Your Brain, Body & Stress: Practical Tools for Coping – Barton Health Wellness Lecture Series

Your Brain, Body & Stress: Practical Tools for Coping – Barton Health Wellness Lecture Series


– Good evening, welcome. – [Audience] Hello! – I’m going take a moment just to orient so that I can be present and
focused on why we’re all here. It helps me sometimes
to engage with people, to orient, and kind of
look around the room. I encourage you to consider
orienting yourself to the space, if you haven’t checked
it out, where you are, who your neighbor is, maybe. Also, if I could kindly have
you turn your phones off, or put ’em on silent, out of
respect for everyone in here that would be appreciated. So, again, my name is Betsy Glass, I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and that’s basically a fancy term for working with the human experience. My job here at Barton Behavioral Health is to work with people experiencing all that we experience as being humans, and we all can relate to stress as something that we
endure on a daily basis. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stress is what got me here, and stress is probably
what got you here too. So what we’re going to do today is talk about different kinds of stress, what it does to the brain and the body, and how we may help alleviate
some of those impacts, and then at some point,
we’re going to actually practice some skills together. So I hope that you will
be able to walk away with some practical tools for your toolbox so that you can use them on a daily basis for alleviating your own
experience with stress. One thing I want to note is
if you have any questions I invite them, however, I encourage you to hold onto them until the end. The reason for that is because the skills are going to be a very, insight-oriented experience, and I believe we all
possess our own answers. And so by experiencing the skills, and having a more
insight-oriented experience, you might answer your own questions before you have the opportunity to ask me. So I will be available
until even a quarter after, if you have the opportunity to stick around for any questions. But because we have so much to get to, I’d like move through as well as we can without many interruptions. (computer beeps) Let’s try the other way,
there we go (laughs). If something doesn’t work, try
something different, right? So as I had mentioned there
are two types of stress. Eustress is more of a
healthy, positive stress. This is something that
brings on excitement. It can be motivating,
it can be energizing. Like I had mentioned,
it got me here today, and helped me prepare a week in advance for being here today. It’s usually within our coping abilities. So I was able to access my skills before coming to speak with you today, because naturally, public speaking can cause a little anxiety, right? So I was able to practice my skills before coming in here to cope, right? So eustress is typically
within our coping capacity. This could be a job interview. So acute eustress examples
are usually short term. So we’re thinking about short term when we think of acute. So this is like a job interview, a public speaking engagement
like this evening, riding a rollercoaster,
has anybody experienced that excitement, especially when you get to the top of a rollercoaster? Going on a vacation, who
doesn’t love to go on vacations? Yet it’s stressful
sometimes, preparing for it, and then when you get back
to all the obligations and responsibilities
that you’ve left aside while you’ve been gone. And then learning something
new can sometimes be stressful, especially if it’s hard to
understand in the beginning. Chronic eustress, which
again, isn’t unhealthy per-se, it just may last a little longer. So this is longer-term stress, are things like planning a wedding, having a child, preparing for a child. Working towards a long term goal. Perhaps you have a five year plan, or one year plan, or even
a six month plan, right? And then relocating for a new job. That’s actually something I
did five years ago for Barton. So it was very exciting,
and I had some trials and tribulations along the way. However, distress or
unhealthy negative stress can cause anxiety or worry. It’s generally experienced as
uncomfortable and intolerable. So this is the kind of stress that makes you want to
jump out of your skin, that you just want to
take a zipper and unzip and step out and put on a new body. And, let me go the other way here, this often interferes with functioning. So it interferes with our cognitive and physical abilities, typically. And then if left unaddressed, it can lead to mental
or physical problems. This includes, remember
acute being short term, car trouble, right, your car breaks down in the middle of the road. Termination for work, you
may have something lined up, but yet, being terminated
can be a stressful event. Injury or illness, right? You get sick unexpectedly,
that takes you away from things or maybe you’re skiing and
you have a knee injury. Right here. And conflict in a relationship. Maybe you’ve had conflicts in
your personal relationships or your work-related relationships. And those things can caused
heightened stress in the body. Chronic distress, or unhealthy distress, includes perhaps preparing
for a separation or a divorce, the death of a loved one. Long-term unemployment,
you’ve been unemployed, and you just can’t find anything, the financial stress
associated with not being able to meet your basic needs, and then abuse or neglect is a term, is an example of chronic distress. So again, stress isn’t always unhealthy or bad or negative. We can have some positive
stressors in our lives that motivate us to be here today. Oop, did I go? Okay, so what I’m going to focus
on today is chronic distress. Because that is often
what impacts us the most, that’s what we notice the
most is the chronic distress. It affects the brain in
several different ways. It creates neurochemical
changes in the brain, it actually changes the cellular
makeup of the hippocampus, the hippocampus is in charge of learning and memory retention, so if you’ve ever been
under chronic stress and you can’t retain information, or you can’t recall information, or if someone’s trying
