Updated: Feb 24, 2020
As young children we were easily overwhelmed by our emotions. We survived by tucking away pain. As adults, we tend to habitually neglect and suppress our emotions, lest they overwhelm us.
Suppressed emotions control us far more than we like to admit.
As research in Psychoneuroimmunology uncovered, poorly managed stress can disturb the proper function of our immune system.
The body's stress response and its inflammatory response, are meant to allert our body and protect it. However when the stress or inflammation becomes chronic, it can endanger our health, predisposing us to auto immune conditions and other diseases including cancer.
In states of fight or flight blood supply is diverted from our Frontal Cortex, in charge of planned decision making, to the automatic survival mechanisms of our brain for quick action. Chronically stressed individuals therefore, tend to make poorly planned, impulsive decisions. This impacts relationships within families and communities. Leaders who have poorly managed emotions may ennact impulsive policies.
To recover our health, to responsively restore our environment and thrive as a civilization, we are called to learn to manage stress as we embrace all of our human emotions. The human quest for healthy emotional management is as old as humanty. Nevertheless, it remains a mystery to most, even in our day and age.
Stanford University biologist Robert M. sapolsky wrote a book called "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers".
Animals in the wild instinctively manage their physiological stress. When a young elephant safely survives a lion attack, it will at first lie still and then it will begin to tremble untill it has shaken off the trauma. Before long it will rejoin the herd and will be grazing again in a healthy state of calm alert.
Animals don't suppress stress. A traumatized antelope will work through its physiological survival mode and rejoin the herd. We humans are also programmed to rejoin our herd and unite, especially during times of challenge. This may point to a silver lining of the stress response.
In her 2013 Ted Talk,Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal showed several studies including one "Giving to Others, and the Association Between Stress and Mortality" which found that caring for others reduced stress related mortality.
We know Adrenaline makes our hearts pound. Oxytocin, commonly knknown as the 'cuddle hormone", is actually part of the stress response too. It is released not only during lactation and hugging, but also in times of challenge. We are biologically encouraged to reach out to each other in times of stress.
McGonigal said "Oxytocin... enhances your empathy. It makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about...it is motivating you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel, instead of bottling it up...to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other.""The harmful effects of stress on health are not inevitable.""When you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience""You can trust yourself to handle life's challenges. And you're remembering you dont have to face them alone."
So many of us grew up in isolated nuclear families which struggled to provide emotional support which extended, multigenerational families once provided. Some of us grew up in broken and bereaved families and may have faced far too many emotional challenges alone.
When we find ourselves without sufficient network of support, friends can become like family. It is never too late to reach out to a friend in need and rebuild our emotional resilience.
Beyond human support, our caring Creator ever awaits us within. The act of simply pausing for a moment to breathe and be with whatever you are experiencing can initiate a process of deep divine healing. The key is profound acceptance for where you are in the moment.
More to come...