Key Point: If the brain psychologically experiences stress, it creates physiological changes in the body which are destructive in the long term. If we are observant, perhaps we can identify signs that the brain is stressed before the body is affected.
The brain is the boss. If it’s feeling stressed, it sets off a chemical cascade. The same chemical cascade for when your car stalls on the rush-hour freeway as when you’re running late to your kid’s big baseball game. Or your company makes cuts only to give you more work. Or you bought a new house and it’s stretching your budget tightly and you and your wife are bickering more. Or your laundry stacks up, irritating you immensely.
The cortisol and adrenaline in the short-term make you alert. So you can stay up late to fold that laundry and eliminate that stress.
The hormones mobilize needed nutrients, like sugars, for immediate use. Because you’ll miss kick-off if you stop and eat before the game.
They shut down unnecessary organ systems. The side of the free-way is not the place for that kind of pit-stop.
The brain and body know what to do to help you survive life and death situations (or the laundry it perceives as life or death). But this nickel-and-dime stress, particularly that which comes with the 2014 lifestyle, reveals a bit of a shortcoming in the system. Chronic stress brings about high blood pressure, high blood sugars, obesity, low libido (makes sense–the body is trying to deal with itself and questions the sanity of bringing new life to a stressful situation), poor gut function (the gut is not priority in battle), and poor sleep (sleep is not an option when the tornado is looming).
Do You Overlook This Chronic Low-Lying Stress?–Thinking, “It’s Nothing Big.”
Most people overlook their chronic low-lying stress. It’s just the way nearly everybody lives nowadays and has become normal. (But it wasn’t meant to be normal.) Work. Weekend ball tournaments. Church. Teach Sunday school. Help friends. Evening meetings. Wednesday night church. Kid’s practices. Pay bills. Pampered Chef party. Stay up late and watch a movie. Call mom. Get passports. Check e-mail. Check social media. Take car to garage. Clean your own garage. Deal with flooded basement.
It never stops. Life is stressful enough with living, dying, and illness without complicating it with so much “busy-ness.” Aside from the impact it has on our families and happiness, which I can’t prove with diagrams and chemical equations, the impact on our health is dramatic and easily proven. So here I’ll take my stance and hope to reach you. I want to take a better way, and I want to take you with me.
Secret Signs of Brain Stress
Stress takes a huge toll on well-being and healthcare utilization. Even if your car still works, your wife hasn’t left you, and your kids are healthy, look at the following list. If you do too many of these behaviors, you’re brain is stressed, whether you admit it or not. Your brain has control and it’s creating hormones that you just don’t need chronically. First step to dealing with stress? RECOGNIZE YOU HAVE IT!
Here goes. Do you have these secret stress signs? Ok. Maybe they’re not “secret.” Maybe this should be “Whispered Signs of Brain Stress.” Tally up your score.
- 1. Find yourself dropping things more? A good sign of being in a hurry or thinking of something else when reaching for things. Make yourself slow down physically. Make your movements slower and deliberate, forcing the brain to slow down too.
- 2. Fidget, bop your foot, or bite your nails? Often a sign of preoccupation on something besides the matter at hand. Perhaps your planning supper during a meeting. Stop and figure out where your mind is really at when you start that foot shaking thing. Where your mind is tells you what you’re worried about. Worry equals stress.
- 3. Hunch up your shoulders? You may not even realize it until you sigh and all of the tension leaves the shoulders. Four times a day, drop those shoulders and let out a deep breath. But you still have to take control of the stress of each day to permanently stop hunching your shoulders.
- 4. Clench your jaw? Relax it and rub it. Try to notice when you become so absorbed in thought that your jaw clenches. Because just relaxing it and rubbing it does NOT remove the thoughts that caused it.
- 5. Sigh and it feels so good? A definite sign that your physically reacting to your thoughts. You are too tense and something has to give.
- 6. Check Facebook and Twitter a lot thus finding a way to “do” something when you feel helpless to really do something? You have no time. But you check Facebook or Twitter anyhow. It allows you to feel like you’re doing something in little snippets of time when you can’t accomplish anything else. You’d be better served in these snippets of time to shut your eyes, take some breaths, and focus on something delightful to you. I dare you to try it.
- 7. Find you have no time to do your hair? There’s a difference between choosing to not do your hair and not having time to do your hair. Which are you?
- 8. Frantically brush your teeth because you’re late? The speed and pressure with which you brush your teeth are direct indicators of stress. Did you know that brushing hard increases receding gum lines?
- 9. Feel angry all the time? You definitely have lots going on and are feeling the crunch of it. This anger is very detrimental to health. And relationships. When the surge starts coming, find a way to escape the situation. That’s a short-term solution. But this still doesn’t stop the fact that you have to decrease stress and busy-ness to help stop this anger. You must stop this anger.
- 10. Snap at your kids? Either you’re just a mean grouch or you’re displaying signs of stress. Your brain is searching for peace and the kids are disturbing it. You can’t even calm yourself down enough to reprimand them kindly and with respect that developing people deserve. You’re developing them into kids with stress.
- 11. Tell your kids “not now?” Lots going on. Too much of this alienates your kids from you. Like that song that sings about “…cat’s in the cradle…silver spoon…man in the moon…when you comin’ home dad…don’t know when…I’m gonna’ be like you, Dad…” Do you know that one? You should. Makes me cry every time.
- 12. Eat out frequently? A sure sign you’re busy or lazy. Or probably lazy because you’re busy.
- 13. Skip exercise? Just no time. Although exercise helps with stress, it is often the first to go when stressed. And I agree that trips to the gym take time. What about a walk down the street? Or jogging up and down the stairs in your house for 5 minutes.
- 14. Find yourself criticizing the incompetency of others? Mistakes of other people cut into your time, it’s true. When your brain has had enough, it can’t handle its own mistakes PLUS the mistakes of others. No room for that.
- 15. Pace? The brain is forcing the body to march onward in battle. Or onward to find food in famine. Never stopping. Always onward under stress.
How’d you do? Let’s set our score. What do you say?
0-4 You’re keeping the brain pacified, whether or not life is calm. Good work.
5-8 You’re on the edge. Better learn to calm the brain or remove situations bothering it. You still have time.
9-12 The brain is pumping on the hormones which are pumping on the body. If this keeps up, you can count on measurable changes such as high blood pressure, high heart rate, irregular heart rate, expanding waist line, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, or insomnia.
10-15 The brain is a bloody general screaming from the bucking stallion in battle. “Onward, hardy, bedraggled, down-trod soldiers. We have no room for pause. Onward. Onward. Onward.” You know you’re stressed. Your body knows it’s stressed. You didn’t need this quiz. You need to change your brain’s response to stressors that can’t be changed and change the stressors that can be changed.
Recognize behaviors indicating stress. I couldn’t list them all. What did I leave out?
And then if you care to share, how have you permanently molded the brain to “not be stressed?” Recognition helps, but change is what we’re shooting for. A massage only lasts an hour and costs too much.
Thanks to my daughter for helping with the photo. I admit. With the addition of a newborn baby and moving my preschool daughter up to kindergarten in our homeschool, I am stressed. 🙂