to teach you something, you just can’t grasp it. And then it also creates an
increase in our cortisol levels which can impact the
functioning of the brain. Cortisol is a hormone produced
from the endocrine system to help us respond to stress. So we have an influx of
hormones throughout the body and the brain that are changing the chemistry of the way the brain works. Usually, as a result of chronic stress, we have inadequate sleep,
it’s difficult to sleep. At some point in your lives,
you either can’t go to sleep, you can’t stay asleep, or you wake up early, right? You wake up at 3 AM and
you can’t go back to sleep. Poor nutrition, when we’re
really chronically stressed it actually interferes
with our digestive system, and so we’re often, we lose our appetite, we’re often not very hungry,
and when we do try to eat it’s often very difficult
to digest the food. It may cause even enhanced nausea. It’s just a very uncomfortable experience to try to eat food when
we’re under chronic stress. And then of course it can
cause emotional distress. We may become agitated, more on edge, feel angry, sad, less tolerable
of other things in life. Someone may come up and
ask something of us, and it’s a really simple request, but yet we just can’t take on anymore, and we may respond with agitation. And with all of these concerns
happening within the brain, we lose the ability to be attentive, we lose focus, we can’t
concentrate, right? Our perception is skewed. We go from being perceptive,
having peripheral perception, to having tunnel vision. So our perception becomes very limited, it’s very restricted, very concrete, we often think in all or
nothing in situations. And then our short term memory, as I had mentioned, becomes impaired. We can’t retain information, and it’s hard to recall
information as well. Learning becomes impaired,
and then word finding. Have you ever been wanting
to communicate something to somebody but just can’t
find the words to say it, because you’re under so much stress? Well, we know that the brain
and body are connected, so you can’t have stress affect one area of the body and not the other. So we’re going to talk a
little bit about the effects of stress on the body. Heart Math is a company that I pulled this visual from, and they study biofeedback, which is a really cool way of learning how to manage stress from
a physiological level. I found this to be fascinating. 60 to 80% of primary care doctor visits are related to stress. 60 to 80% of primary care
visits are related to stress. Yet three of the patients
receive stress management help, however, I want to emphasize
that this is not necessarily in relation to Barton, because
as a result of recognizing primary care visits relating to stress, we’ve developed Barton Behavioral Health. So fortunately our primary care doctors can refer you upon your visit to either myself or another
clinical social worker who can help guide some
of these strategies that we’re going to practice today. We talked about chronic fatigue
as a result of insomnia. We see decreased energy, decreased mood, decreased appetite, we
talked about that a bit. However, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders, irritability, anger, panic disorders. Grinding teeth, or tension in your jaw. Have you ever woken up
from a night of sleep and your jaw’s been sore, because you’ve been
grinding away all night? I know I have. Increased heart rate. Stroke, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, arrhythmias, digestive disorders, upset stomach, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain and obesity, decreased sex drive, so
it affects your libido, which is in the brain. And then we brace often
when we experience stress, it’s part of the fight or flight response, and so sometimes we become tense, and when we hold on to
tension for too long we can experience fibromyalgia, and then complex regional pain syndrome. So different pain syndromes
that may be undiagnosable. Right, have you ever been
to a primary care provider, and they’re like, we’ve
done all the tests, we’ve ruled everything out, I don’t know what could be happening. Perhaps it’s stress, right? And so that’s typically
what we like to do. We like to rule out medical causes for a lot of these physical illnesses or ailments or diseases,
that’s important, right? There could be something else going on, but once you rule everything out, once you’ve done all the
tests, all the evaluations, and the symptoms are still present, then it is important to consider whether this is stress related and how you might cope with it. I really appreciated this fact. I think it’s one of the
funnest facts, personally, or most fun fact. So homeostasis, homeostasis is something that the entire universe experiences. It’s something, anything that’s alive experiences homeostasis. And that’s an effort of each living cell trying to create balance in the brain, the body, the environment, the universe. So everything is
constantly seeking balance. We’re constantly seeking homeostasis. And so homeostasis in the human system is where 37.2 trillion cells, 37.2 trillion cells are working together to try to keep your body in balance. We have more cells in our body than there are stars in the solar system. And this molecular system keeps us alive, through managing risk
associated with disease and maintaining balance. So although this system,
it knows what to do, it’s wise beyond our recognition, it’s wise beyond our
ability to comprehend. However, we can strengthen
our own personal galaxies. There are things that we can do to support this molecular system to seek and create and establish this homeostasis in the body. Alright, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have some water, because one thing that happens when you’re feeling nervous sometimes is your mouth gets dry. Have you ever experienced that, dry mouth? Mmhmm. Okay. So, let’s talk about
strengthening homeostasis and preventing disease, because
that’s why we’re all here. A, awareness. Awareness, awareness of the body. Awareness of what’s
happening from here down. Because a lot of us maneuver
through life up here. Right? We may not spend a lot of time focusing on what’s
