The allostatic load is defined as the cost of chronic exposure to elevated or fluctuating endocrine or neural responses resulting from chronic or repeated challenges that the individual experiences as stressful. There is a difference between being stressed and being stressed out. Stress is a necessary function of survival while repeated negative stress increases the allostatic load to the breaking point. This negative over-loading is a major contributor to fat deposition, changes in brain structure, atherosclerotic plaques, left ventricular hypertrophy of the heart, glycosated hemoglobin, sustained hyperglycemia, high cholesterol with low high-density lipoprotein, increased oxidative stress, elevated proinflammatory markers and chronic pain and fatigue. (1) We need to learn how to adapt to the demands of everyday life in a way that will reduce this killer.
Eat a Healthy Diet
We always tell you to avoid added sugars and other refined carbs. They cause inflammation in your body and insulin fluctuations that increase cortisol production. Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone that is so good at turning on your stress levels that it sometimes enables people to perform super-human feats. The little ole’ lady that lifts the car off of the accident victim is pumped full of cortisol. Avoid foods that tend to increase this powerful glucocorticoid. Choose a variety of whole foods that include complex carbohydrates and lean protein. The healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados nuts, seeds and fatty fish will satisfy your hunger and decrease inflammation which is a huge physical stress and the beginning of almost all disease.
Get Some Exercise
The benefits of a good workout, with your doctor’s permission, are almost too many to list. Good aerobic activity can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, help increase the good cholesterol in your body, lower your total cholesterol, help you manage your weight and improve your blood pressure. Only you and your doctor can find the type of exercise that is best for you. While we are heavy strength trainers, we are well aware that this type of exercise is not for everyone. Sometimes gentler exercise is better to reduce cortisol levels. You might like yoga, tai chi or qigong that directly improve stress levels through breathing techniques. Walking, low-intensity cycling and swimming are good mid-level aerobic activities that many people can enjoy.
Coming from the Deep South, highly religious, super critical background that I do, optimism was actually discouraged in the culture where I lived. There was pressure to “measure up” for appearances. Everything about me was critiqued to a near psychotic level. Almost everyone in that culture is constantly struggling with a negative outlook on life. I never accepted this. I really just want to have fun and enjoy life so I never fit into that culture. The old question about whether the glass is half full or half empty is the eternal test of optimism and the answer is David’s answer, “It doesn’t matter, refill the glass.” which leads right into another method for reducing your allostatic load.
Control Your Life
Feeling in control of your life is one of the greatest stress reduction tools that there is. Even though the glass isn’t full, knowing that you have the ability to refill it is satisfying and soothing. When I set out to remodel my life at 62, people thought that I was crazy. I was living in a situation that would make a saint cuss and probably stroke out. When I tell you to “Create Your Life.” I am not telling you to do anything that I have not done. The stress that I was living in when my home was destroyed by tornadoes was deadly and that night I changed everything. When life hands you lemons, make sugar-free lemonade. When you are in control, you are not at the mercy of every whim of society or an individual. Believing that you can affect the course of your destiny is empowering and calming. Helplessness is a health disaster. While working to effect change in your life can be hard, it’s necessary to reduce your stress. People who live large and in charge are free from the oppression that individuals and societies attempt to hurl at us. At the very least, you can ALWAYS control your reaction to insult, stress and trauma.
No matter how stressed we think that we might have been in times past, I do believe that we are more stressed now. As a child, I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was stressful. Although the events that led up to one eventful day when even the children were aware that the world might come to sudden end, this time of plague, pestilence and discontent is worse. It just won’t stop. Add the duration of this nightmare to the every day stress of simply living and it can overload every nerve. We teach to create your life. In times like these, regardless of the world that you have created for yourself, you can still be affected by the events in the world. Events in our personal lives that can overload us in every way from emotional to financial add to the burden of the pandemic and it’s just too much for some people to handle. Depression, anxiety and even suicide rates are increasing and we all know someone who has crashed or even died. Self-care is more important than ever. Stress management is critical to our survival.
Fight or Flight
Both sudden, unexpected stress and ongoing stress activate the fight or flight response. We are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol that spike our blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar. When this becomes our normal, we are in trouble. The effects of constant bombardment of these intense hormones is destructive to every system of our bodies. If we have a stress reaction and we are able to dissipate the hormones and move on, we’re usually unharmed but in recent days, this is not the case. Every day, the news sounds worse. Notice that I said “sounds”. That is key. Perception is everything. Our perception is key to our response to stress.
