Hazardous Parenting Brenda McCreight  Ph.D.
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Stress Model


This might be hard to believe – but, SOME STRESS IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU. Stress that is induced by a creative challenge can improve how your brain functions, and it can get you moving or motivated when there are things to get done.

The negative aspects of stress arise when the stress is chronic and there’s nothing you can do to change, alter, or reduce the stress trigger. When that happens, your brain gets overloaded with cortisol and other stress hormones and they start to erode the neurons in your brain that are in charge of important cognitive processes. In other words, the stress hormones can fog up your thinking skills. They can even take a harsh toll on your cardiovascular system so you end up with heart disease. To make it worse - there are now proven links between chronic stress and obesity – and you know all the problems that are caused by obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease which both lead to early death or early onset dementia.

Maybe you’ve been trying to attend to the stress problems by doing what you should when you can. You’ve been managing to get enough sleep, or at least nearly enough and you’ve been getting to the gym and even to yoga classes. Yet, your kid is still creating havoc in your life and there just isn’t enough exercise or meditation in the world to protect you from the ravages of long term stress.

What’s happening to you? Why aren’t the exercise and the meditation and the sleep working?

Here’s my long winded answer:

Every time there’s a new crisis or a new conflict or when you’re ruminating on the problems, the input goes to the amygdala. The amygdala doesn’t have a sense of the past or the future – so whatever is stuck there feels like the present – if you had a fight with junior yesterday, the stress hormones are still in your body and will get re-triggered today by anything that your brain perceives as similar. I know, you are running every morning, or going to the gym 3 times a week – well, that’s great and who knows how much worse it would be if you weren’t doing those things – but – and it’s a big but – you aren’t doing them at the moment the stress hormones are released into your brain and your body so they have a lot of time to flow through you and do some real damage until the next time you get to the gym.

Here’s how it happens (I told you this would be long winded):

1. An event occurs that triggers stress—the police have just called about your youth, or she’s been raging at you daily, or your son has threatened you, or maybe you just can’t stop thinking about how emotionally hazardous your life is.

2. This causes your amygdala to go on high alert

3. Your amygdala then sets off your body’s fight/flight/freeze response

4. In fight/flight/freeze, your body releases adrenaline and the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine - this process diverts blood away from your digestive tract, leaving you less able to digest food and absorb nutrients and more likely to gain weight. It also shuts down some of your cognitive processes so your ability to reason and to problem solve gets stunted for the time being.

5. At this point, your brain and body think they are in crisis (and they may be) and so with all the internal focus on your stress response, you become more vulnerable to pain and after a while the wear and tear of it can result in chronic illnesses

6. Over time, you become increasingly irritable, isolated and impatient with everyone, including yourself. You also find it becomes difficult to sleep. Either you can’t fall asleep or you can’t stay asleep.

7. Your body secretes even more cortisol, wreaking more havoc on your digestion (and waist line), increasing your blood pressure, and lowering your immune response.

8. When too much cortisol, adrenalin and norepinephrine have been tumbling around for your body for too long, your body goes into adrenal fatigue and you become depleted, exhausted, and depressed.

9. You start to lose interest in the positive things you have been doing, such as exercising and watching your carb intake because you don’t have enough energy and because your brain is seeking any form of serotonin it can get (carbs are a tasty albeit unhealthy serotonin source). Soon enough, headaches, sleepless nights, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression and other health issues set in.

10. Your job starts to suffer because you can’t concentrate and you can even lose the energy to attend your support groups.

Does standard therapy help?

Of course it does. But here’s what Dr. Dawson Church, PhD and Dr. David Feinstein, PhD, found when they undertook a study in which they measured cortisol levels before and after treatment. In this study, 83 participants were divided into 3 groups. The first group received an hour of EFT Tapping; the second group received an hour of psychotherapy (“talk” therapy); the third group received no treatment.

Here’s what happened: The first group demonstrated a 24% decrease in cortisol levels; the second and third groups showed no change in cortisol levels. I’ve been a psychotherapist for over 20 years and I know that various psychotherapies help reduce stress, but they take a long time to do so and you can’t call your therapist at 2 a.m. when your acting out teen threatens to burn down the house – so the stress will remain in your body

How EFT helps – and helps quickly

EFT/Tapping has been shown in studies to lead to a 24% decrease in cortisol after just one hour. This method is a beautiful melding of Western psychotherapy or “talk” therapy with Eastern practice of acupressure. You can use EFT anywhere, anytime, and it will help you immediately. It does this by activating the sympathetic part of your brain (the part that gets you revved up and increases you heart beat and reduces you digestive processes) and the parasympathetic region (the part that allows for relaxation) at the same time which creates a neutral emotional state and which takes the *sting* out of the event or memory. No *sting* = no stress.

The differences between EFT and other methods of stress reduction are that a) it will reduce the cortisol quickly and b) after you have used it for stress control with a certified practitioner, you can use it yourself. That means you can do some stress reducing tapping it right after a stressful event occurs so the cortisol and other stress hormones don’t have time to settle in and do damage. You don’t have to wait till you have time for a run, or get to the gym, or see your therapist. You can do it yourself in ten or twenty minutes within minutes of the stressful event happening.

Remember – you’re entitled to a better day – and EFT will help you achieve that.

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