It may not be "the science" but observations in the trenches can be insightful for the science to follow.
In times of stress, often the best in people comes out
Early in the pandemic, I was uplifted by the way we responded as humans.
Yes, there were many who were nasty but I feel like most of that was political and news media showing us the extremes. In our daily lives and our every day interactions, people were amazing.
I experienced support, kindness, and caring from our general population.
The idea that "we are all in this together" really showed through for me, as illustrated in an earlier blog post:
The connection of mind and body is REAL
I know we all understand this at some level but it became crystal clear during the pandemic. I cannot tell you how many people called, texted, or emailed me about chest pain.
Everyone thought they were having some sort of heart condition.
It was not just psychosomatic, it was legitimate pain.
Let me explain how this happens.
When we have stress, we breathe much faster and more shallow than normal.
Respirations- a fancy term for breaths- increase significantly during times of acute stress. Sometimes going from a normal 14 respirations per minute to 60/minute; that is a breath per second!
Your diaphragm is responsible for the heavy lifting when it comes to breathing but it cannot handle this burden so other players get involved to help; muscles between your ribs, the neck muscles, the muscles that lift your collarbone, and your shoulder muscles.
These muscles are not designed to keep this up and quickly develop lactic acid and taut bands known as trigger points. (Sort of bizarrely appropriate name, isn't it?)
Trigger points have what is known as classic referral patterns. These patterns mean that even though you have a trigger point in one part of the body, you will feel pain in another part. The muscles in your neck and between the ribs will refer pain to the chest area. Hence, legitimate chest pain but NOT from a heart attack but from stress breathing.
Simple chiropractic and massage techniques usually do the trick.
However, think about the increased anxiety one suffers as a result of not only having to worry about a deadly viral infection but thinking you are having a heart attack!
Wild times indeed.
So, it's not only important to understand that emotional stress can lead to real physical pain but it's equally important to understand that sometimes the relief of physical pain helps to alleviate some of the mental stress.
It is the mind-body connection after all, and those connections affect both sides.
Isolation, fear, and mandates cause a continued stress response
I am not having the mask and vaccine debate here.
I am trying to illuminate the affect of putting people in isolation, perpetuating fear, and declaring mandates on peoples health and wellbeing.
These may all seem like small things but the accumulation of these small things is a constant nudge on the stress response system and your adrenal glands. This continued nudge results in a variety of biological responses that may have counter-productive effects. Constant adrenal response and cortisol secretion may result in:
decreased immune response
increased blood pressure
increased respiration, mentioned before
I will say that I would not and did not want ANY more of these than what the pandemic already offered. No thank you!
However, that is exactly what we saw more of, clinically.
There were increased complaints of digestive issues, headaches, allergic reactions, joint pain and musculo-skeletal complaints, upper respiratory issues, elevated blood pressure, terrible sleep and boy oh boy did we have anxiety. Almost EVERYONE complained about feeling more anxious, more irritable and just not wanting to engage.
And you know what?
Nobody wanted it.
Nobody wanted to feel that way or act that way.
It just seemed like this increased stress just brought out the worst in us.
NOT because we are bad or hateful people but because our brains had been forced into survival mode. And the reptile brain of survival mode doesn't care about your feelings or your relationship.
It only cares about surviving.
"Sometimes, survival is ugly."
My fear for the post-pandemic era
This is what I have learned about our stress response from 25 years of clinical work.
After about 2 years of continued low grade stress, your stress response system and your adrenals become EXHAUSTED.
And I mean exhausted.
"I am no longer able to do my job, exhausted."
I anticipate that people will begin to experience the crash after the adrenaline high.
They will begin to register where things are going wrong, what hurts, and get an honest assessment of how they are stacking up, body and mind.
I am not a doomsday person but I know that all the things we have already seen during this pandemic, in terms of illness, will increase. Significantly.
I will make a sweeping recommendation- take care of your health RIGHT NOW.
Take a bunch of supplements.
Take walks, daily.
Most importantly, hug as many people as you can. Seriously.
Smile at EVERYONE.
The biochemicals your body makes from these two practices (oxytocin), help mitigate a lot of damaging effects of years of stressful overload.
Do it NOW
Please get a head start.
Don't wait for the pandemic to "end" before you take stock of what the impact has been. Trust me when I tell you that no one is escaping it.
It has taken a chunk out of ALL of us.
But I have supreme faith in our ability to heal... and everything is reversible.
For adrenal and stress response support:
Mood/HPA axis support
Muscle Joint support