Wisdom of the Ages
You have all heard the old adage, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” This is a good description of your perception of stress. I love David’s perception of the glass. He says , “Some people forget that they can always refill the damn glass.” That is being proactive. Regardless of your perception of the glass, if you realize that you are in control, and take action to create the reality that you need, then the original state of the glass is irrelevant. While we cannot change the events of the World, we can control our world. There are tragic events in all of our lives that make us feel like we have no control, but even in the worst situations, we do. The key is to do all that you can to navigate those times. Knowing you have done everything that you can do to change a tragic event gives you some peace in the midst of the storm. It removes the feeling of helplessness. You are not a victim of circumstances riding the waves of the storm with tattered sails. You are the Captain of your destiny. You have chosen your path to the destination. It will be the best path, dictated by you and not the damn storm. Eat well, work out, wash your hands and be brave. Never cower. You’re stronger than that. There are over 20 different chemical reactions that occur every time you breath. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We don’t die easily. Take control of your life.
By the Grace of God, these majestic buildings survived direct hits from three F4 tornadoes with minimal damage. They were built by man. How much more are you, being built by God, able to withstand the storms of life? You can make it. Be as strong and healthy as possible.
1-Take control of your nutrition. Cut out added sugars and excess refined carbohydrates. We do not advocate the keto diet. We do advocate eating moderate amounts of complex carbs from whole foods. Beans, apples, potatoes (both white and sweet) and oats are a few of the foods that are staples in our personal nutrition plans.
2-Stay well hydrated. Thirst is incredibly stressful. Water is our first essential element for life. Read David’s article, How Much Water Do I Need for some good information concerning hydration.
3-Make sure to get adequate amounts of protein. Read Davids article, Protein Supplements for guidelines concerning protein.
4-Exercise with your doctor’s permission. Seriously, see your doctor and ask about exercise. Do whatever he suggests. Just do something. Exercise reduces stress exponentially.
6-“Make Your World Small.” (David Yochim) Get rid of the clutter of people and stuff that drags you down. Throw out all negativity. If some of that negative input comes from people that you must interact with, set the rules. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated by negativism.
7-Interact with your pet. That’s just a no-brainer. Nothing except exercise will destress you any more than this.
8-Handle your finances. Even if you are financially stressed, take control. Work your job well. Cut out superfluous expenses that do not improve your life. Why would you spend money that you don’t have on products that are going shorten your life and make you feel bad until you die? Use some common sense. See a banker for counseling. They are happy to assist you and may offer ingenious solutions to assist you through a rough patch. You don’t have to be wealthy to get their help. Just ask. They will treat your money like theirs and help you manage it to your best advantage.
9-Stand up for yourself! Regardless of your lifestyle, as long as you are not hurting anyone, defend yourself! Always be ready to give an answer but unless it affects your livelihood, don’t feel like you have to answer to anyone. Again, be the Captain of your ship and take control. Never apologize for who you are.
10-Get help if you need it. There is no shame in psychiatric counseling.
11-All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy… Have some fun. Life’s short.
12-Think highly of yourself. Frequently stress comes from low self-esteem. Low self-esteem will make us do stupid things that can take over our lives. The opinions of strangers and dysfunctional acquaintances do not matter. You alone know your true worth. Work hard at being the best that you can be and yo won’t need the praise of the World. The freedom of the confidence that is not dependent on the number of likes you get on social media is powerful. Always remember, most of those people tapping those buttons spend most of their lives sitting, staring at their phones.
It should be common knowledge and come as no surprise that stress causes significant damage to our health and wellbeing. No matter how much we might try to avoid stress in our lives, it can weasle it’s way back in like a camel getting his nose under the side of a tent. This small, seemingly innocuous act will lead to much larger, more serious, and less desirable consequences down the line. If a camel is allowed to get its nose inside of a tent, it will be impossible to prevent the rest of it from entering. Stress can be that camel if you allow it.
For many of us, we may never be able to completely eliminate our stress, but we can take action to make the effort to mitigate how much we allow it to affect us. Learning how to mitigate the effect of stress is even more critical to those of us who are “Carb Addicted”. Stress hormones raise our insulin levels which makes most people turn to food when they are experiencing stressful situations. Carb addicts appear to be particularly sensitive to this response which is why learning stress reduction techniques are so critical to their health and well being.
Of course, the ideal life would eliminate having stress altogether, but how realistic is that? Life would be just dandy if it was all puppy dogs and rainbows. The problem is, puppies mess on the floor and rainbows fade away. Being as we cannot eliminate all the sources of stress in our lives, it is important to deal with it without compromising other areas of our lives.
Recognize stress when you see and feel it!
Learn to recognize when and how your body is responding to stress. It is easy for many of us to have stress build up to dangerous levels before we even recognize what is happening. As one who suffers from PTSD, I almost always felt like a hot, over pressurized pressure cooker waiting to explode. I can feel as if I am about to burst apart at the seams. When this happens, we can find ourselves retreating from the situation, or escalating it further which can make us feel guilty, or angry later on, or maybe a bit of both emotions. This places us under even more stress which can lead those of us who are carb addicted to eating away our emotions.
