Trauma and Your Body

One of my favorite books post transplant is The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. If you have been through a traumatic experience – car accident, miscarriage, violence, surgery, death, military service, fire, any kind of innumerable experiences – your body, including your brain will never forget.

As humans, we have a strong drive for survival.. The brain’s alarm system is turned on and we either fight, flight, or freeze. During 9/11, thousands of people ran from the danger. They knew to get out of harm’s way. When driving, we make decisions to keep ourselves and passengers safe. If we are going to be in an accident, we make a split second decision to avoid as much harm as possible. If our normal response is blocked by being physically trapped (hospital bed or trapped in a car), the brain’s electrical circuits continue to fire in vain. Even long after we are safe from danger, our brain might keep sending signals to our body to get out of or fight again danger.

Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk explains “The Brain From Top to Bottom,” in Chapter Four, Running for Your Life:The Anatomy of Survival. The brain’s most important job is to make sure we survive. He describes the 5 steps the brain needs to do that:

1. Generate internal signals what our bodies need to survive (food, water, rest, shelter).

2. Create a map of the world to point us where to go to satisfy those needs.

3. Generate the necessary energy and actions to get there.

4. Warn us of dangers & opportunities along the way.

5. Adjust our actions based on the requirements of the moment.

Basic bodily functions we usually don’t think about when we are not experiencing trauma are easily affected when we are thrown out of equilibrium. How much does trauma and recovery affect our sleep, appetite, and mood?

When we keep acting like the trauma is ongoing, the threat is very real to us, the result can be PTSD.

If you have persistent memories or feel that you are still feeling in danger or won’t survive, seek out help with a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Cognitive Distortions, Part 2

Last post, I mentioned five cognitive distortions my first therapist shared with me. Our thought patterns influence our behavior and actions. The next five cognitive distortions also helped me and my hope is to help others.

6. Magnification or minimization. This is the habit of blowing out of proportion the negative things or mistakes and shrinking from positive facts.

You tripped over a cord and wonder why you’ve been a klutz all of your life. Or…

You receive a compliment on your hairstyle and come back with, “well, I’m really just trying to grow it out,” instead of “thanks!”

7. Emotional Reasoning. “I feel angry, therefore you have obviously done something wrong.” The tendency to believe that negative emotions affect reality.

8. Should Statements. Here you tend to motivate yourself via shoulds/shouldnn’ts . This attempt at motivation is usually attempted before the necessary skills are available or before you are ready. Result? Guilt.

Problem? Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve doesn’t help anyone.

9. Labeling and mis-labeling. Extreme overgeneralization. The attaching of a label because of some negative event. This happened, I surely am a loser.

Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is emotionally loaded.

10. Personalization. This is the tendency for a person to see himself as the cause of this event is against reality.

Cognitive Distortions (Incorrect Thinking Patterns) Part 1

I started seeing a therapist around 2009 when I had two small children at home and feeling overwhelmed. I had developed some negative thought patterns that were running my life. My therapist gave me a list common thought patterns that take place and our viewpoint changes about life stinks.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.” Our hearts are the source of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

Some common cognitive distortions are below.

1. All-or-nothing thinking. This is using what is known as dichotomous thought. In other words you tend to see life around you as either all black or all white. The grays in life are lost. If for example you had terrible business lunch or your child threw a tantrum in public, your day is bad. Our days can have bad and good events and interactions in the same day.

2. Overgeneralization. Occurring when you take one single event and build it into a never ending patterns of defeat.

3. Mental Filter. This occurs when an individual identifies some negative detail (about themselves, others, or situations) and dwells on it. You have heard of rose colored glasses. This is the opposite, where brown lenses have been substituted. The outcome is a crappy view of life. For example, you don’t like the music or seats at church, so you find another church to attend.

4. Disqualifying the Positive. Rejecting positive experiences, maintaining that they don’t really count. This behavior allows you to maintain an inaccurate belief in the face of contradictory evidence. You get a raise, but the cost of living is going up, so it doesn’t really help or count.

5. Jumping to conclusions: This refers to the habit of blowing out of proportion the negative things and shrinking positive facts (your own desirable qualities). A new family moved in the house beside you and they have a dog. You just know they will be loud all the time and the dog will poop on your yard.

Weight Lifting Can Help Depression

An article was suggested by my Sensei that I thought would be helpful here. There are advertisements & I haven’t seen the TV show referenced.

Physical exercise is proven to help depression’s physiological signs. Weightlifting is on of those exercises.

The Importance of Sleep, Part Two

After reading Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, Ph.D., I found his summary of “Twelve Tips of Healthy Sleep” to be beneficial. If you never read the book, following is the most important information to improve your sleep and keep you healthy.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule, Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day [even on the weekends].

2. Exercise, but not too late in the day. Exercise each day, but not after two to three hours before you sleep.

3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Coffee, most sodas and tees, and chocolate all contain the stimulant caffeine. Caffeine can take up to eight hours to wear off.

4. Avoid alcohol before you sleep. Having a nightcap or one alcoholic beverage may help you relax, but heavy drinking robs you of deep sleep and keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep.

