”‘
“Research shows that rumination, or repetitive, negative, self-focused thought, is actually a way to avoid problems. People who ruminate shift attention away from painful truths by focusing on negative material that is less threatening than the truths they want to avoid. This pattern of thinking is strongly associated with depression.”
(NOTE: Rumination has also been show to be our cognitive brain and our emotional brain locked in a feedback loop which is set to protect us from further harm. Negative, ruminations are not because of personality or intelligence but a function of brain processes. We can break into this process by forcing our thinking into neutral or positive thoughts but it takes effort to do so and over-ride the brain’s natural stress response.)
“Rumination and other forms of avoidance demand energy and block the natural abilities of the body and mind to integrate new realities and heal. Research by Stroebe, and others shows that avoidance behavior makes depression, complicated grief, and the physical health problems that go with them more likely. Efforts to avoid the reality of loss can cause fatigue, weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and prolong other ailments.”
But the researchers all indicate professional help is needed to heal from complicated grief and unremitting depression.
Success consists of going
from failure to failure
without loss of enthusiasm.
This Pandemic has created loss of the most essential kinds – identity, connection, income safety, isolation from support systems and people, even loss of our daily routines and conveniences.
Initially, we are mobilized to find new ways of coping, new ways of living within the confines of an unseen threat. At some point grief follows, the natural response to loss of any and all kinds. We typically think of grieving as an emotional response but the first signs can sometimes appear in ways we don’t label as grieving.
Grief can be physical
- Your heart literally aches.
- A memory comes up that causes your stomach to clench or a chill to run down your spine.
- Some nights, your mind races, and your heart races along with it
- Your body can be so electrified with energy that you can barely sleep.
- Other nights, you’re so tired that you fall asleep right away. You wake up the next morning still feeling exhausted.
- You lose your appetite or are driven to eat too much.
- Headache, nausea, dizziness can occur
- It’s hard to focus or concentrate
What causes these physical symptoms? A range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body:
Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and cause new ones.
It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection.
The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.
Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.
Stress links the emotional and physical aspects of grief. The systems in the body that process physical and emotional stress overlap, and emotional stress can activate the nervous system as easily as physical threats can. When stress becomes chronic, increased adrenaline and blood pressure can contribute to chronic medical conditions.
Research shows that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain. This may be why painkilling drugs ranging from opioids to Tylenol have been shown to ease emotional pain.
“In normal, situational grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite. People usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief.
What Can You Do to Cope With Grief?
Emotional and physical self-care are essential ways to ease complications of grief and boost recovery. Exercising, spending time in nature, getting enough sleep, and talking to loved ones can help with physical and mental health.
“Most often, normal grief does not require professional intervention. Grief is a natural, instinctive response to loss, adaptation occurs naturally, and healing is the natural outcome,” especially with “time and the support of loved ones and friends.”
For many people going through a hard time, reaching out is impossible. If your friend is in grief, reach out to them.
Grief researchers emphasize that social support, self-acceptance, and good self-care usually help people get through grief.
- Plan small rewarding activities and try to enjoy them as much as possible.
- Participate in physical activities like going for walks
- Social support helps most when friends reach out.
- Acknowledge it. Don’t spend the whole time trying to distract yourself or push it down.
- But the researchers all indicate professional help is needed to heal from complicated grief and unremitting depression.
And if you feel like your whole life has fallen apart, It has. Now you haven’t lost your ability to decide how to respond.
Part II will follow explaining the difference between “Situational Grief” and Compounded Grief.