If you can learn to recognize your body’s early response to stress, you will enable yourself to have much more control over it. When you learn to exercise control over your stress, you will avoid the insulin releasing power that results in stress eating an entire pizza and a gallon of ice cream in one sitting. You will find that it becomes easier to not reach for calorically dense, nutritionally poor foods full of simple sugars. To be honest though, you might be surprised at how much cutting added sugars completely out of your life can lower your stress. Carb addiction is little different than nicotine addiction in that your body craves that which is causing those stressful cravings in the first place.
Learn to trust in yourself!
Some keys I learned in my own therapy for my Post Traumatic Stress DIsorder is to become sensitive to my body’s stress response. Rather than accommodating, or pushing through negative thoughts and feelings as they begin to build, we are better off when we learn to stop the process before it has fully bloomed. and focus on just what it is that is making us so uncomfortable. Is that tightness you are feeling in the back of your neck coming from being tired, or is it stress from seemingly impossible demands being placed on your life? Do you feel sick to your stomach over unfinished business with family or friends?
Is there really a good reason to crave eating carb heavy foods?
Are you hungry, or just trying to make yourself feel better?
Nursing emotions with food only serves to make you more miserable over time, and we all know this whether we want to admit it or not.
Learn to take the time to listen and learn about your body. Think about your stressful events backwards; if you lose your cool, stomp out of a room, or even quietly retreat, attempt to recapture what you were thinking or feeling before the emotional build up. Think about those thoughts or feelings, write them down if necessary, but do not place a judgment on yourself. Remain neutral in your feelings, and consider how you might react differently next time this situation arises. Remember that sometimes our stress or anger is entirely justified, however, what truly matters is what we do with this anger.
Who does it help by letting it control us?
Taking the time to learn how to move past stress and anger is critical to our own well being. This is not impossible, but it will take effort on your part. You have to choose to take charge of your emotions instead of letting them dictate your day for you..
When you find yourself under stress, you have three choices to make; you can avoid escalation, limit the duration, or you can decide exactly how you are going to let it impact you.
Avoiding escalation can alleviate back and forth emotions that keep you stressed. Know that by avoiding escalation, it does not mean that you have to hold your feelings in, but you can choose to not engage in a useless mental battle, especially with another individual. Pick and choose your battles, decide if this hill is worth dying for or not. If you ever find yourself trying to wrestle a pig, you only find yourself getting dirty while the pig enjoys it.
By limiting the duration of a stressful experience, you are taking charge of the moment. There is victory in taking charge whether you are going to get your way or not. When you understand that real victory in any stressful moment involves taking care of your body and health, you can then find yourself being able to calmly and effectively free yourself from the situation at hand.
Learn to set firm boundaries with others when they might want to argue with you. You might find the other individual is completely caught up in their own emotions, but this does not mean you have to get caught up in your own too. Stick to your guns and separate yourself until tempers have cooled on both sides. You make the choice whether you are going to remain engaged or not. You will find the more you do this for yourself, the easier it becomes.
Removing the impact of stress.
Removing the impact of stress might require removing yourself physically or mentally from a situation. Sometimes this is difficult if not impossible altogether, but there are methods to remove the impact of stress on our body and mind. For some people a hot bath or shower might be enough, but for many of us, we can find relief through vigorous exercise which is just as important for our minds as it is for our hearts. Regular exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.
The vast mental benefits of regular, vigorous exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.
Behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You’ll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor and energy will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise will also help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.
If you fail to plan for your own de-stressing choices, your body will eventually push you into less productive alternatives.
Treat yourself as your own honored guest.
Take the time and energy to treat yourself well and you will find that your body will display the positive results!
What’s bothering you? Ah, it’s a loaded question, isn’t it? “Botheration” is a real word that means “effort, worry or difficulty”. If you can identify the cause of your bother, you are well on your way to solving it.
Bother is caused by conflict, so every bother has more than one cause. (1) If you want to be slim, strong and healthy but you also want pizza, beer and cake four times a week then you have conflict. The number on the scale or the way that your yoga pants don’t fit or the mirror may be your bother. Your bother may be in the form of a wake-up call at the doctor’s office when your blood pressure or your blood sugar is in a dangerously high range. The point is, at some time, this conflict will cause bother.
