Dec 142013

Stress Meter w credit w creditThursday, June 21, 2007
By: Eve Reddin Lennon, CPCC

This is the time of the year when we find ourselves surrounded, if not bombarded, by a multitude of media messages suggesting what we should be doing for the holidays and how we should be doing it. These messages are designed to conjure up sugarplum visions of beautiful, festive, picture perfect, storybook holidays with smiling families and all the trimmings that will surely bring us all peace and joy and incredible holiday happiness. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Hollywood movie, or even our own romanticized memories of tradition-soaked holidays past, these images are seductively appealing—but the problem is that they aren’t real. They are fictionalized, idealized versions of the holidays.

Consider for a moment the expectations we have placed on ourselves to make our own holidays fit these perfect, but imaginary and unattainable images in our heads. Way beyond our genuine and heartfelt desires for the Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmases, and Happy Hanukahs, we enter the season believing we are somehow obligated to follow a set of unwritten rules prescribing just what and how much we should be cramming into a few short weeks: “Deck the Halls!” (Inside and outside, upstairs and down until everything glows, sparkles, or twinkles, and smells like pinecones and spice.) Or, “It’s the season to open your hearts and be generous” (meaning shop till you drop, wrap it all up, and defer payment until January when you open the bills and go into stress overload).  It is also the season to “Gather your family” (whether you want to be with them or not,)to be the perfect hostess, to set a beautiful table and serve up at least one feast (dust off those cookbooks, shine up the silver, polish the crystal), and of course, to dress up, put a smile on your face, and attend all the parties, functions and festivities within a 250 mile radius.

Somewhere deep in our own heads is a list longer than Santa’s—of all the things we believe we need to or should do to make the season merry and bright. But the fact is that in order to do so we would each have to be a Martha Stewart clone with a staff of forty and the stamina of the Energizer bunny.

Wow. It is a recipe for exhaustion for nearly anyone, but for those of us with chronic illnesses like FM, it can be a recipe for a holiday disaster that results in unrelenting pain, brain fogs, and that deeply rooted, energy leeching fatigue that leaves us incapable of functioning; feeling isolated and depressed. Continue reading…

May 202013

Image of hippocampus

by Neil Pearson, Life Is Now

The stigma of chronic pain can lead us to persevere and try to push through the pain, only stopping when we cannot carry on. Then the pain flares up and we pay the price!

If you have read my blogs or listened to the pain education I provide, you will have heard me suggest that this technique may be good for ‘getting the job done’, and it may be helpful in acute pain, but it is actually counter-productive to regaining greater ease of movement in the face of persistent pain. The theory we have for this includes two key ideas. First, if your protection systems are producing pain in order to get you to stop, but you do not even yield, the system will start to function as if the alarms are not loud enough. Second, your nervous system will learn to get better at whatever it practices. The more it practices creating intense pain, the better it gets at producing intense pain.

This idea may have merit, but for many people it is in direct conflict with the idea that our body will grow stronger if we continue to stress it. Actually, this is much more than an idea. It is normal reality. If you want to make a muscle stronger, use it more. If you want to grow more tolerant of an irritating or bothersome sensation or experience, step up to it. Face it. In time, it will bother you less. Try playing a string instrument for the first time, and feel the intense pain from pushing down strings with your fingertips. Keep doing it and your body will adapt, even creating a callous as a protective response, just like woodworkers and carpenters have on their hands and dancers have on their feet. In other words, when you stress your body, typically it responds by being better able to tolerate that stress next time.

So why does this positive adaptation not occur in many people with persistent pain conditions? New research provides some clues. It also provides support for what we can do to create positive adaptations in our sensitized nervous systems.

Scientists know that there is one part of the brain that is highly important for learning – the hippocampus. They also know that the persistent high levels of stress hormones from chronic stress inhibits activity in the hippocampus. Recently, studies have shown that this area of the brain is one of the few to be able to produce new brain cells. These same chronic stress hormones inhibit new cell formation, and this likely has a detrimental effect on learning new things. So chronic stress is bad, but what about acute stress?

At the University of California, Kirby and colleagues* studied the effects of acute stress on the formation of new cells in the hippocampus, and on learning. They used rats, knowing that there are enough similarities in brain functions to make some generalizations from the studies to humans. The rats were stressed over a short period with inactivity. (Yup, this is a stressor.) This temporary stress doubled their stress hormones, and the researchers measured up to twice as many new brain cells in the hippocampus. New brain cells should lead to improved brain function, and that’s exactly what they found. They were able to put markers on these new cells and show that once the cells matured two weeks later, these same cells were used by the rats in a learning task to out-perform other rats that had not undergone the acute stress.

What does this all mean?

Continue reading on YogaHub Blog

Apr 222013

New evidence based approaches to chronic pain management. For more detailed information visit the Hunter Integrated Pain Service website http://www.hnehealth...

Jacqueline Goguen‘s insight:
More active approaches to retrain the brain. Learn to reduce stress to ‘wind down’ the nervous system. What we eat and how we live may really be contributing to a sensitized nervous system. Explore your personal story around the time the pain developed. Get a helping hand if you need it, set a goal and begin. Blessings, Jacqui

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