Critical Self-Care: Ground YourselfOct 14, 2022
How do you take care and ground yourself?
More than ever, with heightened demands in life and work, preventive action in caring for your body and mind is critical. After all, success in finding fulfillment at any age depends on being able to function in a healthy, productive manner.
Self-Care has entered a phase of Critical Self-Care: physical, mental, emotional, and "fill in the blank" for your particular situation.
How do you respond to stress?
Ask yourself: when your flight, fight, freeze, or fawn response is triggered, how do you respond? How do you signal to your body when you are in real danger and when you are experiencing stress? When I was in my 30's and 40's, I experienced migraine headaches. Some headaches that would shut me down for a whole weekend. My body was telling me "I'm not taking this anymore - I'm shutting down". In my early 60's, I received my cancer diagnosis. My body and mind were united in conflict and consensus, "How could this happen? What were the risk factors? It has to be stress." Now, my signals include tight neck and shoulder muscles and that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that tells me "All is not well. Pay attention. Don't want to go there again".
What is your body telling you?
Stress Has Become Cliche and Hence Dismissed - The Joy Thief
I have noticed that the term "stress" is overused and often misunderstood as the term is bandied about to describe both cause and effect:
- Cause: “There’s so much (too much) stress at work these days.”
- Effect: “I’m so stressed that I can’t think straight.”
Unfortunately, both statements are often followed with self-sabotaging self-talk such as "I just need to work harder." or "I can't change anything anyway." OR, "Is it just me?"
It’s interesting to note that while neuroscience has taught us a great deal about stress, we cannot always distinguish between the psychological state of stress and the physiological response. What is clear is that if we are in a chronic state of high-level stress, emotional strain leads to physical consequences. The body responds with anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure, heart problems, and cancer. We could say, "Pick your poison". For me, the fear of recurrence of cancer is always in the back of my mind. Chronic stress eats away at the brain’s connective tissue.
We cannot completely eliminate stress. But, we can better manage our body’s natural responses to stress. We can take control. We can ground ourselves and we can even improve our brain’s ability to function.
The Science of Stress 101
Most of us know a bit about stress, but let's have a review. Severe stress activates the "emergency reaction" phase, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. This phase is a complex physiological reaction that marshals resources to mobilize the body and brain to peak performance. I am amazed by the heroic responses from people under severe stressful situations: First Responders and our Front-line Healthcare Workers come to mind.
Fortunately, severe stress and emergency phase engraves our memory to help us avoid this stressor in the future. Our ingrained reaction is essentially a three-step process:
- Recognize the danger.
- Fuel the reaction.
- Remember the event for future reference.
Unfortunately, any amount of stress triggers neurological systems that manage attention, energy, and memory. Moreover, we can find ourselves in a constant state of stress. The mind is so powerful that we can set off a stress response just by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation or recalling a memory of loss, fear, or trauma.
To reiterate, we have entered a phase of Critical Self-Care. It’s time to take extreme good care of ourselves and to ground ourselves.
When I refer to being grounded, I am talking about that state of being when you’re feeling your emotions and you are aware of your present moment experience. Being grounded also means that you are feeling responsible for your safety and well-being. You become very clear about what's best for you. Grounding is an effective therapeutic approach for managing stress, anxiety, and improving overall mental health.
How do you take care and ground yourself? How do you respond to stress? Do you have a Critical Self-Care Plan for when demands trigger extreme stress and the potential for prolonged stress?
References and Resources
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