The key to resolving the conflict is to follow the path of the stressors to their source. In the case of the ongoing struggle between a desirable body fat percentage and binge eating, the source of the stress is overeating. The two threads of the conflict have that in common. One thread is allowing the behaviour to continue and one thread is a desire to be healthy. Supposedly, these two threads have a common goal. While it seems far-fetched to imagine that these two profoundly different thoughts and behaviours have anything in common, they do. The commonality here is a contented mind. We allow ourselves to self-medicate with food to achieve a level of satisfaction that always eludes us when we resort to gluttony to solve our problems. We also believe that a healthy body will give us the satisfaction that we crave. So, both behaviours are intended to produce the same result, a contented mind. No wonder that we feel or seem crazy to those who just don’t give a damn.
If we want to resolve this conflict, which is necessary in order to meet our goals, then we must decide what is truly important. I have been told by more than one person that being overweight “doesn’t bother me”. Well, then I must ask you this question, does heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, depression and an increased risk of cancer bother you? This is a partial list of only a few of the things that are exacerbated or aggravated by excess body fat. In this artificial, pretentious world of social media that we inhabit, where so much of what we see are false images, it’s easy to look at a plastic, Barbie doll model or a man who is so ripped and gnarly that he looks like a gargoyle, and just decide that we can never look like that and toss all healthy habits to the wind. What we so often forget is that looks are only a part of why we need to be healthy. A long, productive life that is lived to the fullest is the main reason to achieve excellent health. If we are going to ever achieve our goals, we must resolve the conflict of the two threads of thought and behavior. Realizing that both behaviours are trying to achieve the same result can sometimes give us the motivation to decide which path we want to take to the desired end, a contented mind.
Which Is Better?
There is an axiom that I love, “Being overweight is hard. Losing weight is hard. Choose your hard.” This is the core of success. At David’s Way we tell you “Don’t eat sugar. Eat whole foods. Count your calories.” While this is simple, if you are addicted to sugar, there will be a difficult time of withdrawal. Learning to be accountable about what you eat may be hard for you. I remember when I realized how many calories were in snack cakes and I nearly died. I could not fathom that only two or three, or so…, swiss cakes in a day could make that much difference, but they did. In the beginning it’s hard to be accountable. So, in deciding which route you will take to a contented mind, you must decide if you want the temporary contentment of swiss rolls and overweight, or the long-term, lifetime contentment of good health. Both paths are hard but only one is ultimately rewarding.
Use the Stress for Success
The next time that you feel the conflict of your habits not aligning with your goals, follow the two threads of conflict to their source. Think about the goal that both behaviours are pressing towards and what version of that goal each behaviour will create and then determine which outcome you really want. I believe that if you are honest with yourself, you will decide that if the pathway is going to be hard either way, you will most likely choose a long, healthy life over short-term satisfaction.
As many of you might already know, I am a retired military veteran with service spread between two separate branches. I began my military career September 1981 in the US Navy which I was separated from in 1997 during force reductions. Skip ahead to 2008, and I re-enlisted into the Kansas Army Reserve National Guard which I retired from October 2010 after suffering a bad spinal injury on my civilian job.
As a result of too many highly stressful years and events during my military career, I was left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which I will only refer to going forward as PTS while intentionally leaving off the “disorder”. I do not feel I have a disorder with my PTS as what has happened in my brain is actually a natural reaction when one has been overwhelmed with stressful situations.
What is Post Traumatic Stress?
From National Center for PTSD
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.
When you have PTSD, the world feels unsafe. You may have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping. You may also try to avoid things that remind you of your trauma — even things you used to enjoy.
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.
From Mayo Clinic:
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person.
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Feeling detached from family and friends
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Changes in physical and emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
Being easily startled or frightened
Always being on guard for danger
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Intensity of symptoms
PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed in general, or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
When to see a doctor
If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
If you have suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get help right away through one or more of these resources:
Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
Make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
If you know someone who’s in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
In America, we have a national tragedy which has been unfolding for several years now. This tragedy is an average of 22 veterans per day are ending their own lives through suicide as a direct result of Post Traumatic Stress. I’m not going to get into all the details of all that has transpired for mine to occur, but still want to relate a portion of my experience.
In 1996, during my fourth tour of duty in the Navy, I was experiencing symptoms of PTS, although I had never heard this term used before. I knew I needed some help and reached out despite the fact it was taboo in the military to do so. Learning to embrace the suck, and drive on was the mentality, and heaven forbid you display any types of weakness. I did begin receiving therapy, and lost my military career about a half a year later. After all, what kind of strong military leader ever needs to see a shrink. Right?
As with many veterans, I suffered in silence. I suffered in silence because I was first and foremost, embarrassed for my weakness, secondly because I still had a family to support. Life goes on despite our personal issues. It’s not like it’s a merry go round we can just step off of when we tire of the ride. And lastly, there was little actual available help from the Veterans Administration for Post Traumatic Stress until just a few years ago.