5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. Heavy foods can cause indigestion and drinking too many beverages can cause interruptions to urinate during the night.

6. If possible, avoid medicines that delay of disrupt your sleep.

7. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can help disrupted sleep, but too late in the day can make it harder to fall asleep.

8. Relax before bed and don’t over schedule your day [easier said than done!].

9. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after the bath can help you feel sleepy.

10. Dark , cool, gadget free bedroom. Get rid of that thing in the thing in the bedroom that can distract you.

11. Have the right exposure to sunlight. Scientists suggest sunlight in the morning or first half of the day to regulate sleep patterns. Too much exposure late in the day can keep you up.

12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you can’t get to sleep in 20 minutes, get up to do some light activity, reading, light housework, but not watching TV or searching on the internet.

The Importance of Sleep, Part One

My current reading is the book, Why We Sleep , Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD. He shares the importance of sleep. It’s an extensive explanation on sleeping patterns (from in utero until old age); who needs to sleep how long; how it affects the body; what diseases adequate sleep can prevent (or decrease the chances of contracting); stages of sleep and what happens in each stage; when we dream, what it may mean, & how science can interpret a limited meaning of dreams.

Chapters 1 & 2 introduce the need for sleep routine, the negative and dangerous effects of sleep deprivation, who sleeps how much, caffeine, jet lag, melatonin and circadian rhythm. Adults need a standard of eight hours of sleep each night. The shorter hours you sleep, the shorter your life will be. While we sleep, every single major organ in the body and brain, are enhanced during sleep (or harmed if we don’t sleep enough). If we adapt to the old saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, that death may be a lot sooner than we think.

How does our body know when to sleep? Why does a cup of coffee keep us awake when we “need”it? Everyone has a circadian rhythm, the internal twenty four hour clock our brain helps to keep us awake and asleep when we need to. Our innate biological clock is technically 24 hours and 15 minutes – about the amount of time the Earth rotates around the sun. Our body adapts to the light and darkness as the most reliable source of keeping a circadian rhythm. (Does your body get off track when we change our clocks twice a year? Takes a little getting used to?)

Lastly, everyone’s rhythms differ from each other. Are you a night owl or a morning person? Our society revolves around the 30% morning people and causes the 70% of night owls to struggle with sleep deprivation. School, business hours, the bank, etc. favor the early morning person, 0700 – 1700 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

Caffeine is the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil. It is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant in the world. Caffeine blocks what they call adenosine receptors in the brain and inactivate these receptors. Caffeine tricks the brain by blocking the sleepiness feeling and make us feel alert and awake. What’s the problem?

Caffeine shelf life is 8 hours. If you have coffee around 3 p.m., that caffeine isn’t out of your system until 11 p.m. (if you metabolize it in an eight hour average). Coffee after dinner? Not getting to sleep until 2 a.m. Drink decaf? Decaf still has up to half of caffeine in the coffee. Not drinking coffee? Caffeine is still found in some teas, sodas, energy drinks, dark chocolate, ice cream, some pain relievers, and some weight loss pills. There will be a caffeine crash to deal with. Energy level can plummet quickly.

Dr. Walker also advises against the widespread use of sleeping medications because eventually they will wear off.

Since I have been challenging myself to get more sleep, I feel better, even healthier. I have a weakened immune system from my transplants and sleep helps to strengthen my immune system. I feel happier when I have 8 hours of sleep.

January Depression and Social Interactions

January is a time I always experience depression. I’ve been injured or ill most Januarys in my adult life. I’m more sedentary, getting less Vitamin D, melatonin, and less social interactions with neighbors or the general public. And let’s not forget the fabulous weather we have. (I live in the upper region if South Carolina where we have cold, rainy Januarys).

Besides using my Emotional Journal, I need some time outside, whatever exercise I can do, and a daily interaction with a friend. Talking, praying, to getting together at Starbucks are a few of my favorite fun and deeper ways of interacting.

Generally the more depressive state reports more negative social interactions. Research had shown that the more depressive symptoms who experience both a high number of positive AND negative interactions showed a state of well being. (N.B. Allen & P.B. Badcock, 2003). When we experience more social interactions, both negative and positive, we are more sensitized to the people of every day life. We face both social rejection and social acceptance.

Humans were created to have the need for connections and to gain acceptance into social groups. We have bonding ideas, beliefs, activities, or experiences and we work hard to keep these bonds strong. We need the connections emotionally and spiritually, as it plays into our mental health, and can cause negative physical health symptoms.

Even if I can’t meet face to face with a friend, a phone call or at least a text to say hi helps to lift my spirit. Instead of going through a drive through to eat, do laundry or banking, try getting out of your car and comfort zone and walk in to talk to a live person. If you are in a line for checkout, do you automatically get on your phone to avoid people, or make small talk, smile, ask how someone’s day is going – and listen to their answer. Try to be positive, even if they are not.

Right now, I’m headed to the dog groomer to pick up my spaniel and are walking into the business and try to talk to the groomer.