happening below the neck, and as a result, we may miss symptoms, or cues associated with stress, until it gets to the point
where it’s screaming at us. Pain, right? Balance, the practice
of self-care is huge. I have actually spent more time the past two weeks practicing self-care, actually enhanced my self-care regimen so that I could be as effective as I could be for you today. So we can do that, we
can prepare for things by increasing our self-care activities, if we know that something’s coming up. If we know that there’s
an expected stressor, there’s things that we
can do about that, right? Set limits, oh, excuse
me, live in moderation. Right, everything in moderation. That’s balance, basically. And then limits, I can’t
emphasize that enough. I’m still trying to figure that out. So it’s a constant balancing act. But your body speaks to you
when you’ve exceeded your limit which is why it’s important
to know your body, and to be aware of your body. Actually have a really lovely sticker I found at my acupuncturist’s office. Says listen to your body, it is always communicating with you. So if you’re wondering if you’ve exceeded one of your limits, your
body will let you know. And then improve lifestyle habits. So some things we may be
doing are just not serving us, or maybe they’re even destructive. Right, maybe they’re causing
some of that imbalance, that stress is then compounding. Then we experience disease. So in addition to incorporating healthy practices in our lives, we also have to limit the
amount of destruction and harm that we do to ourselves. And that could be anything
from the self-talk that we maintain, to
the sugar that we eat, to the relationships that we keep, right? Speaking of relationships, connections. Engage with others, and I’m actually, and I didn’t say this, and I
intended on saying it before, but of course, because I was
feeling anxious, I forgot. I am incredibly honored and grateful to be engaging with you all tonight, and I, despite feeling a little anxious, was really excited to be here, so that I can share this
information with everyone. I think it’s valuable and
pertainable to everyone, and I hope as a result of
receiving this information, you will take it and then
share it with somebody else. Okay, so pay it forward. My hope is that each of you will have the opportunity
to pay some of this forward. Attend a community class or group, which is exactly what
you’re doing tonight, so thanks for being here. And I encourage you to maybe practice some gratitude with yourself. Thank yourself for being here. And strengthen your support system, because turns out we can’t do this alone. Right, we can’t. If you think about the
history of cultures over time, villages, communities, family settings, I mean, it was very integrated. We’ve westernized the way that we live, therefore, it tends to be a little bit more isolated and disconnected, so sometimes we have to
intentionally connect, and make an effort to reach out, and maybe meet someone new, or call someone you haven’t
spoken with in awhile, or answer the phone, you know? Sometimes we’re exhausted and
we won’t answer the phone, but then maybe call the person back when you’re feeling better, right? So it’s about making connection and strengthening your support system, because you never know
when you’re going to need that support system. We can be self-sufficient
and ask for support, and it’s actually a
skill to ask for support. A lot of us aren’t versed
in that skill, right? The skill of saying hey, can you help me tomorrow with something? And then the receiving of the support, that’s a whole ‘nother thing, right? So we have to ask, and
then learn to receive, and those are skills that we can practice. Just because we may not possess them now doesn’t mean we can’t practice them. Okay. I was kind of curious how long the informational section would take, and I’m glad that we
have I think enough time just so that our skills are not rushed. This is my idea, and I really hope that you’ll experience this with me. However, if you would like
to receive your wellness book and depart at this time, that’s okay, so I’ll explain to you what we’re doing. What I’d like for us to do is circle up. So what we would do is we take our chairs, and we’re going to make a big group. It’s not a process group, it’s
actually going to be focused, you have silent participation, and I’m going to guide us
through all of these skills. It’s going to be very body-based,
very insight-oriented. It’s going to be very
personal to your experience. It may bring up a sense of vulnerability and being in a group setting, and perhaps looking, you know, being asked to associate in that way with
other people you may not know. Vulnerabilities may surface as we’re engaging some
of these activities. However, that’s why we’re here, to learn how to practice. So I could tell you how to practice, but I’d rather show you how to practice. So with that being said, I hope most or all of you are on board. So, this is my caveat here. Feel free to either join us in the group, and we’ll just take the time
to kind of circle around, you may meet somebody new in the process, although, no obligation. And then, or, if you would
rather not participate, that’s perfectly fine too,
because the choice is yours. It’s important to practice self-agency, does anybody know what self-agency is? Self-agency is the
ability to self-determine. Okay, self-agency is the
ability to self-determine. So you can choose to participate, or you can choose to depart,
and that choice is yours. If you choose to depart,
I would like to leave you with the skills group skills workbook that I developed and have revised. This was developed, actually, for teaching compassion,
fatigue, and satisfaction a few years ago for Barton, and I just kind of revised it to be a little bit more applicable
to the general population. So you get a nice
workbook on your way out, or if you choose to stick around, we’re going to explore this a little bit towards the end of the skills. Okay, so if you would like
to grab your workbook, and leave us for today, I’ll
let you make that choice. And if you’re going to stick around, let’s figure out how to
form a circle, you guys!

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