When you have family responsibilities, sometimes you feel you have to put aside your own problems in order to best take care of your loved ones. Getting help gets even tougher when you are viewed as a pillar of strength, the one who others go to for help. You try to put the PTS behind you, but then you always feel as if you are about to burst apart at the seams. Like a simmering pot of water about to boil over.
And despite the low simmering boil, you just do your best to mask it, to keep it contained and hidden from your family and friends. Pressure cookers at least have a vented lid to control the pressure, I’m no pressure cooker.
Who was the weak one?
My PTS has resulted in over 20 years of chronic insomnia and scary dreams. It has resulted in a mind that never shuts down, a mind that is always in deep thought. My mind often wakes me up in the middle of the night in deep thoughts over serious topics. This low simmering boil makes it difficult to deal with individuals who do not have a similar life experience. This low simmering boil makes it easier to say “fuck it” in the work place. After my life experience, who needs lame bullshit out of a boss. Who wants to work around a bunch of weak ass pussies when you are used to working and living with the toughest of the tough. I have had more jobs over the last 22 years than I am proud to admit. I am the one who had a problem, not my bosses or co-workers. I am the one who was not reacting in the best manner to what I perceived as weak foolishness. I had to accept that it is up to me in how I manage to deal with the world around me.
Back around 2000, give or take a year or so, I went to the VA for help. I had no clue as to where to begin so I filed a claim for benefits. As when I was on active duty, stepping out and asking for help was a huge deal for me. I went to the American Legion office at the Leavenworth VA and was treated really nice by the Legion folks managing this office. They were glad to help me file a claim since I had a previous diagnosed condition of major depressive disorder diagnosed before my separation from the Navy.
A few months went by and I finally received an envelope in the mail from the Veterans Administration. They had denied my claim. They said my case was resolved and was closed. It was also implied that my major depressive disorder was actually nothing more than me being angry at my last command leadership. What a crock of bullshit, but I saw no hope in trying to fight the entrenched bureaucracy. I got on with life, but the insomnia and bad dreams never eased. The low boil irritations never settled. I never learned to quit seeing everything in black and white while never allowing any gray areas into my world. I never learned how to turn the military off in my mind. After all, while we are serving, we are trained to be the best in our jobs, but, we are never trained in how to come back home to normalcy. Our normalcy in the military is not so normal in the civilian world, and this makes adjustments tough. The toughness is made even greater when we no longer have our military brothers and sisters to lean on for support. Often, when veterans leave military service, we might lose our identity. My identity was that of an Aviation Ordnanceman. Once out in the civilian world, some cannot even spell Aviation Ordnanceman, much less give a damn what the hell one is. No one cares about the tremendous amounts of responsibility that begins riding on the shoulders of a young service member, that keeps building over the years until their retirement. Once you are out, you are just another number, another cog in the gears of life. Your military experience and exploits sound like nothing more than tall tails to those who have never experienced the same, so you learn to just be silent about a good amount of your past experiences. What was an important part of the shaping of your life means little to nothing to a lot of folks we veterans encounter once our careers are over.
Help is available at the VA now!
There are two main types of treatment, psychotherapy (sometimes called counseling or talk therapy) and medication. Sometimes people combine psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy for PTSD
Psychotherapy, or counseling, involves meeting with a therapist.
Trauma-focused psychotherapy, which focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning, is the most effective treatment for PTSD. There are different types of trauma-focused psychotherapy, such as:
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) where you learn skills to understand how trauma changed your thoughts and feelings. Changing how you think about the trauma can change how you feel.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) where you talk about your trauma repeatedly until memories are no longer upsetting. This will help you get more control over your thoughts and feelings about the trauma. You also go to places or do things that are safe, but that you have been staying away from because they remind you of the trauma.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which involves focusing on sounds or hand movements while you talk about the trauma. This helps your brain work through the traumatic memories.
Actions you can take for yourself in addition to seeking help.
I only returned to using the VA last spring after suffering a kidney stone. Up to that point, I viewed the VA as a huge bureaucracy that was failing veterans daily. Therefore, over the course of several years, I learned to create some of my own coping mechanisms for Post Traumatic Stress which I believe are helpful, but not a replacement for professional care by a doctor. Please, do not attempt to go it alone when dealing with this issue. Twenty two veterans per day lose this fight when they take their own lives to escape it.
Learn to make your world small as best as possible. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in issues beyond your control, or that have no direct impact on your life.
Even if you do not believe in God, learn to live by the principles of the Serenity Prayer. Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change. The courage to change that which I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
Practice good nutritional habits. The foods we consume can and will have a direct impact on our health and how we feel each and every day. It is easier to have a better outlook on life when you actually feel healthy instead of suffering from preventable ailments as a result of poor nutritional habits.
