This topic could be split into many posts but I am going to try hard to wrap it up in just one. Most of the books and articles and podcasts out there discuss “FIGHT OR FLIGHT” when our bodies come in contact with a stressor. I am going to add one more option to the mix called FREEZE.
As usual there may be affiliate links throughout this post showing things that have helped for us. Although I do get a small commission if you were to purchase something through these links, my focus is sharing what I have learned over the years in dealing with a loved one who deals with mental health issues.
The Anxiety (or Stressor)
I will be using the words’ anxiety and stressor interchangeably in this post. I do like the word stressor more in some instances but I feel either will work just fine. I have read that stressors that used to initiate a fight or flight response were things like lions and other eat or be eaten type dangers. When one was confronted with the lion jumping out of the bush it was fight or flight or be eaten (which is what I refer to as the freeze).
Now this day in age there is rarely the fear of a lion jumping out of the bush but there are still just as real stressors in our everyday lives. Statistics have shown that between the ages of 18-30 one will encounter the most stress or anxiety in one’s life.
There is this concept called the Biological Cascade that causes the hormones in our body to report to their battle stations. The difference is back in the caveman days they could get away from the lions for a while. Today the stressors we deal with are staring us in the face each and every day and we rarely catch a break.
Things like paying the mortgage and credit scores and health insurance and the deductibles even with health insurance and the braces and the medications and the issues at work or the issues of trying to find work. This list could go on and on for a long time. And these are things that we all deal with and most of us don’t have the anxiety disorders on top of all that some have to deal with on a daily basis.
The following examples are ones that my daughter HC has actually experienced and the way she had dealt with them.
One of the stressors in HCs life came from a traumatic experience she had leaving work one night. She worked as a server at a local restaurant and always had cash tips. Walking out to her car one night she and a co-worker were approached by an armed man demanding their cash. In this particular situation She choice FIGHT and fortunately it worked out and the outcome was better than it could have been.
Trauma has led HC to having complex PTSD that at one point in her life recently had her admitted to a Trauma Center Inpatient Unit. This particular place was a well-known and highly respected Trauma Unit that we had high hopes of a breakthrough. Unfortunately this unit was not what she needed and here she chose FLIGHT.
This is the most common response HC gives in her day to day stressors. This can be anything from the way she has reacted to thunder and lightning storms to the way she responds to an argument between two people in a line at the donuts shop. FREEZE. Something just takes over and she can’t react.
One may ask why this is a problem as long as we deal with each issue as it arises? Back up when I mentioned that our bodies do that Biological Cascade, it works great for a short period. But when you are in a constant state of HIGH ALERT like my daughter it can cause all sorts of issues.
I recently researched which health conditions could be tied to chronic stress and the results were staggering.
- Several types of cancer including breast and prostate
- Type 2 diabetes
- Alzheimers disease
- Infectious diseases
- Pain disorders
- Heart disease
- Gut issues
This list could actually be much longer but I stopped researching. I had read enough to know that my next step was to find how to help with the chronic stress and get it back down to an occasional acute stress here and there. We all experience some sort of stress every day but in my daughters case it was in OVERDRIVE and it was affecting her everyday life.
What can we do to help manage the stress in our lives? I am aware that the options are often times specific for each individual personality so I will be dealing mostly with what helps HC is her struggles and a bit how I cope with my stress as well.
Let’s get me out of the way. I never feel that I am in that chronic state of stress but there are times I have my fair share of stress and my best “Go To” things are laughter and meditation.
Laughter is one of those personality things that I feel I was born with perhaps. I can find humor in so many things others can’t see and this really helps me. I also love to watch comedies and comedians whenever I can.
Meditation through MUSE has been a huge help in my life as well. I was not a natural at meditation and I needed help (a lot of help). Between the APP and the other products they have available I have learned the art of meditation (at least good enough for my needs). You can checkout their awesome products HERE.
Now lets get down to HC and her stress-busters. The last post I shared was dealing with panic attacks primarily and I mentioned PANIC AWAY as a resource that is helpful. Breathing exercises are probably the number one stress-buster that HC uses and sees immediate results.
There have also been many times that we have gotten up in the middle of the night when she just lays there stressing and gone for a long walk. Physical activity does help but for her it is usually a last resort. She is more of a hide under my weighted blanket until it goes away kind of kid. Her weighted blanket may rank up there pretty close to the breathing exercises.
Puzzles have helped. We always have some sort of puzzle or craft going so she can just head over to the table and work on something .
Lastly I would say her dogs are high on the list of stress-busters. They totally seem to “get her” and know when she is in OVERDRIVE. They have totally been life-savers on more than one occasion.
I am not sure if one response is any better than another but I do know that this should not be a 24 hours 7 days a week thought process. Our bodies need a break from the stress to heal itself and get ready for the next attack. Try some of our choices or find some of your own stress-busters but do something to ward off that chronic stress and give yourself a fighting chance.
Keep fighting the good fight