Exercise on a regular basis. When your body is at its strongest and healthiest, you will feel better about life. Your self esteem is increased as well as your levels of confidence in taking on new challenges. regular exercise has a number of benefits. It can contribute to many positive physical health outcomes, such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and greater flexibility and mobility. In addition to these physical health outcomes, regular exercise can also have a positive impact on your mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.
We can all help prevent suicide, but many people don’t know how to support the Veteran or Service member in their life who is going through a difficult time. A simple act of kindness can help someone feel less alone. If you are a veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and are feeling suicidal, please reach out for help.
Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone.
Send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder.
Do you have a running reel of negative thoughts and possible catastrophic outcomes playing constantly in your head? So many people do. When we allow negative thoughts to loop continually we are causing a constant release of cortisol, our major stress hormone to be released. The health implications of this are huge. High cortisol levels cause inflammation which lies at the base of almost all major health problems, including heart disease and even some cancers. Skin problems, gastrointestinal issues and depression are often exacerbated by this one habit that is within our control.
People who display optimism tend to have better immune function which affects all disease processes. Learn to control those inner voices of doom to improve your overall health and enjoy your life so much more.
It’s necessary to assess your thoughts. If a large majority of your thoughts tend to be negative then you are probably catastrophizing. Do you focus only on the negative? Do you ignore the possible positive outcomes in a given situation? If so, then it’s necessary to take action to think in more positive ways.
Humor is a powerful tool in learning to lighten up. I refuse to listen to or watch anything that makes me feel bad. Life can be difficult on the best days so why add negative input from negative people who are bent on creating drama? Avoid those people and control your environment to remove negative input from real life people and media. Seek out funny and enlightening media when you are surfing the net or watching T.V. Leave the sad, violent and scary stuff alone. It won’t do anything good.
Get some exercise, with your doctor’s permission. Vigorous exercise can produce endorphins which not only make you feel better in the moment but have a positive impact on the brain that makes you feel more able to cope in the long run. You will develop a better body in the process and that always helps our state of mind.
Negative thoughts can lead to binge eating. Binge eating will almost always keep you from your weight management goals.
Eat a well balanced, healthy diet with adequate amounts of healthy fats such as those found in salmon or walnuts. Avoid sugar because it is a source of empty, excess calories. Sugar will cause you to crave more sugar and eventually forego healthy foods for junk. Your brain has to have proper nutrition to perform optimally. As you eat more and more sugar, the pounds will pile on which will most likely add to your anxiety and depression. Just say “No!”
If your negative thinking is chronic and debilitating you might consider professional counseling. A licensed therapist can guide you into a better way of thinking that can benefit both body and mind.
Surround yourself with positive people and create a life that you love. With time and deliberation and sometimes professional help, you can pull out of the habit of negativity. Your happiness is worth the work.
The American Psychological Association estimates most people live with a stress level of 8 out of 10. Stress initially decreases appetite by causing an increase in adrenaline but if the stress persists, cortisol is produced. Cortisol ramps up everything, including appetite. Once a stressful situation is over the cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress persists, the cortisol may get stuck in the “on” position. (1)
Cortisol is known to cause sugar and fat cravings, possibly to create energy for “fight or flight”. These food preferences coupled with the tendencies to sleep less, exercise less and drink more alcohol all contribute to weight gain. Women tend to turn to food and men tend to turn to alcohol. Active stress correlates with weight gain. Some people produce more cortisol and they are more prone to weight gain.
Since we know that stress causes weight gain, we need coping mechanisms to stop it before it starts.
Do not keep “trigger foods” in your area.
Exercise, it tends to burn through the cortisol.
Get social. Positive friends and family naturally buffer the effects of long term stress. Just make sure that they are positive. Negative input can set you way back. Don’t associate with people that you don’t want to be like. We tend to acquire the habits of those around us by a process known as “social contagion”. Make sure that if you catch something, it’s something that you want to catch! Health minded people like our Followers will help keep you on top of your game. Visit often and be active, comment, join the “Topics ” discussion forum and download the Calorie Counter Pro. Search for topics of interest and recipes. At David’s Way, you are in good company. We reply to your comments and questions. ;-*
Chronic anxiety creates a difficult life. Anxiety and disease are related. Heart palpitations, headaches, insomnia and strained relationships are only a few of the effects of living with chronic anxiety.
What is Anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is a broad range of disorders defined by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes. Anxiety disorders can trigger nervousness, apprehension and fear and their severity can range from mildly unsettling to debilitating. (1)
Some of the most common anxiety disorders today include the following:
-Generalized Anxiety Disorder
-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
– Post Traumatic Stress
-Social Anxiety Disorder
While you might feel alone if you’re living with anxiety, the truth is that these disorders affect more than 40 million people across the United States, making it the most common category of mental illnesses in the country. Even so, just over a third of sufferers receive adequate treatment. (1)
Dealing with anxiety can be a lifelong struggle, as most people first develop the symptoms during childhood in their teenage years. Women under 35 tend to be the most diagnosed population, especially those living in western countries. (1)
Anxiety manifests itself differently for everyone, but the symptoms usually include a sense of losing control, either through nightmares, panic attacks or a feeling that there is a disconnect between your mind and body. Many people with anxiety struggle to fall asleep or can’t concentrate on what’s in front of them. (1)
Ways to Reduce Anxiety
1-Practice Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing lowers your stress levels. You can practice the 4-7-8 breathing method by exhaling completely, then inhaling through your nose for four counts. Hold your breath as you count to seven and then release it for a count of eight. Do this at least three times whenever you feel a wave of anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy from a qualified counselor can also be helpful.
Exercise helps you release stress energy and also increases self-esteem. Research indicates that at least 21 minutes is needed to lower anxiety levels.
Outdoor workouts are even better because they boost Vitamin D levels and GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Exercising among trees is even more effective.
3-Organize your thoughts by writing
Journaling is effective for some people as a way to understand the source of anxiety. Creative writing can process anxiety to the end point.
4-Spend Time With Animals
Animals provide unconditional love and the care of them organizes and calms the mind.
5-Practice Time Management Strategies
A lot of stress comes from feeling like you have lost control of your schedule. Taking the time to organize your life with a calendar will help to lower your levels of anxiety.
Both Chamomile and Green Tea are known to have beneficial anxiety reducing compounds.
7-Stay Full of Healthy Foods
It’s common for people with anxiety to skip breakfast. It’s much better to fill up on a satisfying meal early in the day to remain in control throughout the morning.
More Strategies to Reduce Anxiety
-Get 8 hours of sleep each night
-Laugh, loud and often, a merry heart does good, like a medicine!
The picture above I took from on the road in my semi out somewhere in south western Kansas. The tranquility of the open road is great for easing a stressful mind. At David’s Way, our approach to wellness is so much more than weight loss alone, as we know there are other elements that need addressed for true healthy living. Physical fitness helps us in losing weight and stress reduction. Stress reduction helps us in losing weight as our bodies produce less of the stress hormone Cortisol. Weight loss helps us in getting more physically fit and helps to reduce the stress which comes from being obese. All these factors are tied into a lifestyle and are interwoven together. David’s Way is not a temporary diet or a short term solution, it is a lifestyle we live.
Mental Symptoms: Short concentration, Forgetfulness, Lethargy, Pessimism, Low productivity, Confusion
Social Symptoms: Loneliness, Nagging, Withdrawal from social contact, Isolation, Yelling at others, Reduced sex drive
Tips for Reducing Stress
Learn to say “no.” Do not over commit. Delegate work at home and work.
Organize your time. Use a daily planner. Prioritize your tasks. Make a list and a realistic timetable. Check off tasks as they are completed. This gives you a sense of control of overwhelming demands and reduces anxiety.
Be physically active. Big muscle activities, such as strength training or even walking, are the best for relieving tension.
Develop a positive attitude. Surround yourself with positive quotes, soothing music, and affirming people.
Relax or meditate. Schedule regular massages, use guided imagery tapes or just take ten minutes for quiet reflection time in a park.
Get enough sleep. Small problems can seem overwhelming when you are tired.
Eat properly. Be sure to eat a diet high in protein and low in carbs. Do not eat refined sugar or processed foods. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
To err is human. Do not treat a mistake as a catastrophe. Ask yourself what will be the worst thing that will happen.
Work at making friends and being a friend. Close relationships do not just happen. Compliment three people today. Send notes to those who did a good job.
Accept yourself. Appreciate your talents and your limitations. Everyone has them.
Laugh. Look at the irony of a difficult situation. Watch movies and plays and read stories that are humorous.
Take three deep breaths.
Forgive. Holding onto grudges only causes you more stress and pain.
My friends, besides being a health and fitness author, I am also a professional trucker. The picture above was the frozen landscape of southwestern Kansas this morning. Despite the bitterly cold wind, it was a beautiful morning which I wanted to share with you. I snapped this picture just a few miles east of Dodge City, Kansas. Yes, the wild west home of Marshall Matt Dillon, the rowdy cowtown people refer to when they say they are “getting the hell out of Dodge”.
I love this job for the solitude of being on the open road with no one to disturb my inner peace, although I do run teams with another driver. When one is driving, the other driver will be in the sleeper berth getting their much needed rest as we hammer down on the black top for a 935 mile trip on each outing, 3 nights per week.
One thing I love about the open road is it gives me time when I am behind the wheel of my big rig to work out topics for my blog. As I wind my way across the Kansas prairie during the middle of bright star lit nights, my mind seeks out and easily finds pure tranquility, the starlit sky brings back very fond memories of days past when I was a young “high speed, low drag” sailor in the US Navy, steaming across the Pacific and Indian Oceans at night aboard the pride of the fleet, my first ship, the mighty USS Enterprise CVN 65. Nights on the open road remind me of peaceful nights at the conclusion of flight operations when I could find a comforable place to kick back on a sponson or catwalk and stare off into the night sky so clear there would be no horizon, you could not tell where the sea ended and the sky began. During these calm nights on the road, I can begin piecing articles together in my mind before actually setting down to my lap top. Once I log out to my sleeper berth, I have time to study and research, and also to work on my blog pieces. A tremendous amount of time goes into bringing you, our faithful readers, quality topics. As I have told my co-author Brenda Sue, quality is always first and foremost over quantity in this endeavor.
At David’s Way, besides promoting a diet of low carbs and high protein combined with physical fitness, we are also strong advocates of stress reduction as another integral element of healthy living. Years ago, when I was a young man, I got into a little trouble in the Navy and had to complete a program where I was first introduced to The Serenity Prayer. Ever since, I have done my level best to live by the principals of this prayer in all of life’s endeavors. This prayer has helped me immensely through life, and even if you do not believe in God, the principles can still help you too. Here is the prayer with my breakdown of what it means to me:
Lord, grant me the Serenity to accept that which I can not change.
In life, there are always going to be circumstances beyond our control that we can do little about. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Those people might be ourselves, or a loved one. I am not saying it is easy in anyway, but in order to best get through a tough time, we must remain calm and keep our wits about us. By not letting our stressed emotions over ride common and practical sense, we can then think about applying the next part of the Serentiy Prayer.
Grant me the Courage to change that which I can.
Sometimes it takes courage to get through a tough time with a proactive approach to improve your situation. For an example from my own life, nine years ago I suffered a debilitating spinal injury at L5 S1. I blew the disk out like a jelly donut and it encapsulated my sciatic nerve. I was for all intents and purposes disabled at this time as I could no longer work. Treatment for this injury required a series of Epidural Steroid Injections to my spine which were totally non-effective. Then I underwent spinal surgery where all the herniated disk material was removed along with arthritis which had formed in my lower spine. Surgery was followed by two months of physical therapy. Despite the injections and surgery, my sciatic nerve was damaged and it subseqently scarred over which leaves me with daily chronic pain in my right leg, even all these years later. I will suffer chronic sciaitic pain for the rest of my life. Back to the Serenity, I have come to accept this chronic pain as a part of my life. But, it took a lot of courage in learning to walk normal again and then to return to the work force. It took me a year to train my leg to track normally instead of having my foot dragging off to the side. Every step was a conscious decision to make it track right. It was a lot of effort and more than a few tears were shed during the process. I have experienced unnbearable pain, yet, I knew that if I could get through the pain, I could once again lead a normal life. My family doctor recommended I go on permanant and full disability because I was so debilitated with pain and was relying on pain pills to just get through the day. I could have gave in to the pain and went on disability, instead I chose to face life without the numbing effects of pain meds and began doing everything within my power to regain normalcy. I had to face the fact that some of the therapy I had to endure to get better was going to bring tears of pain, and yet I still did it for myself and my family. I knew that I could make a change for the better, therefore I mustered up the courage and did everything in my power to get my full life back which I accomplished.
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
The wisdom to know the difference is important in that there will be circumstances you can not change no matter how courageous you may be. If you have more courage than common sense, you will only find yourself stressed in trying to acheive the unachievable. We are not all Superman or Wonderwoman, we are not super heros who are infallible. No, we are all human, with very real human problems. I believe in being proactive in making my own life better and encourage others to always do the same, yet once we have the serentiy to accept that which we can not change, we can make vast improvements in our quality of life by just letting things go and not being stressed. Conversely, if we have the courage to step up to life’s never ending challenges, we are also rewarded in that what may be difficult today, realistically can be made less bothersome each and everytime we confront adversity head on. To sum up the Serenity Prayer, it really amounts of learning to pick and choose your battles. Choosing which hill is worth dying on and which hill is worth walking away from. How you confront the stress of life is totally up to your own personal decisions, choose wisely.
Lord, grant me the serenity to accept that which I can not change.
The courage to change that which I can.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Think about this, study this, and then live by these principles in all of lifes endeavors, your life will only be enriched by doing so.